1. Advocate for full-funding of public education and provide guidance to the Legislature about funding priorities.
The role of the Superintendent is to advocate on behalf of the children and educators of Washington State for the resources they deserve. It is the responsibility of the Legislature to create a budget that would fully fund McCleary. As Superintendent my responsibility will be to allocate resources throughout the entire system. As Superintendent I will work in collaboration with various stakeholders - including educators, students and families - to create a blueprint that clearly maps our entire system. This will enable our legislature to understand the funding needs of the entire system as they create a budget to fulfill McCleary. I will continue to advocate for full funding of basic education, with the recognition that full funding may not be achievable by the end of the 2017 session. We must prioritize the resources we currently have while we await a budget from our Legislature that will provide the necessary resources for the entire system. In my first 90 days, I am committed to fighting to ensure the levy cliff is addressed so school districts are not forced to lay off hundreds of teachers. Although teacher compensation is not the only element that must be addressed, the state MUST prioritize funding teacher salaries, so there is no longer a reliance on levies to compensate staff. Beyond staff compensation, the state must allocate resources for capitol budget to ensure school districts are able to build the additional classrooms required to lower class sizes and provide all-day kindergarten for ALL students.
2. Develop an assessment process that is not a burden to the system and focuses on providing information to help teachers, families, school buildings, and school districts improve our service to ALL children
I will use the platform of State Superintendent to refocus our efforts and attention on teaching and learning, while helping the system understand the role assessment plays. Assessment is critical to helping inform our practice. However, the state assessments we currently use must be evaluated for bias and fairness. It is now time to provide feedback and any adaptations that would make the tool most useful. Furthermore, we must provide guidance around the amount of testing occurring in districts in addition to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. We are losing quality veteran educators who entered the profession to engage and inspire young people, who now feel pressure to devote their attention to preparing students for tests. We are pushing out young people who need connection to more authentic learning opportunities to stay engaged in school. Finally, now is an opportunity to have honest conversations about equitable access to technology. Our state assessments are computer-based. We must ensure all students have access to opportunities to interact with computers prior to assessment, in order to ensure students feel confident typing and manipulating the platform. There are also opportunities for school districts to share assessment practices with one another to learn strategies for managing testing more effectively and efficiently.
3. Support schools and systems to close opportunity gaps.
In Washington State there are far too many places where gaps are widening, not closing. Who falls in the gaps may differ depending upon region and demographic. After 8 years of focus personally and professionally on closing gaps, I believe OSPI can be a thought partner and provide technical assistance to do work differently in 4 areas:
Ensure the "right" adults are in front of students, and are provided with the support and training necessary to serve students effectively. We must consider new ways to recruit, train, hire and retain staff with a focus on putting the most qualified, effective adults in front of our most vulnerable students.
Promote authentic family and community engagement. Families are the first and forever teachers. They need to be seen as equal partners in the work of educating students. There are resources in the community such as; culture brokers, mentors, and interpreters. The system could partner to meet the needs of students, provide critical role models and help educators understand how to work more effectively with students and families.
Meet the needs of the Whole Child. Our students are not just academic and intellectual beings. Their physical, social-emotional and cultural needs must be met as well in order to flourish. This will require being intentional. Meeting the needs of the Whole Child will require partnerships with community-based organizations and leveraging resources in the community/region.
Establish smooth transitions for students from level to level, grade to grade and class to class. We are losing far too many students and their families in the gaps when we do not provide support and clear transition pathways, especially when the expectations are dramatically different from one space to the next.
There are school districts and buildings where this work is happening to some extent. Part of the work of OSPI will be elevating those models and providing examples of best practice occurring right here in Washington.
4. Promote innovative/alternative school models to meet the varied needs of the students we serve.
Our students deserve school and program options, regardless of their zip codes. There are districts that have had the opportunity to invest in innovative options. For example; Tacoma School District has been identified as an Innovation Zone and boasts a variety options for students of all ages - from language immersion and Montessori for elementary students to the School of the Arts and Science and Math Institute for high school students, as well as the variety of dual-credit options, including Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and access to trade certification at Bates Technical College. Highline and Federal Way school districts have established other innovative models such as the Technology Access Foundation, Aviation High School and Big Picture Learning. Each one leverages resources in the local community to serve the unique needs of these students. There are other smaller school districts such as Twisp and Eatonville that have established alternative learning environments. There are ways to increase innovative models in any setting. OSPI must do a more effective job of telling the stories of these effective models, as well as providing a simpler, more efficient process for school districts to initiate and implement innovation.