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It’s about the future

Representatives from League of Education Voters and community-based organizations recently traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, to learn more about the discipline reforms that have been implemented by Baltimore City Public Schools with great success. This is the fifth in the series, Lessons from Baltimore: Transforming School Discipline.

Tony MooreBy Tony Moore, Member, Federal Way School Board

The problems of the world will be solved by our future generations.

But when you look at where our kids are ending up, it’s clear that we are failing many of them. Our country has made a practice of punishing rather than nurturing our young, and it shows—in our school discipline practices, and in how we imprison so many of our citizens. Americans make up just five percent of the world’s population, but American jails hold a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Of those prisoners, nearly forty percent are African American, even though African Americans make up just thirteen percent of the United States population.

Many of the people in our prisons got there by way of archaic school discipline practices and the school-to-prison pipeline. To change this trajectory, we need to reform our school discipline practices. From there, we can work on solving the problems in our prison system and rebuild our communities so that everyone has a chance for success. (more…)

Posted in: School Discipline

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Olympia’s education efforts: Mid-course correction needed

This post was written by League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo and originally posted on Crosscut on December 3, 2013.

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education VotersThe National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2013 test results were heralded recently by many in our state for the increases in fourth and eighth grade math and reading scores.

The results are promising and the progress deserves to be recognized.

Yet when the results were announced, there was little to no mention of the widening achievement gaps among some groups of Washington students.

Specifically, during the past 10 years, the gaps between black/white, Latino/white, and low-income/higher income students widened at all grades and subjects tested.

Clearly, what we are doing for these students is not working. (more…)

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It’s about civil rights

Representatives from League of Education Voters and community-based organizations recently traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, to learn more about the discipline reforms that have been implemented by Baltimore City Public Schools with great success. This is the fourth in the series, Lessons from Baltimore: Transforming School Discipline.

By Linda Mangel, Education Policy Director, ACLU of Washington

Children’s misbehavior should never be something they can’t recover from.

Linda Mangel, ACLU of Washington

Linda Mangel, Education Policy Director, ACLU of Washington

That was the overarching message I heard on a recent trip to meet with leaders and advocates from the Baltimore City School District. Thanks to a generous invitation from the League of Education Voters (LEV), I recently joined other education advocates, clergy, and LEV staff on a “scouting” mission to Baltimore.

About six years ago, Baltimore school leaders adopted the basic principle that student misconduct should never mean the end of a student’s education. They recognized that not only do suspensions and expulsions not work as a form of deterring future misconduct, but that these frequently spell the end of a student’s education. And, they recognized what we know to be true in Washington; that students of color are suspended and expelled far more often and for longer periods of time than their white peers, even when they engage in the same conduct.

Baltimore decided to stop suspending and expelling students from school for most forms of misbehavior—while some students may need a break from a particular class or may need to be removed from their home school for a time, no one should lose their right to an education for breaking a school rule.
(more…)

Posted in: School Discipline

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It’s about the students

By Tracy Sherman, LEV Policy Analyst

The team tours a school in Baltimore. (Tracy Sherman on the far left.)

The team tours a school in Baltimore. (Tracy Sherman on the far left.)

Representatives from League of Education Voters and community-based organizations recently traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, to learn more about the discipline reforms that have been implemented by Baltimore City Public Schools with great success. This is the second in the series, Lessons from Baltimore: Transforming School Discipline.

In October 2013 I was part of a group that visited Baltimore to learn about Baltimore City Public Schools’ work to improve school discipline and keep students in school. While the discipline policy on paper matters, Baltimore’s success also depends on people and relationships. (more…)

Posted in: School Discipline

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Transforming School Discipline: Lessons from Baltimore

By Kelly Munn, LEV State Field Director

The Seattle team in tours a school in Baltimore.Representatives from League of Education Voters and community-based organizations recently traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, to learn more about the discipline reforms that have been implemented by Baltimore City Public Schools with great success. Upon their return, each member contributed to our blog series, “Transforming School Discipline: Lessons from Baltimore.” The post below introduces the series, which will run through mid-December. (more…)

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LEV Activist of the Month: Nicholas Bradford

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month series. The first person we are recognizing as our Activist of the Month is Nicholas Bradford.

