Activist of the Month: Lynda Collie-Johnson

By Andaiye Qaasim, Community Organizer at the League of Education Voters

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 for January: Lynda Collie-Johnson. Read more about Lynda’s experience as an educator and at LEV’s Activist Training last year.
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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.”
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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

Founder of Post-Prison Education Program testifies in favor of SSB 5244 to transform school discipline

This is the written testimony of Ari Kohn, the founder and president of the Post-Prison Education Program. Ari testified in favor of SSB 5244 to transform school discipline on February 12, 2013. 

Members of the Senate Ways &Means Committee:

I’m Ari Kohn; founder and president of the Post-Prison Education Program, a non-profit organization that works to dramatically reduce recidivism by harnessing the power of education and meeting the legitimate needs of former prisoners. The Post-Prison Education Program provides access to education and unwavering support through wrap-around services including tuition, housing, groceries, daycare and intensive mentoring.

For the seven years we’ve existed, our non-profit has worked only with adult prisoners who have the most difficult cases: serious mental illness, addiction, and long lists of felony convictions are some of the issues we address. Yet, our recidivism rate is less than two percent. Ninety-eight percent of the adults we serve successfully transition into productive lives, often pursuing and finishing college degrees in the process. They succeed because we invest.

On the other hand, today the Department of Corrections lists a 46% re-admission rate.  It’s almost comical; after talking in terms of “recidivism” since 1999 they have switched and now talk about “readmission.”  Regardless of which term you use, the fact is for every two people who walk out of a Washington State prison today you can bet that one of them is going back (46%).  The way we’ve overcome that statistic and found success is by investing in people.

We don’t care what it takes, we urge you to invest now, invest in these young kids today, because we know if you wait until adulthood to address the issues many prisoners struggle with, costs grow exponentially. Our program uses the small budget we have with maximum impact. We deliver the services and resources former prisoners need – including counseling, tutoring, tuition, daycare, books and software, in-patient care and basic life needs such as food and housing – because we know our investment will pay off in saved lives, reunited and strengthened families, generally with lives worth living.

The one thing we believe above all others in regard to these young kids is invest now – invest, invest, invest.  It will pay off (even in the short term).  I have noticed that people are taken aback by the costs associated with keeping more kids in school, but we have seen over and over again that the cost to implement a preventative infrastructure is nowhere near the tremendously high costs associated with helping adult prisoners attempt to successfully re-enter our communities.

In almost all cases we’ve found that if you invest in people they will respond positively and in a way that leads to saved families and safer communities.  In closing, I can only emphasize to you that kicking kids out of school at the drop of the hat, as is being done throughout the state, is as far a cry from investing in somebody as you can get.  If doing so is allowed to continue, we will all pay a very high price, and continue to see very sad results.

A little respect

This post was written by Emma Margraf, a foster parent and advocate.

I am a busy mom. I’m not the only one, I get that. I have great admiration for the moms who stay on target and keep up with everything all the time, but I am certainly not one of them. Judgment is one of the things about parenthood that I was not prepared for, and I have a knee jerk argh reaction whenever I run across completely unnecessary expressions of the inability to see things from another person’s perspective. A busy person, who, maybe, flat forgot about the bake sale and the form required to get her into band. But that’s a different story. A few weeks ago (I’m behind on … my life … but we covered that) I read this story, and it’s been bugging me ever since.

I am so busy that I have become one of those people that mostly gets my news from what my friends posts on Facebook – and because I am who I am I clicked on this story after I’d seen it pop up a few times … and as the kids say, OMG.

Can’t we all just get along?

The story’s premise is that we, as parents, should take all of this on face value. These are instructions … but I am not in school. There are aspects of being a parent that require this conversation to be a conversation, not a test.

First of all: you all are leaving the profession in droves because you can’t stand the parents? Really? It’s my fault? That’s quite a burden — and one I would think I and other parents share with a thousand other factors, many of which are caused by people who could help and don’t – they just watch us fight with each other.

Trust us, you say. Approach a conversation about a concern by saying “I know kids exaggerate”, you say. If you are telling us something, it’s true, you say, so you just have to believe it and back it up. The problem here is that we’re with our kids for a lifetime – you have them for a year, or a couple of years, or an hour a day. If a teacher tells me something happened I am absolutely going to verify it, because Jane needs to know that I am in her corner. Every public school situation she’s been in has been big and crowded and full of opportunities for overworked teachers to miss things that are important — and there is no way that I am going to punish her for something without gathering as many facts as possible.

