Transforming School Discipline: The Next Step

Transforming School Discipline: The Next Step [image of children running]During the 2013 legislative session, many of you helped us pass a law (SB 5946) that makes school discipline data public and limits the number of days that students can be removed from class.

That was the first step in transforming school discipline policies. Now it’s time to take another.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is inviting public comment on its implementation of the new law.

There are a few ways you can get involved. Read More

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

Money Matters in the Issaquah School District

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the last school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Alison MeryweatherBy Alison Meryweather, LEV Key Activist

Once the 2014 budget was approved, the Issaquah district moved quickly to strategically invest the additional funding. To be clear; our district has yet to be restored to pre-2008-2009 state funding levels, but with the “additional” $3 million allocation from the state, we could begin that process.

Below are some of the priorities where funding was spent:

Instructional Performance and Accountability: $1,000,000 for full implementation, district-wide, of the Teacher Principal Evaluation Pilot (TPEP) Program. These additional funds are required to ensure the program is implemented with equity and transparency. These new evaluations are much more time-consuming and therefore the district opted to increase Dean of Students staffing at both the elementary and middle schools and add another Assistant Principal at two of our comprehensive high schools who have enrollments of 2,000 students each. This staff increase will also serve to assist students who need additional support to address their challenges.

Instructional Time: $200,000 to fund a pilot 7th period at two high schools to expand core graduation and elective options for students. Due to state funding constraints, our district only provides a 6-period day. The district will pilot an on-demand academic option, as well as provide transportation.

Student Health: While $975,000 overall was allocated, the district is contracting for Mental Health Counseling at all three of our comprehensive high schools, at a cost of $275,000. To me, this is a very smart investment. Data from our annual Healthy Youth Survey indicates numerous areas of significant concern. Our teachers are on the front line with our students and both need the guidance and support to navigate the complexities of social/emotional health.

Just imagine the opportunities for our students should the state fully adhere to the court McCleary decision to restore the previous funding levels and make additional essential investments in education!

Alison Meryweather is a passionate advocate for public education and has been volunteering for over a decade so that our students can benefit from the best education possible.

Money Matters in the Kent School District

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the third school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Agda BurchardBy Agda Burchard, Legislative Representative, Kent School District Board

Thanks to the state legislature, nearly $500 per student in additional funding was available at the start of the 2013–2014 school year.

In the Kent School District, a portion of the additional resources support student learning by funding:

  • Full-Day Kindergarten. Research shows that students who attend full-day kindergarten are more likely to be independent learners, more productive, and less likely to be withdrawn or aggressive. Seven additional elementary schools in Kent received state funds for full-day kindergarten. In a full day, teachers have more time to concentrate on teaching the curriculum and students are able to focus longer on a subject. Students also have time to engage in a wider range of activities including the arts and physical education.
  • Increasing Student Success. KSD added or expanded these programs:
    • Dual-language programs at Scenic Hill and Carriage Crest elementary schools. Students will focus on learning two languages and develop high linguistic and academic proficiency.
    • Preschool classes at Meridian and Park Orchard elementary schools. To prepare students for success in school.
    • Parent Academy for Student Achievement. The Parent Academy teaches parents how to engage in their children’s education and is taught in nine different languages.
    • Career Medical Pathways program at Kentlake in partnership with Renton Technical College. Students can take low-cost college courses and work with businesses such as MultiCare Health System to receive practical instruction in the medical field. This type of experience gives students new opportunities and advantages in the modern job market.

The additional state funding was a good down-payment toward fully funding public education as required by the state supreme court’s McCleary decision. When you see your state legislators, please thank them on behalf of the students in your community. And ask them to keep working to fully fund basic education so that all our students can increase their academic achievement and graduate ready for success in college, career, and community life.

Agda Burchard and her husband Tom have lived in Kent for 20 years. Agda became active in the Kent School District when their daughter Sam entered kindergarten in 2002. In addition to serving on the Kent School District Board, Agda is a Girl Scout leader and PTA leader.

Money Matters in Spokane Public Schools

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the second school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Bob DouthittBy Bob Douthitt, President, Spokane Public Schools

Spokane Public Schools received approximately $18 million in net new state and federal revenue for the 2013–2014 school year to support basic and special education. This represents 5–6 percent of our operating budget, which is slightly over $300 million.

Of the $18 million, $10 million is being used to fund Basic Education obligations that had previously been backfilled by levy money. The remaining $8 million, which represents new revenue, is being used to reduce K–1 class sizes, particularly in high-poverty schools, increase reading intervention teachers to provide support in all elementary schools, and increase certificated staff in middle schools to support both at-risk and high-achieving students. Additional investments for professional development to implement the Teacher-Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP) and new curriculum for Common Core were added to the budget. Our Mentor Teacher Program was restored. Finally, investments in college and career completion initiatives are available in this year’s budget to help support the School District’s T-2-4 goal.

The “T-2-4” goal, which is part of our new five-year strategic plan introduced this fall, says that as much as 67 percent of the jobs in Washington state are expected to require some form of post-secondary training by 2018. The “finish line” for our students should not be merely obtaining a high school diploma, but rather, completing something at the post-secondary level. It could either be technical or military (the T), a 2-year degree (the 2), or a 4-year degree (the 4).

