By Angela Parker, League of Education Voters Policy Analyst
When an educator earns a superintendent position, they know their job description does not just put them between a rock and a hard place – they will be between a rock, a hard place, and a fire. They hold responsibility for the current education and future educational prospects of the children in their school district. Simultaneously, parents, community members, and their staff expect their leadership in translating and implementing statewide directives and policy changes. And, of course, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) holds them accountable to agency and legislative directives and outcomes goals.
This is why most superintendents develop a refined skill set – the ability to collaborate with a wide range of community and education leaders, the passion to advocate for their students and communities on the state level, deep and broad engagement with education research, an engaging and thoughtful political persona, and long term project management and planning abilities. This is also why we knew we needed to gather as much feedback as possible from superintendents across the state, particularly on their understandings of current and emergent issues in our K-12 schools.
We sent a survey request in November 2017 to 295 superintendents in Washington; 57 (19%) returned our survey, giving these results an 80% confidence level with an 8% margin of error. Our survey over-represents districts with 500 to 4,999 students, and under-represents districts of 499 students and less. Respondents hail from all areas of the state, but disproportionately represent rural districts.
Aside from demographic details, our survey was limited to three main questions:
How urgent are issues such as achievement/opportunity gaps, student supports, teacher supply, college readiness, etc., in your district?
Is your district experiencing new or different educational issues?
What should we work on in the next legislative session?
This post summarizes our broad findings from the survey, and we commit to working on these issues with superintendents and educators across Washington.
If the legislative session were the Super Bowl, Lady Gaga would be pretending to drop through a hole in the Capitol roof – it’s halftime! Sort of. Whatever time it is, you can always catch up on the action with our bill tracker. You might also check out our podcast series, including the newest one with Senator Hans Zeiger, Chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Let’s take a look at how things are going.
Progress: That wind storm that rocked the western half of Washington may have been caused by the collective exhale of school district officials upon the news that the legislature passed an extension of the so-called Levy Cliff. With expanded levy capacity set to expire at the end of the year and levies to drop, districts were scrambling to figure out how to avoid sending out pink slips to staff. Now the legislature can settle in to resolve the rest of the K-12 funding situation – including a reprisal of sorts of the McCleary task force, an 8-member group tasked with drawing up a final plan. While much of the discussion so far has focused on the State’s obligation under the McCleary ruling, there’s been good movement in thinking about how to get more resources to kids who need more – how to ensure that money allocated to close gaps and accelerate results for struggling students. We aren’t the only state trying to unleash the potential that this moment holds. However we go about it, we’d like to see more of this. And this.
Regress: Even as the Legislature buckles down on the funding issues, we can feel the slow shifting of the ground – ground we thought we’d already covered – underneath us. Bills to reduce graduation requirements and undo the State Board of Education continue to be debated. In case you missed it, the Washington Round Table issued a report showing both the heightened expectations for our workforce of tomorrow and the underwhelming way in which we prepare our kids for those opportunities. Backward is how you get out of a driveway. Not how progress is made.
Purple goes the way of analog. Legislative and Congressional districts aren’t the only places where politics are undivided.
There’s an algorithm for that.
That’s all for now, kids! I’ve got to get my hands mani on before the PTA auction tonight. Can’t raise a paddle with claws like this, now can we? As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids! And keep it up! Halfway isn’t all the way, but it’s a good start.
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If you like your politics the same way you like your food – not to touch under any circumstances – then this was your week. Even as we’re going to press, the Senate Democrats are pursuing a floor takeover through parliamentary procedures. The podium grab is possible because the Senate Republicans are down a few men – you may have heard that the Senator Dansel has moved on to the Department of Agriculture and Senator Erickson is advising the EPA (apparently, he won’t be publishing studies on the website, or blogging about the effects of global warming). Dansel has left office, leaving an open seat, while Erickson is holding down two jobs for the time being and racking up frequent flyer miles. Should they prevail and are actually able to take action on the floor, the Senate Dems are looking to pass the levy cliff extension bill – a measure that passed the House earlier this week. The bill was also put on the Senate Ways and Means calendar for this coming Monday – a show of good faith or a pre-emptive maneuver to blunt the necessity of the take over? Oh, cynics. Stop it. (Little known fact about how I think about the word pre-emptive: think Carrie Underwood)
Meanwhile, progress is being made. Earlier this afternoon, Senate Republicans unveiled their education plan. The proposal could be heard early next week and includes a change to the way we allocate funds – from a focus on salaries and staffing to a student-centered approach – and doubles the resources into Career and Technical Education, among other things. There’s much to appreciate in this plan, which includes a bump in pay for starting teachers. You can find our bill tracker here.
Theme of the week: there are quite a few bills that either change, eliminate or de-link our assessment requirements for high school graduation. Coupled with moves to reduce the high school graduation requirements, it raises concerns that we’re watering down our preparation and expectation of our kids at exactly the wrong time.
Last week Jane came in the house with a big envelope in her hand saying, “Mooooommmm….” in a hesitant voice. The envelope was from the college she wants to attend.
I told her that it might just be a mailing, because her application hadn’t been complete for very long. They have a rolling admissions process, so we didn’t know. I watched her open it and read the first few lines of the letter that came in the envelope and then handed it to me looking like she didn’t understand what was happening.
I read the first few lines—they started with, “Congratulations! It is my pleasure to offer you admission…”—and when she saw my face, Jane started jumping up and down.
Six years ago, every school official in Jane’s life would have said this was impossible, and we’ve been told not to hope for it ever since. Read More
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
League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo sent the following letter to all Washington state legislators earlier today regarding the proposed rules for E2SSB 6552.
