Thursday, November 11, 2010

Local School News

15 Seattle schools win awards, Queen Anne News
Queen Anne and Magnolia schools among the elite

Fifteen public schools from Seattle have been recognized for outstanding academic improvements in math and reading that put them in the top 5 percent of the highest-improving schools in the state. These Schools of Distinction were announced by the Center for Educational Effectiveness and Phi Delta Kappa - Washington State Chapter. All 15 schools will receive their awards during a regional ceremony Dec. 2 at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence. [...]

See the news release, re: SPS Schools of Distinction

Struggling West Seattle Elementary gets a fresh start, Seattle Times
West Seattle Elementary is one of 18 schools in the state taking part in a major federal push to help the nation's lowest-performing schools improve dramatically over the next three years. In the first of a series of stories, The Seattle Times looks at the hopes and concerns as the work gets under way.

In a corner classroom at one of Seattle's lowest-achieving schools, Ms. Coxon has dubbed her fourth-graders the Stanford Class of 2023.

Signs above the classroom door greet her 9- and 10-year-olds as the future students of her beloved alma mater and announce that "The path to college starts now." Her black cap and gown, with its red Stanford sash, hang on a wall inside, not far from where she's stapled a red-and-white Stanford pennant. [...]

8 South Sound schools stand out for quality, groups say, Tacoma News Tribune
Four schools in Puyallup, three in the Franklin Pierce area and one in Federal Way have been named as Schools of Distinction that will be honored at a regional awards ceremony in December.

Four schools in Puyallup, three in the Franklin Pierce area and one in Federal Way have been named as Schools of Distinction that will be honored at a regional awards ceremony in December.

In Puyallup, Kalles Junior High and Zeiger, Woodland, and Sunrise elementary schools have each been recognized for being among the top schools statewide to demonstrate sustained academic achievement in reading and math. [...]

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seattle Principal Wins National Award, $25,000

John Stanford International School principal ‘truly exceptional’

OLYMPIA — October 28, 2010 - Kelly Aramaki, principal at John Stanford International School in Seattle, has won the 2010 Milken Educator Award for Washington. The award includes a $25,000 cash prize.

Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction, joined State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott and Dr. Jane Foley from the Milken Family Foundation to make the announcement this morning at John Stanford International.

“Kelly puts kids first, and it shows,” Dorn said. “His ultimate goal is student achievement, and he knows how to use assessment data, research, technology, the expertise of teachers and the enthusiasm of families to reach that goal.”

Aramaki graduated from the Teachers College at Columbia University in 1999 and began teaching in Bellevue at Newport Heights Elementary. After completing the Danforth Educational Leadership Program at the University of Washington, he was hired as principal at Maywood Hills Elementary in Bothell. In 2007, he moved to John Stanford International School.

“Kelly is just awesome,” said Gloria Mitchell, Aramaki’s former instructional director. “On any day of the week I would say that he is truly exceptional – not just as an educator, but also as a person.”

Passionate about celebrating real-world diversity, Aramaki arranged for students at Maywood Hills to visit a tent city that moved in next door to the school. The students interviewed the residents and explored issues of homelessness and poverty from a new perspective.

Aramaki also is passionate about English-language learners. While at Maywood Hills, he helped transition the school to a model that used reader/writer workshop techniques to match students with texts that were at their reading level. As a result more students remain in standard classrooms and ELL students move out of support services sooner. This technique is now the practice across the district. At John Stanford, Aramaki has worked to connect Spanish immersion students with native Spanish speaking ELL students.

At the teaching level, Aramaki coaches new teachers and administrators, mentors struggling educators and engages families. He does this while remaining completely accessible to with every student in his building. He works with his teachers to help them embrace collaboration and open critical feedback. He also is a strong advocate of international education, having presented on the subject at national and international conferences.