Washington’s students certainly need the additional $3+ billion delineated in HB 2261 And ESHB 2776, and required under the McCleary decision, if they are going to substantially improve their academic achievement and realistically expect to obtain the outcomes we want as a state, and need as a society.

Bob Douthitt was elected to the School Board for Spokane Public Schools in 2007, and has served as president since 2011. A former tax attorney and retail business owner, he has been active in civic affairs throughout his career.

Money Matters in the Anacortes School District

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the first school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Jeannette PapadakisBy Jeannette Papadakis, President, Anacortes School Board

The increased funding from the 2014 legislative session, as the first installment for fully funding K–12 education, is directly benefiting Anacortes students. The additional resources received are being used to positively impact the Anacortes School District’s instructional goals.

Thanks to the work of the legislature, we have been able to continue to fund full-day kindergarten for every student in our district. We believe that starting “school ready” is a requirement for future academic success. Through initiatives such as our aggressive early learning efforts and the ability to continue full-day kindergarten, our student assessment data shows substantial and consistent gains in this area.

Another area we have addressed with additional funding is first and second grade literacy. By the completion of these grades, 30 percent of our students are not on target to meet the reading standards. It is critical to their future academic success that students are able to read by third grade. After analyzing data, our current practices and curriculum, and studying the latest research, we hired two primary literacy instructional coaches to address this problem. Current research shows that students have the best gains with a certified, high-quality teacher (versus our former pull-out model). These instructional coaches model, guide, collaborate, and provide feedback, with the goal of directly impacting student reading achievement.

We appreciate our legislature taking the necessary initial steps to fully fund public education. Through the use of these additional resources the Anacortes School District is addressing specific student needs and outcomes.

Jeannette Papadakis is the President of the Anacortes School Board. She has served on the board since 2007.

Olympia’s education efforts: Mid-course correction needed

This post was written by League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo and originally posted on Crosscut on December 3, 2013.

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education VotersThe National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2013 test results were heralded recently by many in our state for the increases in fourth and eighth grade math and reading scores.

The results are promising and the progress deserves to be recognized.

Yet when the results were announced, there was little to no mention of the widening achievement gaps among some groups of Washington students.

Specifically, during the past 10 years, the gaps between black/white, Latino/white, and low-income/higher income students widened at all grades and subjects tested.

Clearly, what we are doing for these students is not working. Read More

Transforming school discipline key to better education

This post was written by League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo and originally published in The Seattle Times on September 25, 2013.

Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education VotersIf we are serious about closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps, we need to find ways to keep kids in school and learning, writes guest columnist Chris Korsmo.

STUDENTS can’t learn if they’re not in school.

If we are serious about closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps, we need to find ways to keep kids in school and learning.

While Washington state made progress in the last legislative session, there is more to be done.

Nationally, school-discipline rates are at an all-time high, double what they were in the 1970s. Millions of students are suspended from school every year. And students in groups with persistent achievement gaps are suspended and expelled from school at higher rates than their peers.

The school house, the place we all hope can serve as the “great equalizer,” is closing its doors to an alarming number of the very students who need the most support.

In Washington state, we have historically had no maximum length for suspensions. Expulsions could last indefinitely. Students, many of whom were arguably the most at risk of failure, were being left out of school indefinitely with no educational services and no plans for how to transition back into school.

A 2012 Washington Appleseed and TeamChild report requested discipline data from all 295 districts in Washington. Only 183 districts could provide detailed information about the number of long-term suspensions (defined as 10 or more days in Washington), emergency expulsions and regular expulsions. Even fewer districts could provide race and ethnicity or free and reduced-price lunch-status information of the impacted students.

Data from the 183 districts that did provide information showed that only 7 percent of students reportedly received educational services while they were out of school.

The League of Education Voters, TeamChild and Washington Appleseed were part of a strong effort to address the discipline crisis in our state during the most recent legislative session.

Washington legislators took a first step by passing a bill requiring emergency expulsions to end or be converted to another form of discipline within 10 school days. The bill also mandated that suspensions and expulsions last no longer than one calendar year, though a school may petition to exceed that limit based on public health or safety.

The new rules require schools to make detailed discipline data to be publicly available on the state’s education website. School districts are also required to create a re-engagement plan for suspended and expelled students

These are meaningful and significant improvements that will positively impact the lives of many, many children. And there is much more work to be done.

As a state, we must continue to minimize the amount of time students are out of school and maximize the opportunities for learning. District leaders must consider shortening the length of suspensions and expulsions and limiting their use. Instead, use in-school suspension and detention.

Each school district must decide what program works for its students, but many successful examples focus on keeping students in school and providing training and support for teachers covering topics such as cultural competency, social and emotional development and classroom management.

A program that is gaining attention is Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, or PBIS. Highline Public Schools is implementing this program in every school in the district.

A number of school districts across the country have addressed discipline problems with practices that educate and teach, rather than punishments that remove the student from class.

Baltimore’s discipline policies emphasize prevention and intervention strategies and discourage the use of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and arrests for most student misbehavior. In four years, suspensions dropped from 1 in 5 students being out-of-school suspended to 1 in 8. The dropout rate fell nearly 4 percent.

Let’s aim to outperform Baltimore in reducing dropouts.