Emphasizing an education continuum

In 2014, after eight long years of work, Washington state updated its high school graduation requirements. The League of Education Voters worked with partners and community members to pass this 24-credit College and Career Ready Diploma.

Now the work begins for many school districts in implementing the new diploma. However, a number of districts are ahead of the game, and some have been for many years.

West Valley High School logoOne such school district is West Valley, in the Yakima area. West Valley began requiring 24 credits for high school graduation beginning in the 2001–2002 school year, when they increased their English language and social studies requirements. The second phase of the transition to a College and Career Ready Diploma happened in the 2006–2007 school year, when the district increased their math and science requirements. In 2013, more than 80 percent of their seniors graduated from high school, and of those who graduated, 67 percent continued onto college. Read More

A smart, balanced approach for all students

Community and technical colleges throughout Washington, as well as the six public four-year institutions, are partnering to use students’ high school Smarter Balanced assessment scores in fall 2016 in lieu of their campus-based placement tests.

Students who score at levels 3 or 4 on their 11th grade Smarter Balanced assessments will be able to enroll directly in credit-bearing college courses. Students who score below those levels will be enrolled in newly designed “Bridge to College” courses that will quickly raise them to college-level readiness rather than taking remedial courses that effectively copy high school courses they have already taken. These new courses are being collaboratively designed and developed by higher education faculty, high school teachers, and curriculum specialists from around the state.

“The Smarter Balanced Assessments will give 11th graders a much-needed heads up on whether they’ll place into math and English language courses in college, or whether they’re headed toward remedial classes instead,” said Bill Moore, director of K–12 partnerships at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. “Students then have their senior year to either catch up or take even more advanced classes.” Read More

Back to school: The excitement, the disappointments, and the magic. (It’s ok to be nervous.)

By Emma Margraf

An empty classroomI have always loved September. I love the warmth of the end of summer, I love new backpacks and pencils and notebooks… I love the promise, and the hope and the possibility. As Jane gets new books for new classes I get excited and say, “Oh boy! YOU get to read THIS!” and she rolls her eyes.

But the reality of back-to-school time has never lived up to my expectations. So my hopes for Jane and the new school year might be a little misguided. Read More

All means all: Preparing all kids for the future

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we believe that all Washington students should have access to a high-quality public education that provides the opportunity for success. All means all. Our recent work to implement a rigorous high school diploma that prepares every student for college and career is a good step in the right direction. But as a recent guest blog post mentioned, 64 percent of foster kids in Washington do not graduate from high school in the first place.

That’s why we are thrilled to highlight the work of one of our partner organizations, Treehouse, which works to give every foster kid a childhood and a future. Continue reading for summaries of several Treehouse stories about preparing students for their future and for life beyond high school. Read More

Making the sky the limit

Making the sky the limit. (View from Spokane.)Rogers High School in northeast Spokane had a graduation rate of 50 percent in 2010. This year, the graduate rate was 85 percent, an increase of 35 percent in four years.

What changed between 2010 and 2014? Not the student body. Seventy-five percent of students at the high school are eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL). What DID change is how students prepare for high school and life after high school.

Rogers High School is in its sixth year of a Navigation 101 grant from College Spark Washington, and they have also implemented the AVID program in their school. Both Navigation 101 and AVID are programs designed to prepare students for college or career.

One aspect of both of those programs is the High School and Beyond Plan, used to help students chart a path through high school to achieve their post-high school career goals. The High School and Beyond Plan is also one part of the newly updated high school diploma for Washington, which was passed during the 2014 legislative session. The League of Education Voters is working with communities across the state to ensure that the implementation of the new diploma is as effective as possible.

So how did Rogers High School implement the High School and Beyond Plan successfully? Read More

A partnership across Washington

Rural Alliance for College Success logoThe Rural Alliance for College Success was recently awarded a three-year, $120,000 grant from College Spark Washington to reduce the number of students who require remedial math in college. Jerry Dyar is a guidance counselor in the Mary Walker School District in Spokane, and he has been a leader in the Rural Alliance partnership for the last four years.

The Rural Alliance is a collaboration among rural school districts in Eastern and Central Washington with a focus on college and career readiness for all students, as well as post-secondary program completion. It began as a collaboration between nine or ten districts in northeastern Washington in 2002 and grew from there.

The alliance is now made up of 51 school districts that have about 35,000 K–12 students between them. The majority of the districts in the alliance have very low-income students, with a population where more than 70 percent of students are free and reduced lunch-eligible (FRL). Forty percent are Latino, and 20–25 percent are English Language Learners (ELL). Jerry also estimates that 10-12 percent of all students live in homes with parents who are migrant workers. Read More

What a college and career ready high school diploma means

The field of Human Centered Design & Engineering is growing, and more than 80% of the program’s graduates are employed within 6 months of graduation. But Stephanie White, an undergraduate advisor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, says that even though the undergraduate program has been flooded with applications, a lot of the students who want to study engineering in her department can’t—they simply don’t have the prerequisites to qualify. “Many students find out their junior year of high school that they don’t have the prerequisites to study STEM in college—by then it’s too late to take the courses they need.”

Sadly, Stephanie’s experience isn’t unusual. Only 4 in 10 graduating seniors meet the basic admissions requirements to get into a public university in Washington. And nearly 60% of students who attend community or technical college must take remediation classes to get to those basic 4-year college admissions requirements. In other words, many students must pay tuition to learn what they should have been taught in public high school. Help us to change this for Washington students by signing a petition in support of a college and career ready diploma.

