Page Ahead on Stopping Summer Slide

Page Ahead on Stopping Summer Slide blog photoBy Nick Nogrady, Program Director, Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program, guest blogger

Each summer, during the annual hiatus from school, many students lose their reading skills. This phenomenon is sometimes called “summer slide” or “summer reading setback.” It impacts children living in poverty the most, and its effects are cumulative.  It is estimated that up to two-thirds of the reading achievement gap experienced by low-income children happens during the summer months.

This is where Page Ahead comes in. Founded in Seattle more than 25 years ago, Page Ahead has become the largest children’s literacy organization in Washington state.  We combat summer slide by giving students access to their choice of books as well as holding free book fairs for students in kindergarten through second grade at the end of each school year. The Page Ahead’s book fair program goes by the name of Book Up Summer (BUS).

Based on research by Dr. Richard Allington, ensuring easy and continuing access to free self-selected books to read over the summer is a useful strategy for addressing the summer reading setback and addressing the reading achievement gap. This book fair allows low-income students to self-select 12 free books to read over the summer for three consecutive years.  At the conclusion of three years Dr. Allington followed, study results indicated students gained approximately 40% of a grade level in reading.[1] These results are similar to children attending summer school during those three years, at just a fraction of the cost.

At Page Ahead, we target elementary schools with a high percentage of low-income students, and low third grade reading test scores. By targeting these schools, we reach students with little or no access to books in the home, and families unlikely or unable to visit the library in the summer months.  More than 80% of students we serve are low-income, and 40% are bilingual.

Book Up Summer works. In Seattle schools that have completed the three year intervention, the gap between low-income schools we serve and the citywide points average for the 1st and 2nd grade reading assessments has been closed by 70%.

Personally, this is a great program to run. I enjoy travelling across the state to meet with educators passionate about closing the opportunity gap. I meet teachers and administrators from farming communities in central Washington, mountain towns in the Cascades, from Seattle to Tacoma to Spokane—these educators know how much these books will mean to their students and families, as well as their communities.

The day of the fair is also very special. The kids can’t believe they get 12 books to keep forever. Just like adults, there are impulse buyers and discerning shoppers.  After they pick, each student gets a nameplate to put in each of their books; every book is new and truly their own.

This summer we served nearly 10,000 students at more than 60 schools across all of Washington state.  Next year we plan to expand the program to nearly 14,000 students. While the program is very cost effective with a budget of less than $50 per student, an expansion of this level will require a dramatic increase in the organization’s budget.  Page Ahead will be seeking new corporate and foundation partners, as well as developing resources in local communities where the program is offered.

If Washington state is looking for an effective and efficient way to improve the reading skills, and reduce the reading achievement gap for low-income students, Book Up Summer offers a promising model of reading intervention.

To learn more, get involved, or make a donation, visit Page Ahead’s website: www.pageahead.org

 

[1] Allington, Richard L., Anne Mcgill-Franzen, Gregory Camilli, Lunetta Williams, Jennifer Graff, Jacqueline Zeig, Courtney Zmach, and Rhonda Nowak. “Addressing Summer Reading Setback Among Economically Disadvantaged Elementary Students.” Reading Psychology 31.5 (2010): 411-27. Web.

 

Activist of the Month: Vanessa Hernandez

August Activist of the Month Vanessa Hernandez and family
August Activist of the Month Vanessa Hernandez and family

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 August: Vanessa Hernandez.

The Every Student Counts Alliance (ESCA) is a new collaboration between organizations and individuals in Spokane working to end the overuse of suspension and expulsion in Spokane Public Schools and to eliminate disparities in rates of suspension and expulsion of students of color and students with disabilities.  LEV is part of the Alliance, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and its Youth Policy Director, Vanessa Torres Hernandez.

As Vanessa explains, “The Spokane district has discipline rates that are some of the highest in the state, disproportionately applied to students of color, Native American students, and students with special needs.  Spokane has a lot of challenges, and making a difference in this community will impact the lives of thousands of students and set a positive example for the rest of the state.”

One of the primary goals of the Alliance is to promote positive and restorative school cultures, where teachers and students feel equally supported, individual needs are met and voices are heard.  This ensures that students remain in school on a path toward academic and life success.