Colleagues say that Aramaki’s leadership style is a combination of data analysis and observation, tempered by kindness and a deep respect for students, teachers and families. In his building and across the district, he is admired for his commitment to all learners, his collaboration with teachers and his expert use of data and technology. Colleagues describe him as a courageous and hopeful leader whose contributions to district wide discussions and principals’ meetings create richer professional experiences for all participants.

About the Milken Awards
The Milken Educator Awards have no formal nomination or application process. Educators are recommended without their knowledge by a Blue Ribbon Panel.

The award alternates each year between elementary and secondary educators.

Dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine, the award was established in 1985. Since then, more than $60 million has been given to winners. The purpose of the award is to attract, retain and reward outstanding K-12 teachers, principals and other education professionals who make important contributions to excellence in education.

More than 50 teachers in the United States received the award this year. Each winner will be presented with a $25,000 award at the annual Milken Family Foundation National Education Conference, an all-expenses-paid professional development conference held in Los Angeles in April. The winners also join the Milken Educator Network, a coalition of more than 2,400 top educators who serve both as expert resources and collaborators to network members as they help cultivate and expand innovative programs in their classrooms, schools and districts.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seattle, Speak Up for Children as SPS Contract Negotiations Go On

Seattle needs to decide if it will be an early adopter or a laggard in education reform, writes guest columnist Norman B. Rice, CEO of the Seattle Foundation and the city's former mayor. The current approaches are failing many students. Citizens should speak up for them.

Rice states, “Each and every city resident — and parent, in particular — needs to get informed about the issues, take a stand and advocate not for the teachers or the school district, but for the kids and the creation of a school system that truly works for them.”

To review the full article, Click here

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


In the final weeks of negotiations, community groups have renewed their push for reform in the teacher contract. Today, the “Our Schools Coalition,” a broad a diverse group of more than 30 citywide organizations and city leaders, of which the Alliance is a part, issued open letters to Seattle parents, teachers and school officials urging adoption of a contract that puts student’s interests first and supports teachers as professionals. View the parent letter and the letter to teachers and district officials.

Link to parent letter is
Link to teacher/board letter is

Monday, July 12, 2010

Article of interest

Article in the Seattle Times discussing US Education Secretary Arne Duncan's visit to Aviation High School.

U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan lauds, visits Aviation High

By Katherine Long, Seattle Times

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Article of Interest

Article in the Seattle Times discussing the approval of the Superintendant's contract extension.

Seattle school leader Goodloe-Johnson's contract extension approved 5-2

By Nick Perry, Seattle Times

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Article of Interest

Another interesting article in the Seattle Times discussing the Superintendant's academic initiatives including a new school-improvement plan.

Seattle Schools superintendant sets ambitious agenda

By Linda Shaw, Seattle Times

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Article of Interest

Below is an interesting article in USA Today discussing the heightened awarenss of education reform evidenced by the number of documentaries released this year on education.

Is 2010 the year of the education documentary?

By Greg Toppo, USA Today

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Article of interest

Below is an interesting editorial on teacher contract negotiations.

Summertime but Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union won't rest easy
Contract talks between Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union ought to feature less Sturm und Drang and more collaboration around stark new economic realities.

By Lynne K. Varner
Seattle Times editorial columnist

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Alliance for Education Development Update

The end of the school year is always a good time to look back and reflect. That is precisely what we’ve done with our community outreach and development efforts here at the Alliance. This year, we have revamped our efforts to effectively reach and engage the community as well as raise funds to support our work. Our outreach consists of letters, phone calls, newsletters and emails evenly spread throughout the year. Our most visible vehicles remain our Community Breakfast and our Black and Orange Ball.

Our 8th Annual Community Breakfast, held on April 28th, was a big success this year. Over 900 teachers, parents and community members gathered to support students – it was our biggest Breakfast ever! We could not have been more pleased with the turnout and generosity of those who attended. It is encouraging to see how many people share our passion and vision for a city unified in helping children fulfill their potential as learners.