Nicholas BradfordNicholas Bradford specializes in restorative justice and transforming school discipline. He first became involved with LEV through our discipline work, and he served as part of the panel for our May 2013 community event, “Stop school suspensions: Solutions for safe, secure classrooms without removing kids.”
(more…)

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Transforming school discipline key to better education

This post was written by League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo and originally published in The Seattle Times on September 25, 2013.

Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education VotersIf we are serious about closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps, we need to find ways to keep kids in school and learning, writes guest columnist Chris Korsmo.

STUDENTS can’t learn if they’re not in school.

If we are serious about closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps, we need to find ways to keep kids in school and learning.

While Washington state made progress in the last legislative session, there is more to be done.

Nationally, school-discipline rates are at an all-time high, double what they were in the 1970s. Millions of students are suspended from school every year. And students in groups with persistent achievement gaps are suspended and expelled from school at higher rates than their peers.

The school house, the place we all hope can serve as the “great equalizer,” is closing its doors to an alarming number of the very students who need the most support.

In Washington state, we have historically had no maximum length for suspensions. Expulsions could last indefinitely. Students, many of whom were arguably the most at risk of failure, were being left out of school indefinitely with no educational services and no plans for how to transition back into school.

A 2012 Washington Appleseed and TeamChild report requested discipline data from all 295 districts in Washington. Only 183 districts could provide detailed information about the number of long-term suspensions (defined as 10 or more days in Washington), emergency expulsions and regular expulsions. Even fewer districts could provide race and ethnicity or free and reduced-price lunch-status information of the impacted students.

Data from the 183 districts that did provide information showed that only 7 percent of students reportedly received educational services while they were out of school.

The League of Education Voters, TeamChild and Washington Appleseed were part of a strong effort to address the discipline crisis in our state during the most recent legislative session.

Washington legislators took a first step by passing a bill requiring emergency expulsions to end or be converted to another form of discipline within 10 school days. The bill also mandated that suspensions and expulsions last no longer than one calendar year, though a school may petition to exceed that limit based on public health or safety.

The new rules require schools to make detailed discipline data to be publicly available on the state’s education website. School districts are also required to create a re-engagement plan for suspended and expelled students

These are meaningful and significant improvements that will positively impact the lives of many, many children. And there is much more work to be done.

As a state, we must continue to minimize the amount of time students are out of school and maximize the opportunities for learning. District leaders must consider shortening the length of suspensions and expulsions and limiting their use. Instead, use in-school suspension and detention.

Each school district must decide what program works for its students, but many successful examples focus on keeping students in school and providing training and support for teachers covering topics such as cultural competency, social and emotional development and classroom management.

A program that is gaining attention is Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, or PBIS. Highline Public Schools is implementing this program in every school in the district.

A number of school districts across the country have addressed discipline problems with practices that educate and teach, rather than punishments that remove the student from class.

Baltimore’s discipline policies emphasize prevention and intervention strategies and discourage the use of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and arrests for most student misbehavior. In four years, suspensions dropped from 1 in 5 students being out-of-school suspended to 1 in 8. The dropout rate fell nearly 4 percent.

Let’s aim to outperform Baltimore in reducing dropouts.

Posted in: School Discipline

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Cutting out the Middle Man: Giving Students the Tools for Advocacy and Activism at School.

Here at the League of Education Voters, we know more than our fair share of advocates.  Principals, parents, community members, teachers, preachers, business people and more unite to improve educational outcomes for students across Washington state. However, with all these valuable resources, student participation can easily be forgotten in the education advocacy equation.  LEV strives to keep students at the center of our efforts.