Vanessa comes to this work both as a legal advocate and as a former teacher.  A native of Guam, Vanessa grew up in a family devoted to public service.  During college, she taught in after-school and summer school programs throughout the country and also volunteered in public schools.

After receiving her M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University, Vanessa began a teaching career at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston, a charter school serving low-income students of color.  She was moved by how the students who faced steep academic and socioeconomic challenges excelled in a school focused on student and teacher support and achievement.

Taking the experiences, lessons, and memories from teaching in Boston, she transitioned into teaching 7th graders in Washington state.  Her class focused on empowering students with knowledge, developing their skills to understanding bias, evaluate information and advocate for what they believe is right.  Vanessa then transitioned to the University of Washington School of Law, where she participated in a public service law program.

Vanessa first worked with the ACLU as an attorney with a project focused on criminal justice reform and the challenges facing people returning from prisons and jails.  After a short time working with ACLU, she realized that she loved how they employed a long-term view and relentless push for justice, similar to her work ethic and mindset.  This year, she will celebrate her five-year anniversary with the organization.  Vanessa started in the litigation department and moved in October 2015 to the position of Youth Policy Director, where she continues her passion for helping others and using the power of the law to contribute to social movements.

Promoting student success was an important concern  this past legislative session, and it led to  passage of the Opportunity Gap Bill (HB 1541).  Vanessa says it is a great first step in the right direction, in terms of recognizing that a student’s behavior should not affect the education he or she receives.  But she adds that there is a lot more progress to be made.

Vanessa’s hope for the future is to strengthen the fundamental building block of ACLU, ESCA and LEV’s progressive work in education by coalition-building and community.  She says, “These two aspects are incredibly important because change occurs when people are working together, listening to one another, and exposing themselves to the stories and challenges out there.”

Significant update to Washington state school discipline policy

Governor Jay Inslee signs Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541 into law, with (l-r) Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Tina Orwall
Governor Jay Inslee signs Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541 into law, with (l-r) Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Tina Orwall

During the 2016 session, the Washington legislature passed Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541, which includes significant changes to student discipline laws.

These changes also affect the rules for student discipline (Chapter 392-400 WAC) and student enrollment reporting for state funding (WAC 392-121-108) during the period of suspension and expulsion. The Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will align the rules with this new law before the upcoming school year. OSPI will provide further clarification through additional rulemaking during the 2016–17 school year.

Below is summary of changes effective June 9 that impact the 2016–17 school year. For more information, see OSPI Bulletin No. 024-16.

Limitations on Long-Term Suspensions and Expulsions

A long-term suspension or expulsion must not exceed the length of an academic term, as defined by the school board, from the time of the disciplinary action. This shortens the maximum length of a suspension or expulsion from the prior limitation of one calendar year.

School districts must not use long-term suspension or expulsion as a form of discretionary discipline. “Discretionary discipline” is a disciplinary action taken by a district for student behavior that violates the rules of student conduct, except for actions taken in response to:

  1. A violation of the prohibition against firearms on school premises, transportation, or facilities;
  2. Certain violent offenses, sex offenses, offenses related to liquor, controlled substances, and toxic inhalants, and certain crimes related to firearms, assault, kidnapping, harassment, and arson;
  3. Two or more violations within a three-year period of criminal gang intimidation or other gang activity on school grounds, possessing dangerous weapons on school facilities, willfully disobeying school administrators or refusing to leave public property, or defacing or injuring school property; or
  4. Behavior that adversely impacts the health or safety of other students or educational staff.

Except for in response to the above, school districts may no longer use long-term suspension or expulsion. Even for any of the violations above, districts should consider alternative actions before using long-term suspension or expulsion, except for violation of the prohibition against firearms on school premises.

Possession of a telecommunication device and violation of dress and grooming codes are removed from the list of discretionary violations that, if performed two or more times within a three-year period, may result in long-term suspension or expulsion.

Requirement to Provide Educational Services

School districts may not suspend the provision of educational services as a disciplinary action, whether discretionary or nondiscretionary.