Our 8th Annual Black and Orange Ball will be held on October 23rd at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle. We are currently working hard to get all the pieces in place for a memorable event. The Black and Orange Ball is a celebration of our students and our work as well as an auction benefiting the Alliance’s mission to help every child in Seattle Public Schools achieve academic success.

Together we can make a difference and we thank you for all you are doing to help students at Seattle Public Schools. Your involvement - whether you are volunteering, advocating for your children or financially supporting education – is the key to our success.

Please consider supporting the Alliance for Education this year. Click Here to make a donation online and Click Here to send me an email if you’d like to get involved in other ways. Our goal is to convene and engage the community in meaningful discussions about education and rally their support to achieve the positive outcomes we are all striving for. Thank you for your continued support.

Edgar Gonzalez, Director of Development, AFE

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Seattle College Fair – A Huge Success

The Seattle College Fair was held this past Saturday, June 12th at Seattle Central Community College. Over 300 people, including students, parents, and family members, came from all over the city to learn strategies for college planning and preparation. The event kicked-off with emcee Jesse Jones of King 5 News, followed by brief speeches by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Chief Academic Officer of Seattle Public Schools, Dr. Susan Enfield. The keynote speech was delivered by Anthony Kelley, former UW football player and an inspiration to many students.

The fair held a number of workshops that assisted students and parents on topics such as:
  • Financing college
  • Getting into college
  • Community colleges
  • Parental involvement in the college going process
  • Why college matters (student panel)

Seven organizations sponsored the event, including:

  • Alliance for Education
  • City of Seattle
  • College Success Foundation
  • NELA (Northwest Education Loan Association)
  • Seattle Central Community College
  • Seattle Public Schools
  • Washington Higher Education Board

97% of participants that filled out the evaluation at the end of the event said that they know more now about college planning and how to pay for college than prior to the event.

Over 50 students applied for the College Bound scholarship, a state-funded scholarship designed to motivate 7th and 8th grade students to pursue a college education. To learn more about the scholarship please visit the website:

- Mark Yango, AFE

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Community Schools Update

In collaboration with Seattle Public Schools and other partners, the Alliance is engaged in research and community discussions on the Community Schools strategy, an approach to public education showing promise in several areas across the country.

While there are numerous Community Schools models in different regions, there is no single program design. But in general, a Community Schools (CS) approach engages partners in a coordinated system that offers a range of supports to children, youth and families before, during and after school.

Partners include educators, health and social service agencies, youth development organizations, parents, volunteers, business, and others. In general:
  • The school becomes a “hub” or local focal point for student, family and neighborhood engagement, a place where school-community connections are built and reinforced.

  • Programs may include pre-school/early learning, academic support, counseling, student health clinics, family engagement, access to basic services, refugee assistance, evening programs for adults (e.g., parenting support, language and job skills, etc.) and others.

  • Broadly speaking, the vision is:
  • Children are ready to learn when they enter school and every day thereafter.
  • All students learn and achieve to high standards.
  • Young people are well prepared for adult roles in the workplace and future families.
  • Parents and community members are involved with the school and committed to their own life-long learning.
  • Neighborhoods are safe, supportive and engaged.

In a recent survey, we learned there are over 300 community based organizations delivering numerous on-site and off-site services to Seattle students. Currently, a few schools do benefit from a coordinated approach to these services (e.g., the Community Learning Centers in some middle schools and the federally funded Full Services Community Schools Program at two high schools). However, the district and others agree that a system-wide strategy in which providers and schools align to achieve specific goals would reduce fragmentation, improve services and impact academic outcomes.

In partnership with the district, our work to date includes:

  • Interviewing other CS projects to benefit from the lessons they learned in start-up and implementation (e.g., Children’s Aid Bureau in New York, Chicago Public Schools, LINC in Independence, Missouri, SUN Schools in Portland, Cincinnati Strive, and Harlem Children’s Zone).