One of our summer interns, Grace Armstrong, who is studying Special Education at Gonzaga University, decided to tackle this issue head on. This summer she developed a workshop entitled “Advocacy and Activism at School.” Her goal is to give students the power to fix issues they see at school, rather than relying on an adult to help, which oftentimes never happens. With this workshop, students will identify a needed area for change at their school, uncover the root causes and long-term effects of the issue, and examine their personal investment in repairing the issue. Most importantly, they will develop a strategic action plan on how to influence people in power and conquer these school-related issues through advocacy and activism. This workshop is focused on forming student and community coalitions, so students can advocate not only for their needs, but the needs of many.

Grace has already presented the workshop at several local community centers and has more scheduled.  She says, “the students teeming energy, curiosity and passion blow me away. They have so much to discuss surrounding issues from bullying, to unhealthy school lunches, to falling behind in class. You can tell they want change and they want it now.” Grace can’t wait to continue this workshop series at more community centers and summer camp programs around Seattle. Contact her at grace@educationvoters.org if you would like to schedule a workshop!

Grace blogpost

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The 2013 legislative session: It’s a wrap

In what has become unfortunately common in Washington, the 2013 legislative session went into overtime. An agreement on a two-year budget was reached with less than 24 hours to spare to avoid a shutdown of state government. While significant hurdles remain as we strive to ensure our public education system is amply, equitably and sustainably funded, measurable progress was made during the extended 2013 session.

The legislature and the Governor were faced with competing requirements and political trends. Our state’s constitution required increased investment in K-12 education. And while I-1053 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional, the voters of Washington state have consistently sent a strong message that any tax increases must have 2/3 majority support in the legislature. The legislators were charged with increasing investment in K12, without broad based revenue increases, and avoiding cuts to other areas of education or essential social services.

On that score you have to say the session was a mild success. As a state, we expanded investment in early learning, brought a modicum of stability to the Working Connections Child Care program, increased investment in K-12 with an intense focus on the opportunity gap, and stopped the crippling cuts to higher education. We did all of this without cannibalizing essential social services. While it took longer than was needed, the outcome reflected the values of the voters who sent the legislators to Olympia to represent them.

In addition to the budget items, significant bipartisan efforts on education policy were passed (See LEV 2013 legislative accomplishments). Legislation related to addressing customer service issues in child care, supports for persistently failing schools, literacy, STEM education, gathering and reporting of discipline data, and assessment reforms all passed with significant bipartisan support.

As we move forward, LEV will continue to work with parents, members of both parties, and members of the education community to address the continuing challenge of providing ample, equitable and stable funding and ensuring those dollars are invested effectively to ensure that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.

Posted in: Legislative session

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Governor Inslee signs two early learning bills

Great news for Washington’s littlest learners; Governor Inslee has signed HB 1723 and SB 5595 into law! Here are some of the changes you can expect:

Under HB 1723

Under SB 5595

  • DEL/The Department of Social and Health Services will provide improved consumer service, meaning they will return all phone calls within 2 business days, develop a process to submit forms online, notify parents and child care providers 10 days before loss of WCCC benefits, and provide consumers with a document that is easy to understand regarding what services they are eligibile for, etc.
  • Creates a task force comprised of legislators, representatives from various early learning stakeholder groups, and child care providers. The task force will develop recommendations for creating a tiered-reimbursement model for WCCC and a mixed delivery system for ECEAP.
  • DEL/DSHS must work to design a more flexible subsidy system that accounts for small fluctuations in family circumstances, ensure that minor changes in parent’s work schedule(s) don’t interfere with their WCCC authorization, enable parents who participate in 110 hours of work or related activities to be eligible for full-time child care services, and simplify the requirement to count child support as income.

* This is void if not funded by 6/1/13.

Governor Inslee signs House Bill No. 1723 Relating to expanding and streamlining early learning services and programs.

Governor Inslee signs House Bill No. 1723
Relating to expanding and streamlining early learning services and programs.

Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill No. 5595 Relating to child care reform.

Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill No. 5595 Relating to child care reform.

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