Washington loses out on Race To the Top funds

Washington was not named a finalist in the competition for the $3.4 billion in Race to the Top funds. According to an AP story, the state’s chances were hurt by the lack of charter schools.

This press release from the League of Education Voters arrived today:

Education advocates urge leaders to develop a robust plan to help all students succeed

SEATTLE – Parents and education advocates were disappointed to learn today that Washington State was not selected as a finalist in the second round of Race to the Top. In June, the state submitted an application to win $250 million in federal funding for education reform and innovation with the support of 265 school districts.

“While we’ve made progress, today’s announcement underscores the fact that Washington still has a lot of work to do to be competitive in the U.S.—let alone the rest of the world,” said Chris Korsmo, executive director of the League of Education Voters.

“Our kids need and deserve a world class education to be competitive in today’s global marketplace,” Korsmo said. “Right now, we’re coming up short. We need a robust plan to ensure our kids receive the rigor and support they need to get into and through college, and to help catch up the students who are behind.”

“Despite the disappointing news, this Race to the Top competition has leveraged more change than we would have thought possible,” said Lisa Macfarlane, co-founder of the League of Education Voters. “We passed important education reforms this year, but that’s just the first step. Now, our state’s leaders must work together with the districts and unions to achieve real changes that will transform our schools and help all of our students succeed.”

In 2010, state lawmakers approved legislation to improve Washington’s ability to win a portion of President Obama’s $4.3 billion federal Race to the Top fund for education reform and innovation, such as:

· Authority to intervene in our lowest performing schools;

· A new teacher and principal evaluation system;

· Additional pathways for professionals to become teachers; and

· Extending teacher tenure from two years to three.

Here’s a bit more (from a South Caroline TV station blog) about the states that did make the cut:

South Carolina is a finalist in the second round of national competition for federal Race to the Top grants, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Tuesday.

National observers had been predicting South Carolina’s selection because of the state’s strong showing in Round 1, which saw only two winners: Delaware and Tennessee. South Carolina finished sixth in Round 1 voting.

Duncan named 19 Round 2 finalists during a speech at the National Press Club, saying that judges selected them as having “the boldest plans” for reform. They are Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. They earned the highest scores from reviewers who rated their commitments to improve teacher effectiveness, data systems, academic standards, and low-performing schools. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia submitted applications.

The list of finalists is supposed to reflect Duncan’s promise that he would set high standards for the federal education-reform competition, which has become one of the Obama administration’s most high-profile policy levers.

At stake is $3.4 billion from the economic stimulus package approved by Congress last year, not to mention bragging rights. South Carolina’s application is for about $175 million.

“It’s gratifying but not surprising,” State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said of today’s announcement. “Our performance in Round 1 was a pretty strong hint that we would be a factor in Round 2. Today’s announcement validates, once again, that South Carolina is viewed as being on the cutting edge of making the changes that will make schools stronger.”

Finalists will send teams to Washington the week of August 9 to make presentations to judges, who will then adjust states’ final grades based on how well they answer detailed questions about their applications.

Winners will be announced in late August or September.

Applications will be scored on a 500-point scale, with more than half of those points assigned to initiatives already in place. The remaining points go to states’ plans for the future. Rex said South Carolina has a number of programs that should earn it points, such as a statewide system for evaluating teachers, high academic standards for students, a system to roll those out to teachers and a pilot project that links teacher effectiveness to their college alma maters.

“Ultimately, the goal is to create a seamless system that gives students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed after high school – whether that means going on to higher education or directly to good jobs,” Rex said.

Betsy Carpentier is the Deputy State Superintendent of Education who oversaw South Carolina’s 1,700-page Round 2 application. She said the biggest change the state would see, if it were to receive the money, would be a tighter focus on the impact of individual educators on their students’ achievement. Under the South Carolina Education Accountability Act of 1998, improvements in student achievement have been tracked at the state, district, and school levels. Some federal money would be used to create a system that measures how much students grow in a year, she said. An effective teacher would be one who moves a student one grade level and a highly effective teacher would move students more than that, she said. Teachers would be evaluated on their students’ performance, and training and pay would be based on that review.

South Carolina’s proposal also would help train teachers to implement newly approved “common core” standards in reading and math; enhance the use of data to improve instruction, including the ability to deliver student data directly to teachers’ desktops; add pilot programs aimed at recruiting and retaining teachers, especially in hard-to-staff rural areas and in academically struggling schools; develop more extensive alternative certification paths for principals and teachers, with a focus on high-poverty schools; and assist struggling middle and high schools by providing more intensive help to their “feeder” schools.

In addition to the $3.4 billion in Round 2 grant funds, the USDE also will distribute $350 million to groups of states participating in a separate competition to create new college and career-ready assessments. South Carolina is working with two of those groups. One group is looking at on-line but traditional assessments; the other is considering online assessments in which individual students’ tests are modified as they take place in order to create a more precise picture of student performance.