  • Surveying and interviewing local service providers to document the number, types and locations of student services, the level of coordination with schools and other providers, and other information.

  • Developing a catalog of services that will be posted very soon to the Alliance’s website (we’ll let you know when it’s available).

  • Engaging with funders, government officials, higher education and others who may be interested in supporting partnerships between schools and communities (e.g., Seattle Foundation, Seattle University and others).

  • Researching national models to learn about the planning and implementation of these initiatives.

  • Convening district and community partners to work toward a common vision of what this strategy would look like.

The Seattle School Board continues to study this promising approach as we conduct research and analysis, and engage the community about the model. For further information about the CS strategy in general, visit For local updates, stay tuned to the Alliance blog.

- Karen Tollenaar Demorest, AFE

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Attend the Seattle College Bound Resource Fair

The Alliance for Education is partnering with a number of organizations from the Washington College Access Network (WCAN) and the Seattle College Access Network (SCAN) to host the 2010 Seattle College Bound Fair.

The College fair will be held on Saturday, June 12th 2010 from 9:00am to 12:00pm at Seattle Central Community College.

This event will engage families in the college preparation process and build community support for all College Bound Students. It provides an opportunity for College Bound Students and their families to learn more about the scholarship and other support/resources in the community that are available to them as they navigate their pathway to college. There will be workshops for students and parents on getting into and paying for college, career pathways, and goal setting.

The Seattle College Bound Conference presents an excellent opportunity for your individuals and organizations to connect with over 400 College Bound students from 7th to 10th grade. We encourage organizations that provide social and/or academic support to youth to participate in this event by hosting a booth.

If your organization has summer programs and is looking for students to recruit, the college fair is the perfect opportunity. Students who attend the event will be eager to learn about 2-year and 4 year colleges as well as community resources to help them prepare and get into college, including service opportunities and academic support.

Please encourage all College Bound eligible students to attend.

This is a free event that will be open to the public. Seattle Central Community College is located at 1701 Broadway Seattle, WA 98122.

We look forward to seeing you at the fair.

If you are able to participate and host a booth please contact Lee Lambert at (253) 439-5805 or via email at

- Mark Yango, AFE


The College Bound scholarship is a state-funded scholarship designed to motivate 7th and 8th grade students to pursue a college education. It is four-year scholarship that will cover the cost of tuition, fees, and books. The amount of the scholarship will be based on tuition rates at Washington public colleges and universities and will cover the amount of tuition and fees (plus $500 for books) not covered by other state financial awards.

Students in the 7th or 8th grade who meet one of the following requirements should apply:
  • Are eligible for or receive free or reduced-price lunch
  • Are a foster youth (regardless of income)
  • Receive TANF benefits
  • Meet the family income requirements on the College Bound Scholarship Application

Since 2007, approximately 55,000 students have signed up for the College Bound Scholarship, the first cohort graduates high school in 2012. In the Seattle Public Schools there are 1800, 9th and 10th grade students who have signed up for the scholarship and another 2700, 7th and 8th grade students who are eligible. These students will need your help and support to graduate high school college aware, college eligible, and college ready in order to collect their scholarships.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Teacher Appreciation Week

As you may know, the Alliance has been involved in addressing the issue of recruiting, supporting, and retaining the strongest teachers in Seattle Public Schools. At the heart of this work is the recognition that a strong teaching corps is the most valuable asset of a school system. The vast majority of our teachers do not receive the credit they deserve. We would like to acknowledge the great teaching that goes on day after day in our schools.

Teacher Appreciate Week began on Monday, May 3rd. This is a unique opportunity to show our teachers how much we value their diligence and commitment to our students. The role of being a teacher is no simple undertaking, nevertheless most of our teachers are passionate, engaged, and student focused. Let’s all take this time to express our gratitude for their work.