What few teachers will admit to me is this: teachers have favorite students. When I first got Jane she had a lot of habits that made her, um, not their favorite. I understood why, and I didn’t fault them for it. She was frustrating. This was painfully clear to me as I watched the 8th grade graduation ceremony and all the clearly popular kids got hugs and high fives from every teacher as they walked by with their diplomas, and the loners, the awkward children, the children that clearly struggled got semi-engaged handshakes or were left to just walk on by. Teachers who had Jane when she had behavior problems universally took the side of other children when Jane was in an altercation, even when there were no adult witnesses and clearly there was more to the story than was being told. She was frustrating, but not every problem was her fault.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a handful of teachers that I would walk miles barefoot in the snow for. Jane told me once that one of those teachers was mean, and I knew she’d gotten in trouble with him that day and I said, “No way, you’ll have to try harder than that—he’s the nicest teacher you’re likely to have for a great while, and you need to treat him with respect.”

Those moments don’t hold their weight if you do support teachers when it isn’t warranted. Jane had a terrible teacher last year that shortchanged her and didn’t think she was capable of much. I really couldn’t lie to her and say the teacher was worth respecting. She wasn’t. What I did say was that I’ve had bosses I didn’t like and who didn’t like me, and that didn’t change the fact that I needed to do everything on my job description — regardless of personality.

Teachers have hard jobs. I’ve seen that. I have a hard job too, in addition to being a foster parent. I am always struggling to stay ahead of the game, and in that struggle, I remind myself that her educational success and happiness is most important. I support every teacher who has supported Jane. I support every school that has listened to her. I support every situation that has asked her to be the best person and student she can be. Blind support helps no one, especially Jane.

In the decades I have to spend with Jane, I’d like her to think that I was the one that convinced her to be the best version of herself. I’d like for my relationships with her teachers to reflect that wish. I don’t see that in this article. I don’t see that in the mainstream media. How do we make this the highest priority?

Back to school update for Jane

This post was written by Emma Margraf, a foster parent and advocate.

Tonight the most important question I have to ask will be: is it appropriate to wear my t-shirt that has hip-hop stars on the side of Mt. Rushmore to the evening for new Upper School students and their parents at the fancy private school Jane will start this week? I can’t decide.

Yes, she was accepted to the private school. It was a pretty long admission process as the school wanted to be sure she had at least some idea of what she was in for. She starts this week. We were so lucky to find a way to pay for it—neither the agency with which I am licensed nor I have $22,000 lying around for one year of her education. In fact, when the check came in to the agency to cover the cost one of the administrators didn’t know what it was for and nearly had a heart attack. It was a letdown for him to realize it was already spent. (When I told a lawyer friend this story he said, “You know, one of the partners I work with said the other day that you can give a non-profit $5 to do $20 worth of work” – but that’s neither here nor there).

Her books cost $525—and most of them were used. When she saw the pile of them, she immediately took a picture to send to people so that they could be thoroughly impressed. There are TWO math books. The English books are on a wide range of topics, and she has already written a paper on her summer reading book. She didn’t write a paper all of last year.

What’s more, there is an English teacher from the school who has been voluntarily tutoring her this summer. She has been to several sessions, and is incorporating his feedback as she goes. We had a meeting with the advisor, the learning specialist, Jane’s caseworker, and my friend who works at the school already, tonight is the first of several back to school meetings. All the meetings include dinner.

It’s a good thing that there’s been so much preparation, because Jane’s got the summer doldrums. She’s been working as a counselor in training for the summer, and it’s not exactly what I hoped. All of the other kids from the Middle—that area of public school where kids get dropped off and left to their own devices –seem to be in this program too. The point of the program seems to be to have youth who are stuck in mediocre programs all through the school year teach younger kid how to be ready exactly for that too when they get older.

Jane’s interpretation of her job is to make sure the kids cross the street within the lines, that they are quiet, that they don’t rough house in the pool. None of the activities are memorable, but she has told me numerous times how important it seems to be to not bring peanuts in her lunch. There are so many campers, they need some extra help to keep track of them, and they seem to use the Counselors In Training as a second set of eyes to make sure kids aren’t misbehaving. When she gets home every day, she’s done so little actual thinking that she is super hyper all evening, asking me a billion questions while I try and push her out the door for a bike ride before the sun goes down.

