Topic: education reform
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April 9, 2013 at 5:18 PM
OLYMPIA — If you’ve been following Gov. Jay Inslee’s position on a Republican proposal to grade all public schools A-F, we’ll excuse you for being a little confused.
The gist of the debate: Schools are already evaluated in adjective form in the state’s achievement index, but some say the adjectives (exemplary, very good, good, fair and struggling) are not clear enough.
Inslee said during last fall’s campaign he wanted to increase public accountability by giving all schools a letter grade based on student performance and other factors.
But last week, Inslee told some lawmakers he opposed a proposal to do just that, Senate Bill 5328. His spokesman told me that the idea needed to be studied more, and his chief of staff said the governor’s goal of accountability might be achieved without a letter grade.
On Tuesday, the governor added more details in a meeting with three reporters who have been covering the issue.
Inslee said he would sign a school grading bill this session — if it meets some conditions.
First, the governor said, each school shouldn’t receive one A-F grade but five of them, based on different factors — progress in closing the achievement gap, scores on state tests, school performance relative to similar schools, graduation rates and college and career readiness.
Parents should weigh those grades themselves, Inslee said.
The system must acknowledge differences in student learning, including English language learners, students with disabilities, poverty and demographic situations, the governor said.
The grading system must be created with stakeholder input, he said.
And it must come with funding for schools that get low marks, he said.
Inslee said he conveyed those parameters to lawmakers in an email and face-to-face meeting this morning.
In fact, the governor said he’s been clearly communicating with lawmakers on the issue for awhile. He insisted to the reporters that “I don’t feel like I changed a position here. I feel like I’ve been consistent in wanting to have a meaningful system done right, not just any ol’ thing you slap an A-F on.”
Inslee said he hasn’t been as clear with the media.
Here’s what he said in response to my question about his lack of specificity:
“We have not been as specific with you, or any of the other writers here at the table, or anybody else with the public media, 1st Amendment empire…Had I not had a few other things on my plate, we would’ve provided more clarity. I wish we had given you more clarity earlier.”
January 30, 2013 at 8:54 PM
OLYMPIA — A state Senate committee heard testimony Wednesday about a trio of bills that would shake up public education in Washington state.
The bills, a mix of specific policies and broader accountability measures, were the first significant education measures introduced this session by Republican lawmakers, who — for the first time in many years — control an education committee .
In a two-hour hearing, the measure received praise from those advocating change, while some some teachers-union and school officials mostly criticized them.
Senate Bill 5237 would prohibit most third graders from advancing to fourth grade until they pass the state reading test; Senate Bill 5328 would give a letter grade to all schools and reward the ‘A’ earners; and Senate Bill 5329 would group schools that score the lowest on standardized tests into a special school district run by the state.
“We’re failing 18,000 kids a year, and they are disproportionately poor children of color,” said committee chairman Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, referring to the number of students who fail to graduate high school each year. “We have to do something.”
Supporters described the measures as common-sense approaches that would spur improvements by holding schools more accountable and giving more information to parents.
“We grade our students. Why not grade our schools?” said Dave Powell, a lobbyist for Stand for Children. “Honestly, what are we afraid of?”
Opponents said the bills were rife were logistical problems and would rely too much on test scores.
Marie Sullivan of the Washington State School Directors Association, a group representing school board members, said bills ”shaming and blaming schools” would be counterproductive.
Most of all, opponents argued that a recent state Supreme Court decision mandates that lawmakers more fully fund education — before seeking to reform it.
“It needs to be a two-way accountability system, and it’s your turn,” said Wendy Rader-Konofalsk, a teachers union lobbyist.
December 24, 2012 at 6:00 AM
Good Morning. Merry Almost-Christmas.
Denny Heck lands on a hot committee: Rep.-elect Denny Heck, he of the new 10th Congressional District, doesn’t fully settle in Washington, D.C., until January, but he has landed a spot on the House budget committee and he’s pleased as Christmas punch about it. Read his press release. Apparently, he is the only one of the incoming freshman to land such a spot.
McAuliffe bristles at coalition governance in state Senate: State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, has been in charge of the Senate education committee for a while. So, it’s no surprise that she is less-than-thrilled by the coalition government takeover of the Senate, if that is what happens in January when the Legislature convenes. She says, in this The Herald post, that it’s all about education. She fears that the Republican-plus-two-Democrats rule of the Senate, which displaces her as education chairwoman, will hurt ed reform and result in insufficient funds to pay for education.
NRA press conference: The National Rifle Association’s Friday press conference landed not so well on Capitol Hill and was picked apart much of the weekend. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, known for going off reservation after Hurricane Sandy, seems to have done it again. He is no fan of armed guards as a safety solution for public schools, as recommended by the NRA. While we are on the topic, there is a new website plan burning up the Internet, Demand a Plan, related to new efforts to reduce gun violence.
Pols in Hawaii: Hey, what are we doing in the cold and rain? Not only did our incoming Gov. Jay Inslee take his family to Hawaii for some rest and relaxation, President Obama and his family left Friday for their annual vacation to Hawaii.
We have a brand new Facebook page. I know you are busy on Christmas Eve Day, but take just one second to like us or friend us on our new page.
August 28, 2012 at 3:16 PM
Opponents of an initiative to allow charter schools in Washington state reported their first cash donation Monday — $50,000 from the SEIU Washington State Council, a labor organization.
The group of opponents, called People for Our Public Schools, previously had reported in-kind donations during its fight to change the wording of the initiative. Together the group said in its weekly report that it has raised $68,593 for the campaign.
That compares to about $3.5 million raised by Initiative 1240 supporters, who began their fundraising in early June. Supporters, though, have already spent some $3 million, mostly on signature-gathering to get the issue on the November ballot.
As in the past, spokespeople for both sides declined to respond to questions about fundraising goals and plans for advertisements.
In an email, a spokeswoman for People for Our Public Schools said opponents expect to be heavily outspent.
“Those behind I-1240 have deep pockets, but we have people and the facts on our side,” wrote Sue Tupper, the spokeswoman.
Karen Hart, president of a Seattle chapter of the SEIU, said the group is opposing the initiative because of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that the Legislature is not adequately funding basic education.
“We believe (Initiative 1240) will divert dollars from the education system that is already severely underfunded,” said Hart, who declined to say if the group plans to donate more in the future.
In addition to the SEIU, the initiative is opposed by the state teachers union, the state PTA, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and El Centro de la Raza. The Washington State School Directors’ Association added its name to that list Tuesday after a unanimous vote by its board of directors, according to a news release.
The initiative has the support of several business and advocacy groups pushing for change in public education.
Charter schools are public and free, but they operate independently of traditional school districts and can use unconventional techniques, including the hiring of nonunion teachers. The schools now operate in 41 states, with varying levels of success.
Also this week, a separate opposition group called “No on 1240″ reported its first $3,600 in donations, mostly from Seattle residents.
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