Send an email, write a letter, stop by your neighborhood school and drop off a personal gift, or simple say THANK YOU! My son’s fifth grade teacher at Leschi Elementary is a dynamic instructor, mentor and role model. I truly value the impact she has on my son’s life and academic career. Thank you Ms. Blackwell for your amazing work in our public schools!

-Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager

Click on the links below for gift ideas and other information on teacher appreciation week.

Monday, May 3, 2010

2010 Alliance for Education Community Breakfast - A Great Success

Last Wednesday the Alliance for Education held its 8th Annual Community Breakfast to the beat of the Denny Middle School Steel Drum Band. Over 900 individuals attended the Community Breakfast. Turn out for this year’s breakfast was the largest ever, many of them community members, students, teachers and principals of Seattle Public Schools that believe a city’s success starts with the public school system. This year’s breakfast featured Mayor Mike McGinn, Seattle Public School Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, and Wendy Puriefoy, President of the Public Education Network.

Moved and inspired by the performances and testimonies of students and teachers, over $215,000 was raised to support the Alliance for Education, which will use the funds to boost academic achievement in Seattle Public Schools.

Sara Morris, President and CEO of the Alliance, addressed the recent progress of the Alliance for Education as well as what still needs to be done to ensure that every child in the Seattle Public School District receives the best education possible.

Daniel Nguyen, the ASB president and senior from Franklin High School emceed the event which featured performances from the Denny Middle School Steel Drum Band and the S.C.A.T.S. acrobatics team from Dearborn Park Elementary. Keynote speaker Wendy Puriefoy, the President of Public Education Network from Washington D.C., spoke about education reform and the importance of community in the efforts of achieving quality public education.

The breakfast also celebrated the achievement of certain individuals and made the public aware and proud of what’s going on in their community. The following awards were recognized:

  • Comcast Leaders and Achievers Awards for Student Excellence,
  • Swain Teacher Awards for Excellence, and
  • Thomas B. Foster Award for Principal Excellence

We are grateful for everyone's support for the Alliance -- a partner and advocate for every student in Seattle Public Schools.

Thank you and see you next year!

- Mark Yango, AFE

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Community Schools Update

A couple weeks ago, Solynn and I were attended a Community Schools Forum in Philadelphia, put on by the Coalition for Community Schools. Despite a 3:30 a.m. arrival time due to an unexpected redirect of our flight, it was a great opportunity to learn more about national efforts. As we move further into this work it’s highly beneficial to see the experiences that have shaped other efforts across the country.

Several Seattle partners attended the conference representing community based organizations, the Alliance, and a couple district staff who were brought by external community partners.

At the heart of the community schools initiative is the goal of improving student academic success by addressing the many complex needs of our students and families. We had the opportunity to learn how other agencies have identified outcomes, engaged families, and built partnerships which are having a positive impact on students in their regions.

Here are just a few of the many themes that came out of the conference:

· Remember the importance of youth participating in the planning process

· Put the community back in community schools – start planning with community members and parents at the table from the beginning. Note: This summer, the Alliance’s community engagement effort will focus on this area, planning for a strong fall outreach to families and community partners.

· Remember the importance of data. This is about supporting students and what you count counts.

· Health is a very important component for a community schools effort

We’ve been talking about this for a while and the conversation is now moving forward. It isn’t just the Alliance that is working on this effort, but various organizations building a regional effort. Partners include universities, foundations, non-profits and civic leadership. These groups are learning from each other and moving our efforts forward in alignment rather than individual parallel efforts.

We are excited to be part of this process that hopes to build a safety net for all students and ensure that all have the opportunity to succeed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An Exciting Day

An exciting effort was launched today. The Alliance, in conjunction with 13 other community organizations and several community leaders, issued a joint statement advocating for specific changes to the Seattle Public Schools teacher contract, scheduled to be renegotiated beginning next week. This group, “Our Schools Coalition,” commissioned a citywide poll of Seattle taxpayers, public school parents and teachers. The survey demonstrated overwhelming support for the proposed changes.

