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I have lived in the Edmonds School District for 49 years. I have been a student, parent, educator, volunteer and employee of the district, and currently am a professional collaborator with district teachers. I have been President of 5 different community groups dedicated to educational purposes.
I think the three issues facing our district that are most important right now are the fallout from the latest Washington state budget, the many capital projects the district is undertaking over the next five years, and the fact that the demographics of the district are changing so quickly. When I moved here 49 years ago, the district was probably 98% white. Fully 50 percent of the district students now self-identify as non-white.
The most urgent of these three issues is the State Budget. It’s going to affect everything we do, and we really have no idea yet what the changes will be. Parents, students, teachers and administrators are just beginning to understand the long term ramifications of the decisions made in Olympia this year, and it will be up to the School Board to craft a vision for the district that takes into account both the budget and the specific needs of our communities.
Charter schools may have been a good idea at their inception, but in practice they have fallen short of their original promise.
They were supposed to provide an avenue for experimentation of new teaching strategies meant to improve overall teaching. Instead, resources are now being funneled away from traditional public schools into charter school systems that have little or no accountability.
The National Education Association released a policy statement regarding Charter Schools last week. This statement calls for oversight of charter schools by public school boards, proof by charter schools that their missions will improve teaching, and a requirement that charter schools adhere to the same labor, civil rights, and staff qualifications requirements as public schools.
Clearly this is a situation where an idea that may have been good has gone wrong, otherwise our teachers would not find a need to issue a statement of this sort at a national level.
Student portfolios are far superior evaluation tools. Portfolios are collections of student work and written teacher evaluations that follow students through their school career and, if done well, illustrate all aspects of a student’s learning. They should show creativity, wisdom, values, empathy and insight, as well as a student’s growth in knowledge and ability.
Unfortunately, our schools in recent years have relied more and more on standardized tests to measure student achievement. This is a mistake. Standardized tests are not designed to provide more than a benchmark of students progress; they were never meant to be used as a determinant of success or failure.
Our students spend too many days testing and preparing for tests. Students should be learning how to learn, but instead are learning how to take a test. This really isn’t going to provide them with skills they will need later in life.
High school graduation should NEVER be linked to standardized tests results.
I think students need to be healthy. That means they need to sleep. Adolescents require more sleep than younger children, so they should start school later. I believe the reason this doesn’t already happen is so there will be time for them to attend extracurricular activities during daylight hours after school.
This is a controversial subject right now, because there are strongly felt differences of opinions on each side. we have strong and long standing extracurricular program across the district, and the idea of weakening them is unthinkable to many. And yet there are these health issues that we must address.
I suggest we choose one high school and experiment with later start times. Other options may become apparent if we try this.
We need to pay close attention to achievement and attendance patterns, providing the support to students they need when these first start to falter.
Special attention needs to be paid during transitions from grade level to grade level, as these are times when students can begin to have trouble.
Schools can also build a school environment where staff takes collective responsibility for high standards in attendance and achievement. If the academic and attendance records are known to all teachers, they can work together to support individuals.
Motivation is also key. College readiness programs that start in middle school provide an opportunity for students to establish habits and set goals with the eventual goal of entering college. And finally, students who are already at academic risk and/or who have poor attendance should never be suspended from school. Clearly this only promotes disengagement. Children who are already behind will get into even further trouble.
Students need to be taught to:
Recognize bulling behavior in themselves and in others; realize how harmful bullying is,
and that they shouldn’t engage in it; know how to defend themselves when being targeted and how to safely protect others when they encounter altercations.
Bullying needs to be addressed in both disciplinarian and systemic ways. Disciplinary action teaches students that bullying is wrong. This needs to be followed up by education that teaches the points listed above.
Social Emotional Learning is a systemic program that works on the development of successful thinking, learning and communicating skills through teaching self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.
This is the wave of the future. The Edmonds School District is just recently adopted this program district-wide.
There are rich opportunities here for students to participate in American politics as they are occurring.
I envision a classroom that has an organizational and/or debriefing function. Students would spend most of their time outside of class, where they might, for example, volunteer at their local ACLU office; attend and participate in local political party meetings; volunteer for a political campaign; volunteer with a news agency; or perhaps participate in Model United Nations projects. They might even join the League!
Community service requirements have been discontinued in the Edmonds School District. Linking service requirements with civics requirements could result in more meaningful learning experiences in both places.
Students who are interested in school governance could also now receive credit.
The result would be citizens more fully engaged in the democratic process, with a better understanding of their role in their own government and communities
Students who are disruptive should never be suspended, especially if they are at academic risk. Clearly this only promotes disengagement and is not in the best interest of the child. Some student who are suspended simply never return to school. That’s not what we want for any of our kids.
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I live in Lynnwood with my husband and 3 children who attend Edmonds Schools. I’m a longtime volunteer at our diverse neighborhood school and an educational researcher at UW. I have also volunteered around our community in youth sports and on behalf of diverse people.
I see 3 major challenges: 1. Providing every child a fair chance at an excellent public education, 2. Supporting our high-quality teachers, 3. Increasing family engagement.