South Carolina’s efforts also will receive a boost from a recently announced $15 million federal grant to help the state develop a statewide longitudinal data system – creating the foundation for integrating K-12 data systems with early childhood data systems, other human service systems, postsecondary data systems and workforce data systems. The expanded data system will meet federal requirements for collaboration with institutions and agencies of higher education. It will include new data sources and quality control and will create a statewide system for teachers and principals who need information to make immediate decisions about student learning.

Rex said that even if South Carolina wins a Round 2 award, the grant funds would be directed at specific initiatives detailed in the state’s application and could not be used to blunt the impact of more than $750 million in state budget cuts to public schools over the past two years.

State adopts nationalized education standards for English, math

Washington has joined many other states like Wyoming, Pennsylvania, New York and Louisiana in adopting Common Core educational standards for math and English. To find out more about this effort check out the Common Core website.

Here’s a press release from OSPI:

“State Superintendent Randy Dorn announced today that he is provisionally adopting the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is required to deliver a detailed report on the common core standards in January 2011 to the state Legislature. The report, as outlined in Section 601 of the Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 6696, will include a comparison of common core and current state learning standards, an estimated timeline and the cost to the state and districts to implement them.

According to ESSB 6696, formal adoption and implementation of the new standards may not occur until after the 2011 legislative session, which will provide an opportunity for legislative review.

The common core standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and education experts. The goal of the standards is to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our nation’s children for college and the workforce.

“The standards clearly articulate the skills and knowledge all kids in Washington need to learn,” Dorn said. “Common standards will also help level the playing field for what’s becoming a more mobile society. Students moving to our state from another state can essentially pick up where they left off.”

NMSD offers online purchase of school supply packs

Parents and students in the North Mason schools can order their school supplies online. The supplies will be delivered to school and ready the first day of school in the students’ classrooms. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me (the mother of three.)

Here’s the email NMSD sent out a couple days ago:

“We’ve re-opened the sites to order your school supplies online.  Orders must be placed by August 8th.



Ordering is simple:

1.       Go to www.epipacks.com2.       Enter school id (Sand Hill Elementary = SAN110)  (Belfair Elementary = BEL167)  (Hawkins Middle School = HAW025)

3.       Follow the directions or steps to complete your order


A bit more information: Tonya Beattie, executive assistant to Superintendent David Peterson, said the district decided to cut down on school supply lists this year and try to help families. The district has put out a “donations” list to the community. The epipack school supply packs costs between $11 and $34 (varies between schools and grades.) Also, the epipack company donates 5 percent in sales back to the schools.

So what do you think?

An open letter to the NK School Board

I got this via email just a few minutes ago:

Dear North Kitsap School Board,

 We would like to express our thanks to you for your recent work on the school district’s budget, in cooperation with the district’s Budget Advisory Team and the Citizens’ Budget Review Committee. From observing the last board meeting and the minutes and reports on it, we can see that this is not an easy task, nor is the work finished. We feel that much more information is needed, as well as time to review that information, and to come up with clear answers to the many questions that are still pending about the proposed budget.

 We appreciate the fact that the School Board has the final authority in this district, which has been invested in you by law. You are our community’s representatives, elected to make decisions based upon the best, most complete information. Supporting your rights and responsibilities as our school board is very important to those of us in your community – we know that you are our voice.

 Thank you for standing up and asserting your rights in the recent board meeting. We support your stand in favor of placing an administrator in the position of principal at Suquamish Elementary School, rather than hiring a new principal. This was also the Citizen’s Budget Committee’s recommendation, and we applaud Mr. Strickland’s stand under the law that states that the school board has final approval of such decisions. We wonder, in light of discussion in the recent school board meeting, whether the North Kitsap school district administration is clear on the laws and policies regarding the limits of its power.

 Has the board had adequate time to completely review and discuss the Citizen’s Budget Committee’s recommendations and the Budget Advisory Team’s recommendations, and incorporate them into the proposed budget? If this has been done, where would the public find the complete, detailed budget documents that reflect the school board’s input? We (the paying public) need to see a line-itemized budget, and we need time to review it and ask questions.

 The administration needs to answer many questions before asking for a vote on this budget. There is no way to intelligently vote on a budget that has not been clearly revealed and explained to those who are bound by law to fund it. Please do not act on the budget until your questions, and our community’s questions, are fully and specifically answered.

 We suggest a special board meeting be scheduled between now and August 26th, so that you can ensure that your directions to the administration have been followed, and so that the school board can vote on any further changes to be made, before you approve the final budget. This would allow for true transparency in the process.

 We recommend that all district travel be eliminated for the school year 2010-11. We oppose the administration asking for, or receiving, an increase in its benefits package, when our teachers are being asked to take cuts in their compensation. Our administration needs to lead by example, and take the same compensation cuts that they are asking the teachers to take. We would like to see “less administration, and more teachers” for our classrooms.

 Does the school board feel sure that we have achieved all the cuts we can afford, without sacrificing the quality of education in our district? If not, please continue to work on the budget until you are satisfied with it. You have our support in this.

 Does this budget support the school board’s and district’s Guiding Principles and their Strategic Goals & Plan? What are the board’s and the public’s priorities according to those principles, goals and plan? Have these changed from the 2008-2009 Strategic Goals that are posted on the district’s website?