Teacher quality is the single biggest point of leverage in the system. A great teacher is the single largest predictor of student success. A strong, vibrant teacher corps, where great teachers are acknowledged, rewarded and supported, will have a demonstrable, positive impact on student achievement.

Guided by a set of core principles that put student success and teacher support at the fore, Our Schools Coalition is advocating for increased teacher preparation and peer collaboration time as well as expanded mentoring and coaching programs. The group also proposes moving to a 4-tier teacher evaluation system, factoring student academic growth into teacher evaluations, and factoring performance into staffing decisions, including placement, transfers and layoffs. Finally, the coalition advocates opening up new career paths and compensation opportunities for teachers that go beyond seniority and credentialing, as well as opening up the teaching field to organizations such as Teach for America.

To view the statement, see the polling data, and sign on, go to

Sara Morris, President &CEO, AFE

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Update on “Our Schools Coalition”

This is a historic week in education reform in our state and across the nation.

The Obama administration recently announced that Delaware and Tennessee won hundreds of millions of dollars in the first round of Race to the Top funds. Combined, these states were awarded $600 million, which leaves $3.75 billion for Round 2.

This announcement shows that the Obama Administration is serious about rewarding states that take bold actions necessary to reform their school systems. Both states submitted applications that had comprehensive, statewide plans positively impacting all students with wide support from their respective unions and school boards. In return, Delaware and Tennessee will receive significant funding from the federal government to help increase student learning and close achievement and opportunity gaps.

Several months ago, Washington was not in a good position to apply for Race to the Top funding. But this past Monday, Governor Gregoire signed into law education reform legislation which gives Washington state a chance to secure Round 2 Race to the Top money.

Now that the legislation has become law, the real work begins. School districts across the state will now have a chance to sign on as partners with the state, and we have only a few weeks to put together a strong Race to the Top application that will be our blueprint for student success in the future.

Here in Seattle, the Alliance has convened the “Our Schools Coalition.” This coalition is a natural extension of the work the Alliance has been doing on teacher quality for some time now. This coalition is broadly representative of parents, students, local employers, and the community at large, and as such is reflective of the Seattle Public Schools District constituency in these negotiations. Many of these representatives had constituents attending teacher quality forums over the past month. From these forums and from teacher focus groups, the coalition formed based on the following core principles:

  • A strong teacher corps is the most valuable asset within any school system;
  • Teachers are respected as individuals, professionals, and community leaders, and
  • With professionalism comes the acceptance of responsibility for results

The Alliance is in a unique position to leverage relationships with SPS to move this dialogue forward.

All eyes are on Seattle as this is the first teacher contract negotiations taking place since the signing of the Race to the Top legislation. And not only is it the first negotiation, it’s happening in the largest school district in the state.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Coalition.

Mark Yango, Director of Communications, AFE

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Teacher Quality Town Hall

Studies show that an effective teacher is the most important school-based factor in raising student achievement.

Join us for a Teacher Quality Town Hall on Tuesday, April 20th at South Lake High School, as we seek to support students and teachers in our school district. The event starts promptly at 6:30pm. Dinner, childcare, and language interpretation will be provided. You can register online Here or contact Rachel Hug at 206.205.0322 and for more information.

A flyer for the event is also attached for your convenience Flyer. We look forward to seeing you there!

-Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community Members are Weighing in on Teacher Quality

As many of you know, we recently conducted seven community meetings on teacher quality. I would first like to thank the following organizations for their incredible support and participation:

· 37th Legislative District
· El Centro de la Raza
· Coalition for Equal Education Rights (CEER)
· Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle
· Cleveland High School
· Successful Schools in Action/McClure Middle School
· University of Washington College of Education

I also must express my sincere gratitude for the wonderful facilitators of these conversations:

Kevin Boyce (Alliance for Education), Sylvester Cann (Central Area Motivation Program), Caroline Maillard (Seattle Foundation), Ian Smith (Hitachi Consulting), Jessica Jones (Seattle City Club), Liz Peterson (UW College of Education), Alma Villegas (Stand for Children), Gregory Davis (Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition), Liz Vivian (Boeing), and Lisa Moore (Successful Schools in Action).