When I was young I went to Shakespeare Camp. We performed comedies for four summers, and while I was there I learned to juggle, hang a spoon on my nose, and sing Elizabethan songs. After those years I worked as a junior counselor in a program that focused on wellness in combination with fairy tales of the outdoors that led to all of the junior counselors writing clues that were left throughout hiking trails for the kids to follow on an adventure.

The senior counselors in that program were directed to take us under their wing, and mine gave me The Prophet by Kahil Gibran and Johnathan Livingston Seagull while trying to convince me to write short stories and read them a loud on camp overnights.

The summer after my junior year in high school I was sent to math camp at Mt. Holyoke – a rebellious girls only program to aimed at ending the math divide between girls and boys. I made life-long friends there, and it gave me an opportunity to visit Fenway Park for the first time.

All things are possible. My parents never had a lot, and I honestly don’t know how I managed to get all of those opportunities. Nor should I have. It was their job to figure it out, and now it’s mine for Jane. I screwed this summer up, but have now learned my lesson. I know the kids at her new school aren’t working at keeping younger kids following the rules and only the rules this summer—at least I think they aren’t. I have visions of them serving as crew on sailing trips to Europe and learning to become trapeze artists. Next summer we’ll do a better job; there’s got to be some equivalent of learning to juggle or visiting Fenway Park.

In the meantime, I have Upper School New Student Night, Tenth Grade Outdoor Education Night, and I have to figure out what to wear to each while getting ready to be the youngest parent in the room again. If I had given birth to Jane I would have been 21 when she was born, which is much more common at public school than it is in the private ones I have been around.

Jane’s first day is Wednesday. Two of her teachers have PhDs. One is a retired military veteran who has lived all over the world. She’s hoping to be in the fall play.

The Journey Out of Not-So-Special Education

This blog post was written by Emma Margraf, a foster parent and advocate

My first parent teacher conference was two and a half years ago, at a public junior high across town from my house. Jane is my teenage foster daughter, and she had been placed at my house for a couple of weeks, and I had no idea what I was getting into. Jane had never learned most of what she was supposed to; after ten years with neglectful parents and three years and 7 placements in foster care she didn’t know how to count money, measure time, or do her multiplication tables. She was in the resource room all day with all of the other children they didn’t know what to do with. I knew so little – but it was surprising to me because my first experience with Jane something they didn’t seem to see — hearing her recount every plot point in the Twilight series and falling in love with the movie Wall E. Say what you like about the vampire novels, but this version of her seemed so incongruous with the one I saw at school, where the only concerns they had were for her discipline. The conversation was about all of the things they were asking her not to do – and there was a very long list.

Over the course of the next six months she got suspended more times than I can recount; some of the suspensions meant she was sent home, and some were in school. When she got suspended in school she was set down in a room by herself and allowed to read Harry Potter books – her very favorite thing—all day. What seemed obvious to me – that whenever she was lost in uncertainty she did something disruptive so she could go read books – was not so clear to them.

A few weeks after my first parent teacher conference I asked Jane what she wanted most in her life. She said that she wanted out of special education, and she wanted to get off of medication. When I started bringing these goals up with teachers, principals, and school psychologists I got the same reaction from all of them – a mix of pity and condescension. They knew it was hard to see a child with so many limitations, and it was hard, they knew. But medication was complicated, you see, and there were these test scores to prove that she was exactly where she was supposed to be. And my favorite response: we could test her again, but we know what the outcome will be already.

The thing is, I ask questions until I get an answer that seems to make sense. It’s my nature. I kept asking why she was on these medications, and no one knew for sure. I kept asking what they were doing for her, and no one had a way to evaluate that. I kept asking what progress she could make academically and how we could go about that, and they said she would likely never learn her multiplication tables and that she didn’t need to. None of this made any sense to me – in my regular every day life multiplication tables are the one form of math I need constantly – to be a person in the world. They said she couldn’t learn.

Meanwhile, I was teaching her. I taught her to measure time and count money. I signed her up for private swim lessons and within three months her teacher said she was skilled enough to pass the swim test at camp and survive if she fell off of a boat (my father is a sailor, this has always been his measurement of swimming education success). She learned to manage her own schedule and get herself on the bus in the morning. At school, I couldn’t figure out what, if anything, they were doing. They didn’t give her homework, and she seemed to have free unsupervised time on a regular basis where she would get online and instant message me.

I emailed her teacher/special education case manager one day in total exasperation, asking him to give Jane some positive reasons to participate. He wrote back saying that he does say positive things to her everyday – but couldn’t provide any examples right then. What he could provide was a list of the negative things he needed me to support them on today. I remember the day I got that email very clearly – it was the straw that broke my back and all I could think was “This. Is. Impossible.”