While students may be excluded from classrooms and other instructional or activity areas for the period of suspension or expulsion, districts must provide students with an opportunity to receive educational services during that time.

If educational services are provided in an alternative setting, the alternative setting should be comparable, equitable, and appropriate to the regular education services a student would have received without the exclusionary discipline.

Reengagement Plan and Meeting

School districts must convene a reengagement meeting with the student and family when a long-term suspension or expulsion is imposed.

Families must have access to, provide meaningful input on, and have the opportunity to participate in a culturally sensitive and culturally responsive reengagement plan.

Policies and Procedures

School districts must:

  1. Annually disseminate school discipline policies and procedures to students, families, and the community;
  2. Monitor the impact of discipline policies and procedures using disaggregated data; and
  3. Periodically review and update discipline rules, policies, and procedures in consultation with staff, students, families, and the community.

 

Questions? Contact OSPI:

For questions about student discipline, alternatives to suspension, and reengagement meetings:

Joshua Lynch, Program Supervisor | Student Discipline and Behavior

joshua.lynch@k12.wa.us360-725-4969

 

For questions about Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) and online learning:

Lillian Hunter, Director | Digital Learning Department

lillian.hunter@k12.wa.us | 206-543-5426

 

For questions about student enrollment reporting for state funding:

Becky McLean, Supervisor | Enrollment Reporting and Categorical Funding

becky.mclean@k12.wa.us | 360-725-6306

 

Additional Resources

HB 1541

Equity in Student Discipline

Data and Analytics: Suspensions and Expulsions

Flexibility in exchange for accountability at Kent’s iGrad Academy

iGrad Academy Principal Carol Cleveland
iGrad Academy Principal Carol Cleveland

Kent School District’s iGrad Academy is a program unlike any other in the district. Comprised of six pathways, students choose from a range of opportunities.  They can earn a high school diploma or two-year AA degree as iGrad fosters unique plans for individual students that did not find educational success at their previous school. iGrad offers what Principal Carol Cleveland calls a 1418 program, which follows a nontraditional calendar year, nontraditional instructional hours, a lower teacher-to-student ratio, a lower counselor-to-student ratio, and commits to addressing the needs of the whole child.  These unique elements are what make iGrad one of a kind.

As a young girl, Principal Cleveland dreamed of becoming a doctor but education ran in the family. After substitute teaching in Georgia, she witnessed a lack of adequate attention given to students with special learning needs. These students were being directed down a path that would ultimately create a larger achievement gap. It was this experience that made her realize the education system needed her help.

Determined to influence educational policy, decision making, and progress for students like those with special needs, Cleveland began working tirelessly. In 2012, such determination brought her to her position today as the leader and principal of iGrad Academy.

As an advocate for specialized education systems, Cleveland is passionate about the iGrad program and curriculum. The basic principle of the program, she says, is to grant young learners and educators the flexibility to think and operate outside of the box to ensure that students are college, career, and life ready. Such a foundation enables all those who attend, and teach, to have more freedom. The teachers at iGrad all believe that students can learn and experience academic, social, and personal success. Common belief in individual potential creates a strong bond between educator and student and contributes to the success of the program.

At iGrad, relationships are everything. Principal Cleveland goes out of her way to get to know every single student. By setting up monthly meetings with students, Cleveland takes a hands-on approach as school leader. She hears directly from participants in the program about what is and is not working. For students to reach their goals, Cleveland values listening to what they want and what they need. As a result, iGrad has seen exponential educational growth.

After several years at iGrad and tracking the progress of the program and its students, Principal Cleveland is thinking about the future. By working to strengthen relationships between middle schools and high schools, businesses and colleges, Cleveland hopes to expand opportunities to teach students how to apply what they are learning in the classroom to the real world. Students gain greater insight and create more options for themselves when they learn from business professionals which skills and abilities are desirable in employees.

Unfortunately, funding remains a challenge for the program. In addition to statewide inadequacies in support for public education, Open Door programs have different accountability measures and that can directly impact funding.   Even though students don’t always show academic progress in accordance with state timelines, Principal Cleveland and her staff believe that every student can learn. Many students have been given the tools needed to move forward in their educational pursuit by attending iGrad and Cleveland hopes the community will continue to support her efforts to increase the number of success stories.