On behalf of the League of Education Voters, I applaud the Legislature for the passage of E2SSB 6552 and for the explicit recognition that “preparing students to be successful… requires increased rigor and achievement, including attaining a meaningful high school diploma with the opportunity to earn twenty-four credits.” I strongly agree and thank you for your leadership.
With the passage of 6552, we have a law that can increase rigor, empower local control and ensure consistency at the state level for high school graduation requirements.
At the League of Education Voters, we believe that every student in Washington state should have access to an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success. E2SSB 6552 is a step in that direction. But only if implemented well.
Next week, the State Board of Education will vote on proposed rules guiding the implementation of this new law.
We have a number of concerns related to the implementation of the law and the proposed rules that are addressed in detail in the attached document.
Of particular concern to the League of Education Voters is the provision allowing students to waive credits. We have an economic imperative as a state to ensure that students are ready for the next step after high school, whether that is a career or post-secondary education. However, allowing any of the 24 credits to be waived results in less rigor, not more. In addition, high school graduation requirements should be consistent across the state. The proposed rules include significant flexibility for both school districts and for students, which incorporates the extensive discussions leading up to the passage of 6552. The State Board of Education has done exactly what the Legislature authorized them to do and any further changes to E2SSB 6552 should be made through additional legislation.
Thank you again for your work to ensure that each Washington student graduates from high school with a college and career ready diploma and the opportunity for success. Please review the attached addendum for more information about our specific concerns on the updated high school diploma. I welcome hearing from you on this important issue and working together during the 2015 legislative session.
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 Activists of the Month for April: Sarah Butcher, Jennifer Karls, and Beth Sigall. Read more about their experiences as strong advocates for special education.
Sarah Butcher, Jennifer Karls, and Beth Sigall are strong advocates for public education in Washington state. Sarah and Jennifer formed the Bellevue Special Needs PTA in 2012, where Jennifer serves as President and Sarah as co-Vice President. Beth serves as the Vice President of Advocacy for the Lake Washington PTSA Council. Read More
The 2014 legislative session may have been short, but there were significant policy accomplishments in improving public education in Washington state. These accomplishments expand access to financial aid for higher education for all Washington students, pave the way for all students to graduate from high school ready for college or career, and make steps toward reducing the opportunity and achievement gaps. Read More
Boarding a bus at seven in the morning to attend a State Board of Education meeting was not at the top of my summer to-do list. Honestly, I would have never guessed that attending a State Board of Education meeting would ever be on my calendar.
With my eyes a little puffy and my stomach empty, my excitement meter was running on the low side as I headed to the office two hours earlier than normal. As I slowly dragged my body out of my dad’s car, I was instantly greeted with smiles and eager faces ready to show the State Board what we’re all about.
As the bus arrived at the meeting, our show-stopping swag captured the eyes of many in the room. Our message was even stronger than our fierce red shirts – every student should have the opportunity to succeed. We all brought our own stories, each one as powerful and unique as the next.
It was not until this summer that I realized how fortunate I was. Hearing some of the testimonies really helped me see how difficult it may be without the guidance, mentoring and encouragement I received through family, school and Rainier Scholars. Every student is not offered a chance to know success but I believe everyone should be able to know what it feels like to succeed. Through Core 24, every student will have the opportunity to make decisions that will directly affect their future. It offers a solid academic foundation with flexibility to alter courses in order to accommodate post high school graduation plans.
I can now say I have attended a State Board of Education meeting, learned a lot and had fun at the same time. Not only did we show everyone at the meeting how Core 24 would be beneficial to all students, but we also showed them how important student voices really are. We are the future and the time for change is now.
Katarina is our summer intern and also a Rainier Scholar.
Just shy of spending two weeks as an intern here, I attended the State Board of Education meeting in Vancouver yesterday to testify in support of CORE 24. As I watched the number of miles decrease on the exit signs, my thoughts were about how the Board would react to the proposal, if much of the public would attend, if they would be in support of CORE 24, and if the students’ testimonies would be enough to sway the Board.
Upon arriving, I was ushered into a crowded room. I was intimidated by the formality of the meeting, yet comforted by the red shirts scattered throughout the sea of people. As I began listening to one woman testifying against CORE 24, I was taken aback by her opinion of students struggles in education. I can’t get over how people use technical issues like finances as an excuse for not supporting issues like CORE 24 and how easily people forget why Washington State made a board that makes decisions on public education. For the students, of course!
When my turn came, I hope to channel the importance of this decision, and how the Board is responsible for an uncharted number of children who would go through our state’s school system. I wanted to convey how we could set the students up for failure if we weren’t decisive. As another testifier said, “…..not making this decision would be criminal”. I was pleased that the Board seemed eager to listen to the students, and that my words proved to be meaningful.
It was a tangible experience and I found it empowering that people can make a difference despite the obstacles. My goal is to help other students realize that it isn’t difficult to speak out, but it takes having someone to listen that makes it count.
Here is an excerpt from my testimony:
My name is Simran and I’m a public school graduate heading into my third year at Western Washington University. I was fortunate to have parents and an older brother who were familiar with high school four-year plans, and knew how to prepare for success in enrollment in college. By taking AP courses and being highly involved in my high school, I had gained enough experience to ensure my position at a four-year university. I was lucky. We need to make sure that every student is just as lucky . . .
Despite the obvious technical issues that lie ahead with Core 24, it is important for you as a member of the State Board of Education to understand the fundamental theme behind this proposal. This is for the betterment of all students and will give them an opportunity to excel. They are the future of society and I believe that all of you have their best interests in mind. Thank you for continuing to do what you do for all students.