So I started looking into private schools. I asked a lot of people a lot of questions. On the suggestion of a friend of the family I found an alternative school in a rural part of town in a beautiful old building with thirteen kids in the class she’d be in and an arts program that was integrated into the rest of the curriculum. When we pulled up in front of the school for a visit Jane said, “I can go to school here?”

She could, and she did. She had an amazing year there. She learned about buoyancy and displacement, built contraptions that conducted electric current, and memorized 68 lines of Shakespeare for the class play. She went on a class trip that included hiking in the Grand Canyon and a visit to the missions of Santa Barbara. When she called me from California the first thing she said was: “Mom, do you KNOW how FUN it is to swim in the ocean?!”

After the year ended, the options for private school seemed too limited, and so Jane followed many members of her class to the local public high school. Early on we discovered that she had jumped seven grade levels in reading in the last year. (When I mentioned this to her teacher from the private school he kind of cocked his head to one side and said, “Huh. I’m not really sure what that means, but it sounds great.”) She tested out of two of the three areas of her Independent Education Plan. This was phenomenal, I thought. If she can do that in a year, what else could she do?

I really should know better. In the first conference to set up her high school schedule, they told me that community college would be a great option for her, or maybe a vocational program? I said, “She’s in the 9th grade. Let’s not make that decision today. If she isn’t able to go to a four year school, that’s ok, but we’re going to give her the opportunity to try.”

And so I’m in another year of struggle. Conversations that were easy last year are like rolling a giant rock up a mountain. I switched her out of the English class that is designed to instill a love of reading – that goal has been met. I’m trying to get her out of a health class that’s not teaching her to be healthy. I took her to see the Picasso exhibit in Seattle and when she told her teachers about it they just shrugged their shoulders – a moment that was upsetting to me only because she’d been inspired by her day at the museum, listening to the audio commentary, picking out her favorite piece, and deciding that maybe Picasso was a little too moody for her.

Her teacher from last year came to the house last month for a party we had. He asked Jane and some of the other kids about school, and they said they were reading a Steinbeck novel and that it was boring. “Boring?” he asked. “You can say a lot about that story, but it’s not boring!” And then he drew them into a conversation about it, and within five minutes, their attitude was totally turned around – talking about Steinbeck became fun.

There are so many fights. Everyone one is digging in their heels: schools are great or they are hopeless. The problem is poverty, class sizes, teacher salaries, standardized testing… whatever it is, whoever is speaking insists that the problem they’ve identified is the one that needs to be fixed first. In the meantime, the clock is ticking on my child’s life and education, and I feel this incredible pressure, every day, to give her the help she’s asking me for. All I want is that five minutes where the conversation turns around and becomes what it could be, a discussion that’s fun to have.

Parent-teacher dialogue, from a foster parent’s point of view

This post was written by Emma Margraf, a foster parent and advocate.

I am a foster parent to a teenage girl who goes to public school. I’ve had her for two years, and in the time I’ve had her I have attended what feels like approximately 9 million parent teacher conferences, school meetings, back to school nights, etc. I have the access code for the online system where you can see what classes your kid has been late to and what assignments they’ve missed. I supervise homework time and answer the questions I can and challenge her with extra books and encourage her to ask for extra credit, extra help, and extra time.

The other day I read something by Kelly Munn, LEV’s State Field Director, that really struck home with me–in a post she wrote called the Blame Game. Why, in the education world, is everyone having a monologue with themselves? I, like Kelly, am that parent in the video satirizing parent teacher conferences. I give. That’s totally me. I’m sure a number of teachers dread my presence and hate my emails. That reaction – the one where you go on a tirade of all of the reasons why your child can’t do this, is a human response the veritable brick wall you run into when you go into a school and say: this isn’t working. A partnership is possible.

Now here’s where I am tempted to say something completely silly, like some of my best friends are teachers. They are. I believe they deserve higher pay, smaller class sizes, and extra breaks. My step-father is a college professor, my mother is a retired elementary school teacher, and for years I kept in touch with my high school English teacher who, when she discovered I’d already read Macbeth several times gave me leave from class and assigned me Julius Ceasar and Romeo and Juliet, without any intervention from my parents. Mrs. Barnett taught me to write. Her method is the one I’m still using in this article, except I buried my thesis at the end of the second paragraph.

