Podcast – Highline College student Chalisa Thompson on the Umoja Black Scholars Program

Highline College student Chalisa Thompson - League of Education VotersIn our podcast, we interview policymakers, partners, and thought leaders to spotlight education policies, research, and practices so that together we can create a brighter future for every Washington student.

In this episode, League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman asks Highline College student Chalisa Thompson how Highline’s Umoja Black Scholars Program has helped her, what went right and what went wrong in her educational journey, how she would change Washington’s education system, and how she envisions her future after she graduates.

 

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2019 Legislative Priority: Supportive and Safe Schools

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

We believe students come first. We are focused first and foremost on meeting the needs of every student.

We are dedicated to designing an equitable education system that serves all students based on their strengths, supports their needs, and provides the resources they need to be successful.

We are committed to working to close gaps experienced by historically and systemically underserved students— including students of color, students in poverty, students qualifying for special education services, students learning English, and students impacted by trauma. We believe this will lead to all students experiencing greater success and reaching their full potential.

WHY STUDENT SUPPORTS AND SCHOOL CLIMATE ARE IMPORTANT

Middle school students - League of Education VotersStudents learn most effectively when their school feels safe, inclusive, supportive, and respectful (1). 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). It is instrumental in closing opportunity and achievement gaps in our system and improving student outcomes.

The creation of safe and supportive schools includes strategies such as Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), tiered systems of support, partnerships with families, partnerships with community-based organizations, and providing access to mental health services, among others. Between 50-80% of students in need of mental health services do not have access (5), and schools are likely the first point of access for many students that do seek services (6,7). School climate reform strategies have been shown to decrease school violence and bullying, increase academic achievement, and improve the school experience for students, staff, and families (8). The implementation of universal SEL programs have also been shown to result in significant academic gains (9,10) as well as a robust return on investment of $11 for every $1 spent (11). Read More

2019 Legislative Priority: Special Education

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

We believe students come first. We are focused first and foremost on meeting the needs of every student.

We are dedicated to designing an equitable education system that serves all students based on their strengths, supports their needs, and provides the resources they need to be successful.

We are committed to working to close gaps experienced by historically and systemically underserved students— including students of color, students in poverty, students qualifying for special education services, students learning English, and students impacted by trauma. We believe this will lead to all students experiencing greater success and reaching their full potential.

WHAT IS SPECIAL EDUCATION?

With the passage of federal legislation in the 1970s, students with disabilities were guaranteed legal rights to access a public education that would accommodate their specific learning needs. Prior to guaranteeing the right to access education, it was common practice for students with disabilities to be actively excluded from public education settings. Federal legislation was intended to ensure that all students have the ability to access the public education system through the program of special education. (1)

The program of special education serves over 130,000 students across 295 Washington school districts. Special education provides services and supports to students with disabilities to help students access a “free and appropriate education.” In order to qualify for special education services, students must have their school performance “adversely affected” by one of the following qualifying conditions: (2) Read More

Podcast – Governor Jay Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee - League of Education Voters
Governor Jay Inslee

In our podcast, we interview policymakers, partners, and thought leaders to spotlight education policies, research, and practices so that together we can create a brighter future for every Washington student.

In this episode, League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman asks Governor Jay Inslee what he sees as the biggest challenges and opportunities in education from pre-K through higher ed and how he addresses them in his 2019-2021 budget proposal, what he hopes to achieve with special education funding changes, why focusing on student well-being is important, and why he chose to dedicate funding toward student supports in higher education.

 

 

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Wins, Losses, and What Lies Ahead

By Chris Korsmo, League of Education Voters CEO

Chris Korsmo

Friends,

As I prepare to leave the League after nearly twelve years, I’ve had the chance to reflect on our work, our wins, losses, and what lies ahead. I’m incredibly proud of my service to LEV and the kids we work so hard for. This team is talented, compassionate, and committed to improving the lives of our students and families – in particular, those furthest from opportunity. These past dozen years or so have been a tutorial on the changing needs and assets of Washington’s students, a slow societal and organizational awakening to the inequities we’ve baked into our entire system including the education system, and coming to terms with the need to change strategies to match or stay ahead of changing realities. Like all good living things, we’ve grown and changed, and we think we’re more impactful because of that evolution.

We started out 18 years ago focused on K-12 education funding, with the thinking that if we just put enough resources into the system, everything would be all right. We soon learned that money, while important, isn’t the only resource we need to consider. And we learned that if we start in kindergarten, we’re too late, and that ending at high school doesn’t guarantee much in terms of success for kids and families. Read More

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.” Read More

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.

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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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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.

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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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