Carol Cleveland’s medical career never took flight but she is healing broken dreams and changes hundreds of lives every day. Through her dedication to closing the opportunity gap and her success as the leader of iGrad Academy, she has created a pathway to success for many young adults who have struggled to find their own way. The League of Education Voters celebrates this amazing woman and her stellar program.

Caring, innovative, supportive, flexible, and successful – shouldn’t Carol Cleveland’s approach be basic education?

iGrad Academy is grateful for the support students receive from community members.  If you are interested in making a donation, iGrad is always in need of the following items:

School Supplies:  paper, pencils, pens, pee-chee style folders, spiral single-subject notebooks

Metro Bus tickets / Orca Cards: Help students get to and from school

Graduation Items: Gowns, Caps, Tassels

Toiletry items: for males and females, all ethnicities

New undergarments: for males and females

Gift Cards for achievement prizes: Starbucks, Fred Meyer, Target, etc…

One time need:

Female and Male mannequin (to dress in caps and gowns for inspiration)

Young Adult Books:

Many iGrad students love to read and the Academy is working to build a library of young adult books for them. If you’re interested in making a donation, there are lists of suggested titles and authors below:

King County Library System Teen Booklist:

http://www.kcls.org/teens/booklists/bibliocommonsBookList.cfm?booklist_id=209620665

Alex Award for Young Adult Fiction:

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/alex-awards

Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers:

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/quick-picks-reluctant-young-adult-readers

Other Specific Publishers:

Orca

Saddleback

Other Specific Authors:

Ellen Hopkins

Allison Van Diepen’s urban fiction

Other Specific Title:

Nickel Plated

If you prefer to donate cash:

If you prefer to donate cash, iGrad Academy has established a trust fund which is used to purchase items that will allow students to focus on their learning. In addition to the above items, the Trust Fund may purchase online access for a student without internet, required materials for a college class, or a change of clothing for a homeless student.  Please call 253.373.4723 to express interest.

#BeyondBasic

Activist of the Month: Mary Fertakis

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 June: Mary Fertakis.

June Activist of the Month Mary Fertakis in Senegal with Ibrahim N'Diaye, her village father
June Activist of the Month Mary Fertakis in Senegal with Ibrahim N’Diaye, her village father

For more than two decades, Tukwila School Board member Mary Fertakis has been fighting for people who have been marginalized – denied opportunity by race, place of birth, or government.

She first became involved with LEV in 2007, when simple majority for school levies was on the ballot. Mary worked on that issue through the Washington State School Directors Association before meeting LEV co-founder Lisa Macfarlane at Tyee High School in Sea-Tac. “The key for both WSSDA and LEV’s advocacy on that issue was separating levies from bonds,” Mary explains.

Mary has seen change happen when multiple groups from different sectors have been working on an issue separately and then converge, like the spokes of a wheel. Mary saw it most recently with early learning. She says, “UW research in early childhood, brain development, and I-LABS, plus the health and early learning communities, non-profits/funders, and K-12 education leaders all got the message out. Each entity had a touch point so different audiences could connect with why it’s important.” And she saw the result in a recent, successful Tukwila School District bond measure that included a Birth to 5 center.

The education world has been with Mary throughout her life. Her father taught in the Seattle School District and her mother was a scientist, running the University of Washington’s pathology lab for years. She credits her parents for instilling values that are important to her. They discussed weighty issues, took her to the fire station when they voted (in every election), and exposed her to different cultures through travel and the UW’s international students who worked in the lab. She grew up in Seattle when social justice issues made regular headlines and her family was part of activist efforts through the faith community to re-settle Hmong and Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s.

But joining the Peace Corps to work in Senegal for 2½ years affected her most deeply. “That’s when I saw firsthand how education can break the cycle of poverty,” Mary says. She lived in a village about 2 miles from the border of The Gambia, “the middle of nowhere,” and focused on rural development. Her program’s goal was to help village communities build a self-sustaining infrastructure where none had existed. “I learned what you need for a community to become self-sustaining.”

