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Education Advocate of the Month: Jennifer Muroya Thomas

At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.

We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for July: Jennifer Muroya Thomas. Read about her education journey and the need for more educator supports.

July Education Advocate of the Month Jennifer Muroya Thomas - League of Education Voters

July Education Advocate of the Month Jennifer Muroya Thomas

Jennifer Muroya Thomas has been part of our Vision Project, our journey to find Eastern Washington’s vision for what education could be, from the very beginning. She always brought students to our events. She is a member of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, where she runs the education committee. Jennifer cares about students, especially those from communities of color and underserved populations. In particular, she has a strong connection with students who attend Rogers High School, located in a low-income area of Spokane.

Jennifer ran for the Spokane School Board last year. Although she did not win, she learned that running is just as important as winning. She met Spokane Regional Field Director Sandra Jarrard during that time, in March 2017, when Sandra organized a community discussion about diversity in education.

Jennifer’s father served in the Air Force, which meant that she moved around a lot and experienced schools all over the country. “I had teachers I remember and loved, and I had teachers I remember and didn’t love,” she recalls. “Teachers who change the world and do incredible work invest in students’ lives every day – they made indelible marks on my life.” (more…)

Posted in: Activist of the Month

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Helping students who need it most benefits all

By Kelly Munn, League of Education Voters State Field Director

From The Olympian:

Last month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced the new Washington School Improvement Framework (WSIF). The WSIF comes out of the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan and the recommendations of the Accountability workgroup, of which League of Education Voters was a part.

The new WSIF will provide schools and communities with new, rich data on school performance, with a focus on historically and systemically underserved students. The WSIF also focuses on the “now what” — labeling schools by the level of support they will receive from the state.

(more…)

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Our State of Education: Superintendent Survey

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:

  1. How urgent are issues such as achievement/opportunity gaps, student supports, teacher supply, college readiness, etc., in your district?
  2. Is your district experiencing new or different educational issues?
  3. 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.

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Our State of Education: Principal Survey

By Angela Parker, League of Education Voters Policy Analyst

Principals are some of the busiest people in a school building. Rarely out of range of their walkie talkies, principals take responsibility for in-the-minute decisions about crises both large and small. At the same time, they must also craft long term strategic plans in the context of a rapidly changing school ecosystem. As principals often serve as one of the key lynchpins of policy implementation, we knew we needed to get a better sense of how they understand the current and emergent needs within Washington’s K-12 system.

We surveyed principals in Washington state to better understand what new and emerging issues their schools and communities are facing. In December, we sent a survey request to 2,034 principals in Washington; 180 returned our survey, giving these results a 95% confidence level with a 7% margin of error. Although elementary principals are slightly underrepresented in our survey, the overall proportions are not widely divergent from statewide proportions. Our survey also over represents smaller schools, those with 100 to 499 students, and larger districts, but does represent strong geographic diversity.

Aside from demographic details, our survey was limited to three main questions:

  1. How urgent are issues such as achievement/opportunity gaps, student supports, teacher supply, college readiness, etc. in your school?
  2. What new or different educational issues is your school experiencing?
  3. What should we be working on in the next legislative session?

This post summarizes our broad findings from the survey, and we commit to working on these issues with principals and educators across Washington.

(more…)

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Tools for Teachers to Help Our Kids with Trauma

By Arik Korman, League of Education Voters Communications Director

Last month’s Resiliency Conference brought together about 500 teachers, administrators, and parents at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett to learn how to better support children who have experienced trauma.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris - League of Education Voters

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a national expert on the health effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), kicked off day one of the two-day gathering with a moving keynote presentation. Dr. Burke Harris pointed out the sobering fact that that one in eight individuals have experienced four or more ACEs, and 35 million children have ACEs right now.

ACEs are related to our flight-or-flight response. When we experience trauma, our body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which inhibits our brain’s pre-frontal cortex (the area responsible for thinking) and gets us amped up. This stress response can help us avoid immediate danger, like running into a grizzly bear in the woods, but becomes problematic when the threat happens over and over again, like in an abusive home or if there are multiple changes in caregivers.

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Positive School Climate in Action at New Horizons High School

By Kelly Munn, League of Education Voters State Field Director

New Horizons Group Photo - League of Education VotersThere are schools all across this state that are making dreams come true for their students.

I had the opportunity to visit one of these schools.

New Horizons is an alternative school in Pasco. They serve juniors and seniors who are on a different journey towards graduation, perhaps a slower journey, perhaps a more thoughtful journey, perhaps more zig and zag, alternative.

The students come from all kinds of backgrounds, but what they have in common is resilience, life experiences that have matured them, and despite so many obstacles, they are determined to meet their life goals. This school is helping to get them there.

The staff surrounds the students with a sense of belonging, a sense that they contribute to their education community, that each of them matters.

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Hitting the Ground Running

Friends,

Chris Korsmo

Chris Korsmo

It’s so good to be back with you! After a three month sabbatical, I’m renewed and refreshed, ready to hit the ground running.

