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.”
By 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.
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, 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.
Over the past few years there has been a lot of attention paid to education and how we as a nation are doing compared to others. Some of us have been down right freaked out by the decline in results and the fact that this generation will be the first in our nation’s history to be less educated than our parents. Some have called for a “sputnik moment” like when we chased the Russians into space and beat them to the moon. We need to find that uniting mission that kicks us in the pants and gets us moving.
I’d argue that we need an Apollo moment. Apollo 13 to be precise.
In one of the more intense moments of film Apollo 13, a group of engineers and designers and others in the pocket protector set sit in a room wringing their hands about how to save the men aboard the ship. The work is focused on figuring out how to restore electricity and stay powered up to get the space capsule back into earth’s orbit. But they discovered something more urgent; the men are literally dying from lack of oxygen. The engineer need to build a filter that fits a certain size and shape, to remove CO2 from the air, so the men can breathe. The catch? They can only use what’s on board the ship.
So a box of odds and ends is dumped on the table At first there’s a bit of geek grousing – we can’t possibly, and how do you expect us to, blah, blah. But they get down to work. They’re focused, there’s no blame, and the team solves the problem. The crew is saved.
I think of this scene whenever I hear of a school or district that has dumped its box upside down to solve an urgent need. Like in Bridgeport, a rural and mostly low income school district primarily serving Latino students that managed to get 100% of their kids to graduate from high school – and that got all of their graduating seniors – 100% of them – accepted into college. Or in Federal Way where Advanced Placement is the default for kids who pass their state tests. They don’t opt in – they have to opt out, with their parents. Or the investment in early literacy in Auburn, that has their third graders knocking it out of the park in reading. These school leaders addressed the urgent while simultaneously looking at the bigger system issues.
These districts didn’t wait for Washington Supreme Court decision or a check from a wealthy benefactor. They just got busy working the problem.
We need more of that.
Let’s take the Apollo approach on a different issue; When I moved here in 2007, the state board of education was debating graduation requirements and how to get kids college and career ready. Despite passing new requirements at least twice, we’re still talking about it. In the five years that this conversation has ebbed and flowed, we’ve lost 60,000 kids to dropping out, we’ve seen college remediation climb, and our economy’s demand for more rigorous job preparation spike. In other words, while we did nothing to address the urgent, the system got worse.
If we had an Apollo moment on this topic, we’d start by taking one urgent step – something done while we’re fixing the ship. How about, making sure all kids get algebra in 8th grade? If kids are proficient in Algebra before they leave in middle school, implementing more rigorous math requirements in high school wouldn’t seem so hard. And then maybe upping the ante for high school graduation wouldn’t seem impossible.
We have the box on the table. And the kids are in the capsule. The question is; What are we going to do about it?
Brenda and Dawit are joining LEV from the Rainier Scholars program as summer interns. Here’s what they had they say about choosing to intern with LEV, what they like to do in their spare time, and much more.
Brenda Mancilla-Martinez: I graduated last month from University Prep, a 6-12 private school. I will be attending the University of Washington this fall. GO DAWGS!
Dawit Workie: I go to St. Michael’s University School, a boarding school in Victoria, B.C.
1.Why did you choose LEV for an internship?
Brenda: Throughout my high school career I have participated in several law and business summer programs like the Just the Beginning Foundation (University of Washington) and the Future of the Law Institute and Albers Summer Business School (Seattle University). After participating in these programs, I realized that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I do not know what specific field I want to take yet. Earlier in May, I filled out an application for an internship through Rainier Scholars. One of my interests has always been education given that Rainier Scholars is a program that targets students who are the most underrepresented in college campuses.
I’ve had my own share of problems with the education system that we have. When I was in Head Start as a pre-schooler, English was my second language, and I didn’t know it well. I went through Kindergarten and 1st grade barely understanding what I was being taught; I got in trouble a lot with my teachers because I wasn’t following directions but they failed to realize that I just didn’t understand them. It wasn’t until I got in trouble multiple times that my school realized that I needed to be in the ESL program. I was in ESL until 3rd grade when I asked to be put in the normal class because I felt that I no longer needed to be helped with my English skills.
In 5th grade I joined Rainier Scholars, who helped me get into the Spectrum program at Washington Middle School and ended up going to University Prep for high school. I chose LEV because I can relate to the many kids in Washington State that feel that they are not being paid enough attention in school and that feel that they won’t make it past high school because I always thought school was really hard. I want to learn what organizations such as LEV do to advocate for education and how the government plays a key role in the decisions that are made.
Dawit: I chose LEV for a summer internship because helping raise awareness and advocate for public school education in my opinion is a very important topic. Education is what decides ones future; it can have such a significant impact on an individual. Everyone can have a successful and have a happy future if they are educated. Education also decides the future of our nation, how well we educate the future generation is what essentially decides the fate of our country. I have been to both public and private schools so I understand the differences, and in what ways public school education can improve.
2. What do you like to do in your free time?
Brenda: I watch all the Christian Bale Batman movies at least one a week (I’m a huge fan), I hang out with my friends, spend time with my family, search for the latest information about my favorite band, One Direction (British boy band), text, listen to music, and volunteer as a Spanish translator at Rainier Scholars.
Dawit: In my free time I like to be active, which includes going to the gym, playing basketball, or going for a run. I also like to spend time with the family and hang out with friends.
3. Favorite high school moment?
Brenda: We turned the lunchroom into a club as our senior prank.
Dawit: My favorite high school moment was when I was on a rugby tour in Argentina. We traveled to Iguazu falls, on the border of Brazil, which was an unforgettable experience. My favorite moment was when I was leaning on a bridge watching the waterfall with my friends as the water sprayed back at us. It was an amazing moment that I could have never experienced living in Seattle.
4. What do you hope to do when you’re older?
Brenda: I hope to work for the UN as an international human rights lawyer; I’d love to be stationed in different cities around the world. That may change though as I do not know what specific field I want to work in as a lawyer.
Dawit: When I’m older I hope to go into sports medicine. I’ve played many sports throughout my life and have a huge passion for them. At the same time, I’ve always been interested in biology and medicine. So one I day I hope to combine my two interests and go into the field of sports medicine.
5. One thing you hope to accomplish this summer?
Brenda: To ride Seattle’s “Great Wheel” when it opens to the public on June 29th!
Dawit: One thing I hope to accomplish this summer is to spend a lot of quality time with my family. I go to a boarding school so I don’t get to see them much throughout the year. So this summer whenever I have free time I hope to spend it with all my family and make up for the lost time.
Here’s what Brenda and Dawit had to say about Rainier Scholars.
Rainier Scholars is an 11-year academic journey that requires a great deal of commitment, patience, and hard work. The program is devoted to helping underrepresented young people push themselves to reach their full potentials and ultimately graduate from university. Students apply for Rainier Scholars in the fifth-grade. If you are chosen, six weeks of your summer are spent in a classroom, and during your school year you have extra accelerated school every Saturday and Wednesday. That’s all topped off by another six weeks of summer school! During all that hard work, we learn the three pillars of Rainier Scholars: Perseverance, Integrity, and Courage.
So is all that work worth it? After graduation you are provided with numerous opportunities, and countless new friends. Simply, it was definitely worth it. In the end, we are breaking down barriers by attending colleges around the country and proving that students of color can not only attend a four-year university but graduate as well. Cohort 1 will be seniors in college this year and will be the first to finish the 11-year program.
Go here for more information about Rainier Scholars program.