Mary wrote 11 grants and every grant got funded, which allowed her village to build a school, dig a well, start a health hut, build fuel-efficient stoves, engage in reforestation efforts, ensure that every family compound and the school had a latrine, build a grain storage facility, and create a 1-hectare garden that improved access to food and spawned micro-enterprise, with the excess produce sold at the weekly market in The Gambia. She even brought in a millet-pounding machine, which saved village women significant time on a daily chore and was an income source as women from surrounding villages paid to use it. The combination of freeing up the women’s time and creating an income source enabled them to launch a tie-dying business. Mary says, “It could not have been more perfect.”

Transitioning back to the U.S. was hard. It took a year for her to not feel nauseated when she walked into a grocery store. “I couldn’t handle an entire aisle of cereal boxes,” Mary explains. “Senegal is a drought county. When the villagers didn’t eat, I didn’t eat. Seeing so much food was overwhelming.”

Everything she’s been able to do since that experience has been icing on the cake. Mary has had the unique privilege, by the time she was 27, of knowing that she made a difference in the world. She and her husband provided some financial support for one of her village brothers to attend college – the first person from the village to do so. He graduated and now teaches in a town with Internet access, which has given her a way to stay in touch with her village. She took her oldest son to visit when he was 5 years old, and longs for the day she can take her youngest son to meet his Senegalese family.

Living in Tukwila, Mary feels like she’s still having the Peace Corps experience. She empathizes with the challenges of many of the district’s students and their families – what it feels like to be dropped into a foreign culture and having to deal with full immersion. “It’s exhausting,” she says. “People here don’t understand how long it takes to learn another language, what the cultural norms are, and many of the basics of everyday life in a different culture.”

Mary had no idea she would still be on the Tukwila School Board more than 20 years after first running for office in 1995. She has watched the district change dramatically, shifting from a majority Caucasian, blue-collar, Boeing town to an ethnically-diverse school district where Caucasians are now the minority. She found it incredibly helpful that she had the experience of living in a Muslim country. Bosnians first arrived in Tukwila, then Somali refugees. Mary was able to help incorporate Muslim cultural issues like Ramadan, food, and health concerns into district awareness and policy.

At some point in her busy life, Mary wants to write a children’s picture book based on an experience during her time in Senegal that she shares with students when she does presentations and is explaining the concept of “world view.” In her village, which still has no electricity, nights are pitch dark with an explosion of stars. Her mother sent a book of constellations so she could learn about them. Mary told her village father that it contained drawings of what is in the sky and asked if they had something similar in their culture. When he responded, “yes” she pointed out the Big Dipper, describing it, in Wolof, as “a box with a stick coming out of it – we call that the Big Spoon.” Her father looked at it, and after a few moments, said that he saw that image – and that they call that cluster of stars the Elephant. After a few moments, she was able to see that also (the Dipper handle is the trunk, the rest of the constellation are its legs). Mary says, “So here we were, looking at the same thing and seeing something completely different based on our life experience.”

Now, when Mary gazes at the night sky in Tukwila, sometimes she looks at the Big Dipper and sometimes she looks at the Elephant.

Summary of Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541

Governor Jay Inslee signs Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541 into law, with (l-r) Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Tina Orwall
Governor Jay Inslee signs Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541 into law, with (l-r) Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Tina Orwall

Thanks to the passage of House Bill 1541, students will no longer be suspended or expelled for discretionary offenses, and better statewide data on student demographics will ensure that the system is working to keep all students on track and in school.  All students suspended or expelled will receive educational services and school staff will be provided with new trainings that are sensitive to culture and positively support all students’ growth.

Summary of 4SHB 1541

Student Discipline

• Districts must annually disseminate discipline policies, procedures and data to students, families, and community.
• Districts must periodically review and update discipline rules, policies, and procedures.
• The Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) must develop a model policy by December 1, 2016:

  • School districts must adopt policy consistent with the WSSDA model by the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.

• The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) must develop training for school staff on discipline policies and procedures (subject to appropriations).
• School districts are strongly encouraged to provide the trainings to all school and district staff.
• Prohibits the use of long-term suspension or expulsion as a form of discretionary discipline:

  • Defines “discretionary discipline” as an action taken that is NOT in response to a weapons offense, gang activity, defacing school property, violent offense, sexual offense, drug and alcohol offense, (these offenses come with mandatory disciplinary actions), or behavior that “adversely impacts the health and safety of other students or staff.”