It comes down to supporting neighborhood schools as sites of both challenge and opportunity. When the budget is tight, our diverse neighborhood schools are hit hardest. We have challenges: greater cultural diversity, more English language learners, more families in poverty, and more children with learning or social-emotional difficulties. We need more teachers and staff, more training and expertise, and more family engagement to meet these challenges.
Neighborhood schools are also sites of opportunity. We are authentic, vibrant “learning labs” where children can learn to live, love, negotiate, argue, and govern across difference. I want all families to choose our neighborhood schools for the very reason that we are well-suited to prepare children to represent Washington on the world stage.
I am opposed to public funds for private charter schools. Our public schools provide a foundation for each new generation of engaged citizens and must have strong ties to the communities they serve. Voters elect the Board to represent us and our community. Charter schools do not answer to a democratically elected Board, nor have the same obligation or ties to the communities in which they operate.
Charters teachers do not collectively bargain. Only when teachers and the district negotiate as full partners can we arrive at compensation packages that attract and retain the highest quality and most committed teachers.
When we are talking about hundreds of millions of our tax dollars used for something as serious as educating our kids to take their places in our communities, I want schools to be accountable to voters and I want the highest quality educators. It’s our money, our community, and our future.
We deserve sanity in standardized testing. Children should not spend a month or more of classroom time preparing for and taking tests; they should spend that time learning. Sure, we must be able to measure student growth, and how teachers and schools are doing. But tests reveal only a slice of what students learn over time. Why spend so much effort chasing that bit of information when we could be seeing our whole students?
That is why I oppose standardized tests to determine graduation readiness. Not all students excel at test-taking even if they are graduation-ready. I would advocate for a non-test option for those students who need it, like a reflective portfolio. Students would assemble a portfolio of their work and explain how it connects to learning outcomes. This approach not only demonstrates learning, but is itself a learning experience that strengthens foundational knowledge, gets students thinking about real-world applications, and develops lifelong learning skills.
The science shows and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents should start school later than they do. However, a study in our district this year uncovered complexity in changing bell times. A moderate shift in middle and high school start times would require more buses and taxpayer money. Another option using the buses we have would have some students going so late they would miss out on sports.
A third option to shift all bell times 25 minutes forward would neither require more buses nor prevent students from after-school sports. However, some families count on teens to watch younger siblings or work after school. And, elementary school late start times already are difficult for working parents. Shifting bell times forward would compound the difficulty of arranging morning childcare.
I do not believe a change can happen until we are able to provide more resources for families, like on-site daycare and transportation options.
In 2016, Edmonds had an 81.9% 4-year graduation rate. We have made gains over time, but have further to go overall and in closing gaps by race, ethnicity, and income and raising rates of students with special needs.
If children do not have basic needs met, academics suffer, as evidenced by our low 53.2% graduation rate of homeless youth. Community organizations have stepped in but our schools need more professional staff to assist and direct families in crisis. We must also ensure that students have learning support and that teachers are prepared to apply current, culturally relevant, evidence-based instruction that engages all students in their classrooms. Finally, students must be educated for the high-paying jobs in our state’s booming economy. Our challenging academic programs must meet demand and be equitably available to all students. We also need more resources to prepare students for trade school and apprenticeships that lead to good jobs without a college degree.
A comprehensive approach to bullying includes prevention, leadership development and response. Prevention involves building skills to engage in peaceful conflict resolution and develop mutual understanding across difference (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and differently-abled). Leadership development involves building skills to identify and safely call out bullying, advocate for others, and promote peace. Response includes appropriate, educational discipline; and community-building around rejection of bullying.
All stakeholders should be involved: students, teachers and staff, and families. Looking at it this way, we see some gaps in our current approach. Many elementary schools have anti-bullying programs, but families typically are involved only when it comes to response. Later, continuing anti-bullying education falls aside. Community building and leadership development should be integrated into existing activities throughout the school years.
Washington requires one semester of civics in high school, and the Class of 2016 was the first to graduate with this requirement. Civics education covers our country’s and state’s founding documents, government procedures, law-making, and elections. We have elements of civics throughout the social studies curriculum, but civics is specifically addressed in terms of personal citizenship and government in Washington and the US in the senior year. I am interested to measure student learning of civics, but also to see the implications for our community. Are we achieving higher rates of voting and public engagement, for example?
I am also excited about the new Ethnic Studies class that will be offered to many students at Lynnwood High School next year instead of a traditional approach to senior social studies. This class will cover civics in a culturally diverse context. I believe this class may provide discoveries that change the way we think about civics education in the future.
The ACLU recently filed suit against Washington for removing children with behavioral disabilities from classrooms too frequently. Special education students comprise 14% of Washington’s students, but are nearly 30% of those suspended and expelled. I often hear from teachers and parents concerned about increasing numbers of children with social-emotional difficulties and frequent disruptions in classroom learning. In our overcrowded, understaffed schools, we must once again argue for funding to provide every child with a fair chance at an excellent public education. The new budget provides both hope and barriers. More money for special education, mental health, and a Department of Children, Youth and Families may provide targeted support for children, but additional taxes on working families may increase the stress children and families are experiencing. I approve of the spending measures though they don’t go far enough, but disapprove of the revenue source.