These conversations were filled with voices from parents, students, teachers, community based organizations, education advocates, and Seattle Public School Board Directors. One thing is clear from our participants: teacher quality is a key factor in student academic success.

Community conversations displayed passion and concern on several issues. Below are some key themes and comments that came out of these discussions:

Professional Development and Support
· “Teaching is like high-quality professional work; you need time to get really good at what you do.”
· “We need to explore what sort of ongoing [professional] development we can offer that is relevant. We must figure out what teachers want to learn and what skills they want to gain.”
· “Teachers need to be ready to teach when they are assigned to a school – not just ready to get paid.”
· “We need a system that creates more advocates for children that come from poor and disadvantaged families. “
· “We need passion and talent for teaching. Some teachers are hired because they have the necessary degrees, yet I believe that teachers need to have the ability to work well with all students.”

Accountability and Evaluation
· “We can’t just blame the teachers; it is the way the system is set-up. We need to have more accountability for our kids and our teachers. “
· “Leadership at the district must make sure that quality in education is happening”
· "If teachers are evaluated only once a year, the students who are falling behind slip through the cracks. Evaluations need to occur more often. We recommend at least once a month. That way we can be sure that our children are learning.”

Tenure and Seniority
· “We believe that teachers should be evaluated not just on tenure but also by other teachers, parents, students. We should be able to participate in the process.”
· “Qualifications (teachers’ performance) should come before seniority when making work force reduction decisions. I don’t think tenure should be the only factor in determining work force reductions. Sometimes the younger teachers are more energetic and it is better for them to replace the more senior teachers that are worn out. “

What is captured here is only a glimpse of the richness in our dialogue. Participants were truly engaged, primed, and ready to have the discussion, even if they did not completely agree with the recommendations of the NCTQ report or one another. This is a necessary conversation for the benefit of our students and teaching professionals.

I strongly encourage you to attend our final community meeting with the African American Parent Action Team on Tuesday, April 13th at 6:30pm. The meeting will be located at Rainier Beach Community Center and will be hosted by Dawn Bennett of the League of Education Voters (LEV).

Also, please RSVP for our Teacher Quality Town Hall, scheduled for Tuesday April 20th at South Lake High School, CLICK HERE. We are currently summarizing all community feedback in a final document and are focused on relaying that information to the public and school district partners during this event.

Please join us for this vital conversation!

-Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teacher Quality Dialogues – Part II

On Wednesday, March 10th, the Alliance for Education facilitated a community conversation on teacher quality with the Coalition for Equal Education Rights (CEER). We were joined by Dr. Susan Enfield, Chief Academic Officer of the Seattle Public Schools District. The meeting began with remarks from Dr. Enfield around the school district’s commitment and responsibility to strengthening teachers in every classroom. Her commments were thoughtful and candid, as she made the following statement:

“We are in an unprecedented time of opportunity in public education, both at the national and local level. Teachers, principals, district leaders, families and community stakeholders are engaged in conversations about how we provide high quality teaching and learning, and high quality leadership in all of our schools. Research tells us that while incentives matter, it takes more than money to create a system that attracts and retains the best people. We need to transform the teaching profession in Seattle by creating accountability mechanisms to ensure performance while also supporting teachers through meaningful professional growth and career advancement opportunities that honor the work they do. At the core of this effort, however, is what our students need and deserve--which is the very best we can give them.”