• School districts may not suspend educational services as a form of discipline.
• School districts must provide an opportunity for students to receive educational services when suspended or expelled:

  • Alternative settings must be comparable, equitable, and appropriate to the regular education services the student would have received.

• Expulsions may only be the length of an academic term, as defined by the school board.
• School districts must convene a re-engagement plan meeting no later than 5-days before a student’s re-enrollment after a long-term suspension or expulsion:

  • Families must have access to a culturally sensitive and responsive re-engagement plan and process.

• The Washington State Education Research and Data Center (ERDC) must produce a regular report on the outcomes of youth in the juvenile justice system.

Educator Cultural Competence

• WSSDA must develop a plan for the creation and delivery of cultural competency training to school board directors and superintendents.
• OSPI must incorporate cultural competence training into Teacher/Principal Evaluation Program (TPEP) training.
• OSPI must develop an outline for professional development and training for school staff, including classified staff (subject to appropriation).
• School Improvement Grant (SIG), Required Action District (RAD), priority, and focus schools are encouraged to provide cultural competency training for classified, certificated, and administrative staff.

English Language Learners

• By the 2019-2020 school year, all classroom teachers funded with Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program (TBIP) funds must be endorsed in either bilingual education or English Language Learner (ELL) instruction.
• OSPI will provide districts with technical assistance and support in selecting program models, instructional materials, and professional development for serving English Language Learners (subject to appropriation).
• OSPI shall identify the schools in the top 5% of schools with the highest growth in ELL populations, and notify and encourage the schools and districts to provide cultural competence professional development.

Student Data

• Beginning 2017-2018, all data collected and reported by school districts and OSPI must be disaggregated according to the federal subracial and subethnic categories, including:

  • Black students by African origin or native to US with African ancestors
  • Asian students by country of origin
  • White students by Eastern European nationalities
  • Multiracial students by the racial and ethnic combination of categories

• OSPI shall convene a task force to develop guidance on race and ethnicity reporting (subject to appropriation).
• Reduces the reportable size of a student group to 10 students, instead of 20 students.
• OSPI must develop data protocols and guidance for school districts and modify the student data system as needed.
• OSPI must incorporate training for school staff based on best practices for the collection of data on student race and ethnicity in other training or professional development (PD).

Recruitment and Retention of Educators

• To the extent data is available, OSPI must collect and make available on the Internet teacher demographic data by district.
• To the extent data is available, OSPI must collect and make available on the Internet teacher average length of service data by district.

Transitions

• The Department of Early Learning must work with OSPI to create a community information and involvement plan for home-based, tribal, and family early learning providers on the Early Achievers program.

Integrated Student Services and Family Engagement

• Establishes the Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol (WISSP), which will (subject to appropriation):

  • Coordinate academic and non-academic supports.
  • Encourage the creation and expansion of community-based supports that can be integrated into the academic environment of schools.
  • Increase public awareness that academic outcomes are the result of academic and nonacademic factors.

• The WISSP will include:

  • Needs assessments for all at-risk students to identify the academic and non-academic supports needed.
  • Schools and districts must develop close relationships with providers of academic and non-academic supports and community partnerships.
  • Tracking of student needs and outcome data.

• OSPI shall establish a workgroup to determine how to best implement the WISSP framework (subject to appropriation):

  • Submit a report to the Legislature by October 1, 2017 on policies that need to be adopted or revised to implement the WISSP framework

• Reestablishes the Center for Improved Student Learning (CISL) at OSPI (subject to appropriation).

 

Summary of HB 1541 (PDF)

 

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Our View on NPR’s School Money Education Funding Series, Part 2

By the LEV Policy TeamNPR School Money series part 2

On Monday, NPR published the second installment of the “School Money” series. The series aims to illustrate the complexity of the school funding system and examines how money matters to educational outcomes.

The second installment focuses on one essential question: What difference can a dollar make in our schools? Through examples of various education reform efforts across the country, the article attempts to shed light on the ongoing debate of what matters more—the amount of money spent on education or how the money is spent.

