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

On the proposed rules for E2SSB 6552

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.

Sincerely,

Chris Korsmo
CEO

Att: On the proposed rules for E2SSB 6552

A definition of basic education worth fighting for

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education VotersChris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters, submitted an op-ed to The Seattle Times‘ Education Lab yesterday. It was published in The Seattle Times print edition on June 20.

In her column, Chris argues that the definition of “basic education” in Washington is too narrow—it does not include early learning or higher education. Read below for an excerpt, or read the entire column online.

At the League of Education Voters, we support an ample, equitable, stable education funding plan. While we supported the re-definition of “basic education” developed in 2009 (it includes smaller class size, full-day kindergarten, transportation, materials and supplies) upon which McCleary is based, we advocated that the definition should also include early learning and higher education.

During the past two years, we have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the current definition of basic education. It is neither ample nor equitable. And thanks to our over-reliance on local levies, it certainly isn’t stable.

We need a definition of basic education that puts students and their learning at the center.

Read the entire op-ed on The Seattle Times website.

The 2014 Legislative Session

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

A multifaceted approach yields a strong step forward in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps

By Beth Richer, League of Education Voters Government Relations

Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI. Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI.
Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI.

Within any given legislative session there are victories, defeats, and measures left in a state of limbo. The 2014 session was no different. But amidst those victories, defeats, and states of limbo, there was an underlying theme for much of the education legislation related to the opportunity gap. Legislators, advocacy organizations, teachers, parents, students, and business leaders alike all said loud and clear: “We must take action to close the gaps and address our most underserved students.” 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

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.

"Houston, we have a problem."

Last week, LEV’s CEO Chris Korsmo gave a “TED Talk” at the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Regional Leadership Conference. Below is an excerpt from her talk:

Over the past few years there has been a lot of attention paid to education and how we as a nation are doing compared to others. Some of us have been down right freaked out by the decline in results and the fact that this generation will be the first in our nation’s history to be less educated than our parents. Some have called for  a “sputnik moment”  like when we chased the Russians into space and beat them to the moon. We need to find that uniting mission that kicks us in the pants and gets us moving.

I’d argue that we need an Apollo moment.  Apollo 13 to be precise.

In one of the more intense moments of film Apollo 13, a group of engineers and designers and others in the pocket protector set sit in a room wringing their hands about how to save the men aboard the ship.  The work is focused on figuring out how to restore electricity and stay powered up to get the space capsule back into earth’s orbit. But they discovered something more urgent; the men are literally dying from lack of oxygen.  The engineer need to build a filter that fits a certain size and shape, to remove CO2 from the air, so the men can breathe. The catch? They can only use what’s on board the ship.

So a box of odds and ends is dumped on the table  At first there’s a bit of geek  grousing – we can’t possibly, and how do you expect us to, blah, blah. But they get down to work. They’re focused,  there’s no blame, and the team solves the problem. The crew is saved.

I think of this scene whenever I hear of a school or district that has dumped its box upside down to solve an urgent need. Like in Bridgeport, a rural and mostly low income school district primarily serving Latino students that managed to get 100% of their kids to graduate from high school – and that got all of their graduating seniors  – 100% of them – accepted into college. Or in Federal Way where Advanced Placement is the default for kids who pass their state tests. They don’t opt in – they have to opt out, with their parents. Or the investment in early literacy in Auburn, that has their third graders knocking it out of the park in reading. These school leaders addressed the urgent while simultaneously looking at the bigger system issues.

These districts didn’t wait for Washington Supreme Court decision or a check from a wealthy benefactor. They just got busy working the problem.

We need more of that.

Let’s take the Apollo approach on a different issue; When I moved here in 2007, the state board of education was debating graduation requirements and how to get kids college and career ready. Despite passing new requirements at least twice, we’re still talking about it. In the five years that this conversation has ebbed and flowed, we’ve lost 60,000 kids to dropping out, we’ve seen college remediation climb, and our economy’s demand for more rigorous job preparation spike.   In other words, while we did nothing to address the urgent, the system got worse.

If we had an Apollo moment on this topic, we’d start by taking one urgent step – something done while we’re fixing the ship. How about, making sure all kids get algebra in 8th grade? If kids are proficient in Algebra before they leave in middle school, implementing more rigorous math requirements in high school wouldn’t seem so hard. And then maybe upping the ante for high school graduation wouldn’t seem impossible.

We have the box on the table. And the kids are in the capsule. The question is; What are we going to do about it?


Governor signs bill establishing new Student Achievement Council

Governor Gregoire signed HB 2483 today which will create a new cabinet level agency, the Student Achievement Council.

Passed by a bi-partisan effort, responsibilities for the Council will include developing policy and strategies to raise the percentage of Washingtonians with post-secondary education as well as administering state financial aid programs.

According to the Higher Education Coordinating Board’s blog, the new law (which becomes effective July 1st will have several goals:

a) To propose to the governor and the Legislature goals for increasing educational attainment in Washington, recommend the resources necessary to achieve the goals, and monitor progress toward meeting the goals;

b) To propose to the governor, the Legislature, and the state’s educational institutions, improvements and innovations needed to continually adapt the state’s educational institutions to evolving educational attainment needs; and

c) To advocate for higher education through various means, with the goal of educating the general public on the economic, social and civic benefits of post- secondary education, and the consequent need for increased financial support and civic commitment in the state.

More information about the new law can be found here.

The House passes the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act!

Hooray!

Thanks to your hard work, the House of Representatives has passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act by a vote of 253-171!

Struggling to come up with the cash for college? House leadership, with the Obama administration’s support, wants to cut out the middle man from federal student loan programs and give students the chance to borrow directly from the federal government. Middlemen are ex$pensive – so the bill creates $92 BILLION in cost savings! Part of the savings would be spent on an Early Learning Challenge Fund to make sure all children have a quality education from the very start!

College student? Here’s how the SAFRA will help you:

For the past 35 years, the federal government has subsidized loans made by private banks to students through the Federal Family Education Loan program, guaranteeing loans up to 97 percent and allowing lenders to reap the profits. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act – touted as the largest investment in higher education ever – shuts down that program, replacing it with a direct loan program run by the Education Department. The income-based payment plan eases the strain for graduates paying off loans.

Smartypants early learner (who can already read)? Here is how the SAFRA will help you:

Ensure young children enter kindergarten ready to succeed by creating an Early Learning Challenge Fund to provide states with $8 billion in competitive grants over 8 years. This investment would improve outcomes for all children and especially at-risk children-resulting in higher graduation rates, higher rates of college attendance, and higher earnings at work.

Everyone else?

This bill creates $92 billion in cost savings that will be spent on programs we know will save money and promote economic growth.  That’s a big hooray for everyone.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today after the House voted 253 to 171 this afternoon to pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act:

“Education is the best investment individuals can make in themselves, it is the best investment parents can make in their children, and it is the best investment a nation can make in their citizens. With that in mind, today the House passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, the single largest investment in making college more affordable in the history of our nation.

“This legislation means that more students will enter college; that they will graduate with less debt; that the federal loan initiatives that they and their families depend upon are strengthened for decades to come; and that taxpayers will save money. It is fiscally responsible, following the strict standards of pay-as-you-go spending.

“This legislation seizes the opportunity to strengthen our nation by making a historic commitment to our students and a landmark investment in our future.”

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