 We respect you as the employer and manager of the school district’s administration. They work for YOU, and for US. Thank you for all of your efforts on behalf of this community’s children, and for listening to us, your constituents. You have our full support as you continue to lead with the strength that you have shown recently, and as you ask every question that occurs to you about the administration’s budget plans. This is a vital part of the democratic process, and it will benefit the entire community to hear the answers to your (and our) questions. You have been endowed and entrusted with this right, and we need you to do this on our behalf.


 Gregg & Karen Gerstenberger

Camille & John Hattrick

Pam Pedersen & Rob Thomas

Catherine Ahl

Renee Arcement

Irene & Brad Lougheed

Jacqueline Hatzenbuehler

Laurice Riekki

Randy & Theresa Mitchell

Denise Vestman

NK board member Strickland plans to challenge administrative staffing plans for 2010-2011

North Kitsap School Board member Ed Strickland has been making quite a fuss lately over planned cuts in the school district’s budget, and Thursday night at the school board meeting he plans to make a little more.

On the agenda is an item to approve a benefits package for administrators in NK. Strickland plans to make a motion to remove the name of Jon Torgerson from that list. Torgerson has been hired to serve as interim principal at Suquamish Elementary for the 2010-11 school year. He will replace Joe Davalos, who will become superintendent of education for the Suquamish tribe. To save money, Strickland wants a central office administrator to serve as interim at Suquamish. Strickland estimates the savings would provide for almost two teachers.

“I just don’t think we need that many administrators at the central office when we’re cutting teachers,” he said. NK did not lay-off teachers this year, but the district did not fill some teaching positions that will be vacant, which will result in slightly higher class sizes for the 2010-11 school year.

Strickland said his proposal is not unprecedented. He recalled when curriculum director Wally Lis served as interim at Poulsbo Middle School for a year. He also made it clear that it’s nothing personal. “This isn’t a reflection on Torgerson, this is a reflection of the budget.”

It’s not clear how successful Strickland will be with this plan. Board President Tom Anderson, who has voiced support for a proposal like this, will be absent from the meeting. That leaves new members Kathleen Dassel and Dan Weedin and long-time board member Val Torrens to weigh in. NK’s board meetings have been interesting of late. I don’t think Thursday night will  be much different.

The retire/rehire situation: Keith Johnson probably won’t be back at NKHS in the fall

It looks like North Kitsap High School French teacher Keith Johnson won’t be back at work in the fall. I spoke with Keith a few days ago and he said he’s heard that interviews have gone forward for the French teaching job. He has not been part of that process.

NK School Board members heard a loud outcry last month after students and parents learned that Johnson, the French teacher at NKHS for 40 years, would not be back. Read more about that here.

Keith said he and his wife, Jan, a long-time librarian at NKHS and throughout the district, are looking at traveling a bit, which sounds great, although talking with Keith leads me to think he would still prefer to do one more year at NK.

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Levy and long-term strategy talk at the CK School Board last night

Beyond a discussion of the preliminary budget for the 2010-11 school year, which you can read about here, the CK School Board last night also discussed a proposal for a capital projects levy and long-term strategic planning.

The levy discussion centered around when the board felt comfortable voting on the resolution that would cement the levy for the February 2011 ballot. President Chris Stokke and board members Eric Greene and Mark Gaines (Bruce Richards was out sick) seemed pretty sure they could vote at the Aug. 11 meeting, but board member Christy Cathcart wasn’t as enthusiastic. She wanted firm numbers on property assessments for CK at that time, but county Assessor Jim Avery isn’t sure he can provide those final numbers until Sept. 1. The assessment value will affect rate at which the levy will be applied to bring in the total amount needed  by the district for the construction projects. Read more about the levy proposal here.

Cathcart compared the levy resolution to a contract and said she didn’t want to sign on until she felt she had all the information. The other board members didn’t necessarily contradict her but also didn’t necessarily agree and seemed to want to move forward in August. I know members of CK’s levy committee are anxious to have the board’s vote so they can move forward with plans to encourage folks to approve the levy. It remains to be seen if the CK board will vote in August … stay tuned.

And one more item … it seems like CK folks need to be ready to think about grade reconfiguration. Currently the elementary schools are kindergarten through sixth grade, junior highs are seventh, eighth and ninth and high schools are 10th, 11th and 12th. 

At the board meeting last night along the back wall of the board room was drawn a massive timeline from June 2010 through the end of the 2013-14 school year. Items along the timeline included: climate survey, RIF II, demographic study, teacher and principal evaluations, a third-fifth grade reading curriculum adoption and a reconfiguration study. The reconfiguration study was placed on the timeline next spring; the note “reconfiguration complete” was placed in July of 2014. CKSD spokesman David Beil pointed out that the timeline and discussions around strategic, long-term planning are working documents and only at the discussion level. Nothing is set in stone. But as CK Junior High building continues to deteriorate and enrollment numbers continue to fall (CK has lost 1,364 students in the past six years) it’s pretty clear things will be changing CK. How that all plays out will be interesting to watch. I’m betting it will include boundary changes as well, which would mean shifting kids to different schools.