The education funding stories of Camden, New Jersey and Revere, Massachusetts are two examples featured. The article highlights the large amount of money that has been invested in Camden’s educational system with limited improvements s in student outcomes. The district’s per pupil spending is nearly double the national average, with the majority of the additional funds going towards combating poverty and educational necessities that have been historically underfunded. In comparison, Revere, MA received additional funding and invested the funds in people—teacher recruitment, professional development, new teaching materials and a technology team. And the results? Massachusetts has moved from ranking in the middle of the pack for student achievement to the top.

The objective of these two examples and the other cases that were sprinkled throughout the piece (early learning and investments in English Learner programs), is to demonstrate that while the amount of money does matter, how that money is spent is equally as important. How effective the investment strategies are also depends greatly on the challenges, political landscapes, and needs in each state, district, and school.  It’s important to remember that whenever tracking the effectiveness of investments we must start at the beginning and not the end (outcomes). Years of systemic discrimination and oppression become more apparent when we begin to invest in schools and districts that have been underfunded for years. To that point, a couple of years or even decades of more investments, even if they are intentional and targeted, will not fix hundreds of years of inequality overnight. But money matters, especially for low income students. The investments need to be stable and sustained and reflective of community needs.

New Achievement Gap Report Generates Concerns

By the LEV Policy Team

Education Equality Index slide

The recently released Education Equality Index takes a look at the achievement gap in student performance between low-income students and the whole student population. The report assesses the gap in 35 states and 100 large cities across the country, including Tacoma, Spokane, and Seattle. No state fared well on the index. On a scale of ‘no gap’ to ‘massive gap,’ 9 states’ achievement gaps for low-income students rated ‘large’ while the remaining 26 states have ‘massive’ achievement gaps for low-income students.

The index compares the percentage of low-income students that score proficient on a state assessment to the percentage of the entire student population that scores proficient. A rating score is then determined based on this comparison.  The report authors also adjust scores “to more fairly compare schools [and states] serving a higher percentage of FRL [free and reduced lunch] students.” States with a larger low-income student population receive additional points because of the added ‘challenges’ that accompany serving low-income students. And while there are issues with comparing one student group to the whole student population, addressed here, there are larger philosophical concerns with adding points simply for enrolling large populations of low-income students.

Awarding points for having a large low-income student population sets different expectations for schools, cities, and states serving low-income students, and, ultimately, sets different expectations for the students themselves. While poverty is a challenge, we cannot claim that education is the great equalizer if we allow our systems to count different outcomes as success for different populations of students.

This report reaffirms that we have large and unacceptable achievement gaps for low-income students across the country. But it also highlights that we continue to develop measures that do not further our understanding of how to better serve those students. Adding extra points for the mere enrollment of low-income students does not push schools, cities, or states to better serve students. How do we devise a measurement that acknowledges some students will require more resources and supports, without lowering the bar for systems serving those students? How do we determine what schools, cities, and states are giving kids the extra push they need, celebrate them, and learn from them? How do we encourage systems to guide resources towards students that need them the most?

2016 Legislative Session Recap

By Jene Jones, Government Relations

Jene Jones headshot cropped

Great things happened in Olympia for kids this year. Monumental things. And I’m going to celebrate here. So if you want to fill up your emotional bucket with some extra happy today, read on.

After unprecedented funding investments in schools last session, and new money pre-spent before legislators arrived this session in Olympia on necessary emergencies such as wildfires and unexpected prescription drug costs for WA residents, “manage your expectations” was the refrain to all advocates.

We didn’t. And our kids were prioritized. I’ll provide proof. In case this is as much extra ‘happy’ as you need today and you don’t need details before moving on, I am going to say thank you first. Thank you to the hard working legislators who balance the weight of so many issues – present & future. Thank you to the community members who told stories of their kids and talked about their dreams in Olympia. Thank you for listening, acting, and collaborating. Tim McGraw sings “always stay humble and kind.” I witnessed a lot of humanity this year in the halls and offices of the Capitol. This is the result:

For our littlest learners, additional money was invested in family child care providers so that the teachers can improve the quality of facilities and curriculum offered our precious preschoolers, thus assuring they are ready to thrive in kindergarten.