Sadly it’s hard to know where to begin when so much promise, talent and opportunity came to an end – again – in a school in Florida. Another mass shooting, another school, another day of horror and grief. I have a sixth grader and a spouse who’s an elementary school principal. I know this is my worst fear.  I also know this has to stop. I feel like my head will explode if one more person says we need a national conversation about gun violence. It feels like we have that conversation many times a year – after another incidence of gun violence. Thoughts and prayers? Pray for the courage it takes to do the right thing. And think when you fill out your ballot.

As for what we can do for kids, if we are serious about our kids’ mental, physical and social well-being, there are some school staffing ratios that should look dramatically different. Among other things.

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Posted in: Weekly Roundup

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2018 Legislative Priority: Student Supports

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

Student Supports - League of Education VotersStudents learn most effectively when their school feels safe, inclusive, supportive, and respectful. (1)

Closing opportunity and achievement gaps and improving student outcomes relies on our ability to create positive school climates for every student.

Opportunity:

Creating positive school climates and providing student supports can mitigate the impact of trauma (2), mental health needs (3), and other non-academic factors that affect a student’s ability to engage in learning (4). Washington state has embarked upon some critical work to create positive school climates. The Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (EOGOAC) spearheaded a number of reforms, most recently with the passage of HB 1541 that continued student discipline reform and created the Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol (5). The state also convened a workgroup to develop benchmarks for Social-Emotional Learning (6) for district use. We can enhance these and other efforts to deliver services to students and enable districts and schools to create welcoming and supportive environments for every student.

Solution:

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Resources from the 2017 Parent & Community Training

League of Education Voters 2017 Puget Sound Activist TrainingThank you to everyone who attended LEV’s 7th Annual Parent & Community Training!

Here are presentations from the breakout workshops:

Update – School Discipline

Student Weighted Formula

Summer Splash Reading Literacy Program

Tips and Resources for Students with Special Needs

 

Education Advocacy for Black Students - League of Education Voters

From the keynote panel on Education Advocacy for Black Students: “We’ve had the research that tells us how to engage students of color and help them succeed. We just need to put it into practice.”

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Community Support for English Language Learners

By Joyce Yee, LEV Community Organizer

Vietnamese Friendship Association - League of Education VotersThe Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) offers after school and Saturday school programs to all English Language Learner (ELL) students who attend the Seattle World School in the Seattle school district.

Some unique challenges that ELL students face to being successful and self-sufficient are that their families face language barriers, poverty and discrimination, and are unable to help them be successful at school. ELL students tend to be one or more years behind their native English speaking peers, and only half graduate from high school, compared to the state average of 80%.

ELL students often come to the U.S. with little formal education as teens, and only have a few years to learn English and finish high school successfully. VFA served 239 students in their youth programs, ages 11 – 20: 98% were low-income; 46% were female and 54% male; 40% from Africa, 32% Asia, 26% South America, 2% Europe and the Middle East. Youth who participated in VFA’s programs achieved the equivalent of half a grade higher in math and reading by the end of the school year, compared to their peers. 78% of youth strengthened skills and assets that support positive social development.

VFA works in partnership with the Seattle World School to connect students to their programs through recruitment on their end and referrals by staff at the school. The school offers office and classroom space for VFA to offer after-school programs, plus staff referrals.

VFA offers after school and Saturday programming through strong partnerships with community based organizations including Coyote Central, Refugee Women’s Alliance, Jack Straw, Bike Works, and Neighborhood House. The other organizations provide programming, and VFA offers its expertise on how to work effectively with ELL students and families. In many of their programs, components are built in to offer both students and their parents/guardians learning opportunities.

VFA’s after-school programs include academic support, enrichment classes and job readiness. They offer academic support through their English/Homework help group and one-on-one tutoring. Enrichment classes include culinary, woodworking, and music. Jack Straw’s Guitar class meets twice a week to work on basic guitar skills. Students can also do service learning; they are assigned to teams that identify a community need that they would like to work on.

The Youth Job Readiness Training program teaches students skills such as resume preparation, interviewing, how to handle workplace conflicts, plus internship opportunities. It is offered to 20 students between 15 and 20 years old. While students learn about academics and career preparation, parents learn skills to support their students in being successful. A family engagement coordinator teaches parents how to navigate K-12 school systems and how to seek financial aid for their children to attend college. VFA holds regular family engagement meetings as part of the Job Readiness program for students only, guardians only, and also offers meetings that bring together both students and guardians.

The Saturday school focus is being revised to offer academic and enrichment activities. Academics include English 101 with content on math, reading, healthy relationships, and test prep for the World Language test so that ELL students can take the language proficiency test and earn elective credits for their language ability. The healthy relationship section teaches both students and parents through role playing how both can understand each other better, such as the challenges facing bilingual students versus parent expectations for them. A culinary series is also offered concurrently, where participants learn culinary skills through meal prep, cooking, and serving meals to Saturday school attendees. While students are learning, their parent or other adults in the household can take classes in English as a second language, and learn computer skills.

Over time, as families and their students get to know VFA through activities, they build a strong sense of community with each other. Parents have offered to prepare food for their group meetings for parents/guardians, and students who have completed the Saturday classes come back to volunteer.

Shouldn’t programs like the VFA’s be part of basic education?

#BeyondBasic

 

Read LEV’s blog post on Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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