I’m often told that teachers have 140 students, and that if they allowed for the concerns of every student they’d never get anywhere. And yet: concessions are made all of the time. Kids leave class for sports events and get make up time, kids leave sex ed because their parents have moral quandaries, kids do alternative biology assignments because their family doesn’t agree that evolution was how we ended up here. How is that different than when I ask for my child to be let out of a unit on mental health issues because of her background? How is that different than when I ask teachers to let her do extra credit to make up for an area where she’s deficient as a result of previous negligence? These are just two of my current concerns, on which I am in the middle of my 5,000th email. Partnerships are possible.

In the comments to Kelly’s post, there were some great responses, and one of them asked why we can’t get syllabi at the beginning of the year. That was a great suggestion. If assignments were available ahead of time then we’d know what we were dealing with. Technology has become fairly advanced, why can’t we plug in the assignments ahead of time instead of the missed assignments after the fact?

What if parent teacher conferences were actually student centered? What if they started and ended with the student expressing their concerns about the particular class, and making a suggestion for what they think they can do to improve their work? What if that conversation between my child and my child’s teacher was really only witnessed by me, and driven by my child? I’m not sure about all of you, but in that scenario, if mine felt heard, she’d pay a lot more attention. It wouldn’t have to be a long conference; it’s the quality of the conversation that matters, and if she heard something other than follow the rules or else, she would listen.

I understand the argument about teaching children to survive in a big world. However, if something isn’t working it isn’t working, and my kid needs to see that there are solutions to problems that seem insurmountable, because there always, always are. Conversations have been a prized tool for answering the profound questions of the world for thousands of years. Let’s have a conversation to see if we can figure this one out.

PreK Now. It’s Basic!

Today LEV Foundation board member Janet Levinger testified in support of HB 2731 – including preschool for at-risk 3- and 4-year olds in basic education. I have pasted it below. Janet was joined by 20 parents, providers, sheriffs (yes, there were two!) and child advocates who also testified in support of including preschool in basic education. At least 15 people also signed in to support 2731 without testifying.

Thank you Janet for standing up for Washington’s youngest learners.

Good afternoon. For the record, my name is Janet Levinger. I am here today as a community volunteer and child advocate. I currently serve on the boards of United Way of King County, Social Venture Partners, the League of Education Voters, Child Care Resources, and the Bellevue Schools Foundation. I am also on the advancement and communications committees of Thrive by Five Washington.

I am here today to speak in support of HB 2731 and applaud your vision to include PreK in basic education. I also like the mention of infant toddler programs in HB 2867.

Ever since I joined to Child Care Resources board – 13 years ago this month – my husband and I have focused our philanthropy and volunteer time on improving outcomes for all children by ensuring they have a strong state in life. Here’s why:

Imagine yourself as a 5-year-old. It’s your first day at school. You have a new lunch box and a new backpack and you’re all excited. But when you get to school, you have a hard time. You have trouble sitting still to listen to a story. You fight with other kids over a toy. You get in trouble with the teacher because you can’t wait until the end of circle time to play with the blocks. Other kids laugh at you when you don’t know how to write your name and have trouble holding onto a pencil. By the end of the week, the teacher now that you are one of the kids who is not ready for school and she can guess that you are one of the kids who will not graduate from high school.

Imagine yourself as a 5-year old – and you are already projected to fail.

My husband and I invest in quality early education because is shows that it makes a huge difference for kids.

Kids in quality programs enter kindergarten with a solid foundation of social skills and learning skills. They are less likely to repeat a grade, to be placed in special education, to commit a crime, or to become pregnant as a teen.

My husband and I invest in quality early education because it is a good investment for our community.

Research from prominent economists has shows that for every dollar invested in high quality PreK saves taxpayers up to $7 later. Not only are there savings from remedial and juvenile justice programs, but over the long-term, these kids are more likely to graduate from high school, gain stable employment, and contribute positively to our community.

Protecting PreK under basic education would ensure that the program could not be cut and that all eligible children would be served.

I grew up in Iowa and when I was 10-years old, my family moved to a new house. We were one of the first in a new development. My mother planted all sorts of trees – but they were scrawny twigs when she put them in no bigger than I was. I asked her what she was doing and she told me she was planting trees so we would have shade from the sun, apples to pick in the summer, and privacy from our neighbors. I remember looking around from our prairie hilltop and noticing that we did not have any neighbors and I thought she was crazy. But of course she was right. Over time, the small plants she carefully watered and pruned sheltered us from the sun, gave us fruit, and offered us privacy from the neighbors who did move in.