For our K-12 kids, we now have money to make sure we will no longer be suspending or expelling students for discretionary offenses, and will have better statewide data on demographics of kids to make sure the system is working to keep all students on-track and in school. This will happen in part through new discipline frameworks and trainings which are being developed sensitive to culture and positively supporting all students’ growth. Social Emotional Learning is a proactive way to reduce stress and behaviors associated with it, leaving teachers more time to teach, and students more time to learn. Pilots are being tracked statewide.

In addition, policy was passed aimed at providing in-school support for foster youth, including better information sharing with schools and more adult support to help students navigate frequent changes in school buildings. Our homeless student population is getting increased identification for schools, which will help with in-school support for learning and community partnerships for family housing stability. The early data from Tacoma housing/school partnerships shows fantastic academic gains for these students as well as an increased percentage of family member employment. Grants for 15 school districts are now available.

In the individualizing learning and choice bucket, we also re-approved (3rd time) charter schools. Charters are one piece of the puzzle of allowing innovation and flexibility to schools so that kids’ needs and academic growth stay at the center of the conversation. These non-profit public WA charter schools are operating under the top 5 most rigorous state accountability laws in the US.

Finally, and for the first time, near vision screenings will be offered when distance vision is tested in elementary and middle schools statewide. Seeing the numbers and letters on a page correctly dramatically increases academic potential. Duh. This was 17 years in the making, and the victory for kids happened this year.

In higher education, a new college savings plan for families passed as an alternative and addition to the GET program. Another law now assures that higher education students who have learning accommodations will no longer have to wait up to 6 months for those accommodations to start, which provides every student what they need to be successful right away. Yes!

Additionally, more money was allocated to get the students in teacher prep programs scholarships for high-need teaching positions. Test fees for teacher candidates can now be waived, and a central data system is being set up so that districts can see what teachers are out there applying for jobs in Washington. When beginning teachers get to schools, there is now money for peer mentor programs to support teacher quality and retention. Retired teachers are also now allowed to be re-hired as substitutes, which will help the shortage and assure students continue to learn even if their teacher is not in the building that day. And new money is available to train the classified staff who also work with groups of students, so that they have the tools to be a part of the core teaching team.

I have more good news. Next session amazing things will happen for kids. The work has already begun to provide ample opportunities for every student to have a meaningful and personalized learning experience. More options. More choice. More student understanding of how what is learned leads to a successful, prosperous future while raising up WA communities and finding new ways to make WA businesses thrive. That’s my North Star. We will get all kids the tools they need to discover their passions and proudly take leadership in growing WA. That vision keeps my bucket full. Tim, I’ll add one word: “always stay strong, humble, and kind.”

The Opportunity Gap Bill is now Law!

Today Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1541, which addresses the Opportunity Gap.  Here are highlights from the ceremony at Aki Kurose Middle School library.

Governor Jay Inslee signs Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541 into law, with (l-r) Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Tina Orwall
Governor Jay Inslee signs Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541 into law, with (l-r) Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Tina Orwall
League of Education Voters board treasurer Kevin Washington kicked things off as the MC
League of Education Voters board treasurer Kevin Washington kicked things off as the MC
Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, chair of the House Education Committee, talks about the significance of her opportunity gap bill becoming law
Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, chair of the House Education Committee, talks about the significance of her opportunity gap bill becoming law
Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self shares her experiences seeing the opportunity gap firsthand as a middle school counselor
Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self shares her experiences seeing the opportunity gap firsthand as a middle school counselor
Washington state Middle School Principal of the Year Mia Williams talks about the importance of closing gaps
Washington state Middle School Principal of the Year Mia Williams of Aki Kurose Middle School talks about the importance of closing gaps
Governor Jay Inslee addresses the crowd at Aki Kurose Middle School before signing Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541
Governor Jay Inslee addresses the crowd at Aki Kurose Middle School before signing Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541
Governor Jay Inslee congratulates Aki Kurose Middle School students after he signed Opportunity Gap HB 1541
Governor Jay Inslee congratulates Aki Kurose Middle School students after he signed Opportunity Gap HB 1541