Read More

Why I love The New School at South Shore.

They’ve read the research and they’re using it to create change for real kids, right now. Early learning gains are the foundation for learning. Fade-out is not a factor at South Shore because grades K-3 are equally high-quality and pre-K – grade 3 teachers work together.

Lucky me, I’ve seen their model in action. I’ve met the kids. I’ve seen the results. You should stop by and check it out. In the meantime, check out this short video showing how their pre-K – grade 3 model works.

PRE-KINDERGARTEN — 3RD GRADE A New Beginning for American Education from Brian Quist on Vimeo.

Empowering young leaders

Yes, smaller class sizes, high-quality teachers and adequate funding are vital in our schools.

Yet I believe we often fail to acknowledge the power that student leaders have to improve and enhance the daily experiences of all kids in Washington’s public schools. Student leadership can make or break the climate of our schools. Youth attitudes and actions influence whether their peers choose to wake up to go to school the next morning and the level of safety students feel as they walk around campus.

Beyond the classroom walls and outside of Olympia, students can play a crucial role in the success of our schools. For more than 50 years, the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) has been supporting and promoting student leadership through workshops, camps and conferences that serve more than 10,000 students, advisers and coaches each year.

It’s hard to articulate how powerful it is to be surrounded by 250+ high school student leaders from Forks to Central Valley, out in the wilderness of Randle, Washington, in a world free of cell phones and Facebook, tackling topics from parliamentary procedure to servant leadership. My camp experience (three years as a high school delegate and seven years as a counselor for middle level and high school camps) has been the greatest influence in my commitment to public education and service-learning.

When we look beyond today, we must remind ourselves that these students are the ones who will be the advocates, activists, parents, business leaders, teachers and legislators leading movements as a result of today’s unfinished business. In fact, we all know many students who are already initiating positive change in their schools and communities. Therefore, it is essential that we connect our youth with every opportunity possible to be surrounded by new people, new ideas and new thoughts; to ask tough questions and be uncomfortable; to take risks and to take on a leadership role whenever possible.

Please talk to your children, youth whom you know and students in your schools. Let them know of these opportunities, and encourage them to get involved. Please click on the links for more info, or get in touch with me via email or by posting a comment. This will be my eighth year with Mt. Rainier, one of the five AWSP high school leadership camps, and I look forward to working with new students from your communities and schools.

*Like most other exciting opportunities, this one is not cheap. Prices per delegate range from $275-285, depending on whether or not the school is an official member of the Washington Association of Student Councils. Some schools are able to afford to send their students to camp while others do not have the resources. Don’t miss out on the scholarship opportunities available to help students pay for camp. The scholarship deadline is March 17th.

High School Leadership Camp (Cispus and Chewelah Peak)
Middle Level Leadership Camp (Cispus and Chewelah Peak)
La Cima Bilingual Leadership Camp (Chewelah Peak)
Deaf Teen Leadership Camp (Cispus)
CheerLeadership Camp (Central Washington University)

Back to School and Back to Quality

Posted by Chris

This is a special week. One million children will fill their backpacks with new books, nervous energy and optimism and board yellow buses to return to school. Some are all but guaranteed to end the school year far ahead of where they are now. Too many will be less fortunate, experiencing less opportunity for growth, or worse yet, stagnation.

This school year we citizens have an opportunity to partner with educators, principals, and policymakers to ensure that all of our kids are headed back to school and back to quality.

Our vision: Every student is able to read by third grade. Every child deserves to arrive on their first day of kindergarten prepared to succeed. Unfortunately, over the past five years pass rates on the 4th grade Reading WASL have declined. One of the most effective ways to get us back on track is to invest in high-quality early learning programs, like Washington Head Start, and professional development for child care providers. As the Basic Education Finance Task Force redefines basic education, early learning must be included as one of the most promising avenues to impact student achievement from the very beginning.

Our vision: An excellent teacher in every classroom. Every child deserves a quality education from kindergarten and beyond, and excellent teachers are profoundly important to this journey. But three in five students in Washington attend an underperforming school where they may not learn what they need. That’s unacceptable. Fortunately solutions are in the works. The Basic Education Finance Task Force will propose measures to professionalize the teaching profession, which is likely to include an evaluation system to reward and support great teaching. Additionally, the State Board of Education will propose a series of steps that aim to turn around schools that underperform year after year.

Our vision: Every high school graduate is ready for college and work. Every child deserves to choose his or her path after high school. Unfortunately, not all high school students are given this choice in Washington. Only 41 percent of high school graduates meet college entrance requirements — and over half of entering community college students take remedial classes they should have mastered in high school. To help ensure a high school diploma means college and work ready, the State Board of Education adopted CORE 24 as the new graduation requirement framework. CORE 24 aligns high school course work with college entrance requirements and workforce expectations. Before the Board can implement these new requirements, we need to persuade the Legislature to fund more than just a five-period day.

The time for bold solutions is now.

The reform efforts mentioned above will be debated and decided during the upcoming 2008-09 school year. In this year of education, it is appropriate to assess not only student achievement, but citizen involvement. What will our citizen report card show?

Join us to change the world by changing our schools. We’re parents and community members who saw a need for a more independent voice and real results for all children. We’re dedicated to the idea that every one of our million school children deserves an excellent education and we need you.

Visit didyouknowcampaign.com to learn more about what you can do to make a difference for kids.