I know it’s hard to think 5, 12, or 20 years ahead. But I hope you will be like my mother and have the foresight to know that caring for our children now will bring many benefits in the future. Imagine that 5-year old – we can offer her a hopeful future instead of failure.

Including a program of early learning in Basic Education will guarantee that our limited resources are focused where the can make the most difference in the life of every child, and to our community.

Thank you.

What our early learning town hall meetings accomplished

In the past two weeks hundreds of parents in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham and Kirkland met with Bette Hyde, Director of the Department of Early Learning, Nina Auerbach, President of Thrive by Five Washington, and Superintendent of Public Schools Randy Dorn to talk about the challenges they face as they care for and educate their young children. You may have heard about the early learning town halls as a member of LEV or  MomsRising or the other great groups who made these meetings happen (Foundation for Early Learning, local PTAs, Children’s Alliance, CCR&R, and Washington Head Start/ECEAP Association).

So, why did parents brave the rain and cold?

Their feedback will help shape early learning recommendations for the 2010 Legislative Session and a ten-year early learning plan to be delivered to Governor Gregoire next month. These parents wanted to make sure that Washington’s Early Learning Plan will help their children succeed in school and life.

Did our input make a difference?

Access and affordability. We heard you loud and clear – but will the Early Learning Plan reflect that? Our discussion made a big difference on many levels, but we’re far from finished. While the 2010 recommendations are not final, the Department of Early Learning released preliminary recommendations to Gov. Gregoire and much of the feedback has been incorporated in these thoughts. The full document is available on the Department of Early Learning’s website, and here is a short summary:

  1. Birth through 3 Continuum. Build and fund an aligned, integrated continuum of supports, services and programs for all children birth to age 3, and their families. Ensuring that infants and toddlers have good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences will lay the foundation for success throughout their lives. Because this is also a critical period for meaningful intervention for children at‐risk, and with special needs, a first focus will be on early invention programs and services, such as: developmental screening; home visitation; programs consistent with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C; Family, Friend and Neighbors support; and Early Head Start.
  2. Voluntary Universal Prekindergarten for 4‐year olds implemented in mixed‐delivery system. Prekindergarten programs for 4‐year olds aim to promote the acquisition of skills, knowledge, and behaviors that are associated with success in elementary school. “Universal” means that the program is universally available (or nearly so) but that parents are free to enroll their children or not as they see fit.  Create voluntary universal preschool program for 4‐year‐olds as part of basic education; phase in to serve highest poverty communities first. Integrate and coordinate phase‐in of all‐day K with phase‐in of universal preschool for 4‐year‐olds.
  3. State‐Funded Full‐Day Kindergarten Enhancing Equity, Continuity and Quality Based on research, the Legislature prioritized full‐day kindergarten funding for schools with the highest percentage of students living in poverty (as measured by the number of students eligible for free and reduced‐price lunch). Full‐day kindergarten gives young children, particularly those living in poverty, the time to learn the foundational skills and knowledge that is so important to future school success.
  4. Early Literacy. Promote early literacy and reading success in school for children birth through 3rd grade in the context of whole child development.
  5. Early Learning Educator/Provider Supports. Continue to implement and expand a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) so that early learning and school‐age providers have the support and resources necessary to improve the quality of their programs and environments and so that families have the necessary consumer education to choose high quality programs for their children. Ensure that licensing is the foundation of QRIS, and that all licensed early learning programs participate. As QRIS is implemented, ensure that it is: tied to child care subsidy (e.g. tiered reimbursement); and integrated within the Professional Development Consortium’s recommendations for a comprehensive professional development system that focuses on achieving high‐quality, and that promotes a qualified and well compensated early learning workforce.
  6. Enhance/Strengthen the Early Learning System Infrastructure. Continue to develop, strengthen and resource infrastructure elements needed to support the early learning system so that it functions effectively and with quality.
  7. Strengthen Partnerships with Families and Communities. Promote and support parenting education and information. Engage parents, families, caregivers, and communities in shaping policies and systems.
  8. Health Insurance and Medical Home. All children have health insurance and a medical home.

We are far from finished.

If you weren’t able to attend a meeting or if you did and have concerns about the list of priorities, there is still time to weigh in! The Drafting Team will be completing their recommendations in the next week and delivering them to Gov. Gregoire on December 1st. Please continue to weigh in on the Department of Early Learning survey or email me at bonnie@educationvoters.org.

For more information on the 2010 Legislative Recommendations and the Early Learning Plan, you can visit the Department of Early Learning website.