Below, are key responses from our participants during the meeting:

Transfer and Assignment – Transfer and Layoffs
· Reward for good teachers shouldn’t be based on super-seniority.
· Seniority creates hostile environment between teachers and school administration.
· The School District should prioritize the “learner” and not the “teacher” (a school is a place for students to learn, not a career for teachers. Students should be first priority)
· Success rate as a teacher should depend on how many students are served
· Train veteran teachers so they can compete with the younger teachers who are coming out of college or just entering the profession with new tools to increase student learning.
· A problem is that teachers with good progressive ideas get outcast by experienced teachers in the system for bringing new ideas to the table. New teachers end up not having a strong support group.

Developing Effective Teachers – Evaluation
· The district has as much responsibility for students learning as teachers do. It’s not all on the teachers. Teachers can’t be blamed for a system that doesn’t provide them the best opportunity to teach.
· Set priorities for teaching at a system level, and the proper resources should be made available to support these priorities.
· Lowest performing students can’t have lowest performing teachers.
· Maybe businesses should have a voice in the process of evaluating teachers, they provide a new perspective of what’s needed of graduates in the business world and how the teachers can teach to some of those “soft” skills.

Participants’ Top Recommendations to Improve Teacher Quality
· Human capital is important. And leadership. Get the best leaders to be teachers
· Create an atmosphere where teachers are partners in the process
· Connect the dots and understand what resources are available around education. Non-profits, community groups, businesses... those are all good places to coordinate resources with.
· Recruitment, recognition and reward. Help district treat teachers as professionals. Take lessons from private sector when it comes to rewarding employees.
· Know what best educational practice is and train to it. This differs by demographics.
· Change union’s opinion of what a professional teacher is.
· Teachers suffer from a linear and directed curriculum. The current system doesn’t allow for much flexibility. All kids don’t learn the same. Also, help teachers better interact with families and build those relationships. Train teachers in family relationships
· Teachers should have residency period like doctors to prove they are capable and effective. Similar to the Teach for America model.

I’m sure that participants found this conversation very refreshing and informative as we occupied the board room of the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) office in the Central District. I was particularly moved by the idea of adopting professional development models from the private sector that may enhance support for teachers.

This meeting was the third of four events hosted last week by other partners including the 37th Legislative District, El Centro de la Raza, and the Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle. There are more to come over the next couple of weeks. I invite you to share your thoughts on this post or consider joining us for one of the upcoming community meetings, CLICK HERE . We would greatly appreciate your voice in the conversation.

Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager

Monday, March 15, 2010

Garfield High School Principal Ted Howard II Receives Foster Award for Outstanding Leadership

Today, the Superintendent and I had the privilege of presenting Ted Howard II, principal of Garfield High School, with the Thomas B. Foster Award for Principal Excellence. This award, now in its 8th year, recognizes excellence in leadership at a middle, K-8 or high school in Seattle. Recipient selection is based on a combination of student achievement data, staff and student climate surveys, innovation in educational and administrative techniques, and prudent & creative use of resources. The recognition carries a $50,000 cash award, to be spent by the principal on behalf of the school in whichever way he or she sees fit.

Several members of Ted’s family, along with School Board members and District & Alliance staff joined the surprise “prize patrol” and had the fun of presenting him with the award and a $50,000 check at an all-school assembly in Garfield’s gymnaisum.

What a great way to spend part of the day. Congratulations again to Ted, for demonstrating great leadership and persistence, and to the generosity of the Foster family for endowing this award and entrusting the Alliance with its oversight.

- Sara Morris, AFE

Friday, March 12, 2010

Launch of the Washington State College Access Network (WCAN)

This past Tuesday, the Washington State College Access Network (WCAN) was launched. Over 280 college access practitioners across the state and from other regions such as California, Idaho, and Arizona were in attendance. Most would agree that the launch was a success. WCAN is part of the National College Access Network (NCAN), an organization that grew out of the informal networking of people who were involved in the burgeoning field of college access. There are several varieties of college access programs, but all spend their resources, both financial and human, to help motivated, academically capable, low-income young people enroll in and graduate from college. In addition to Washington State, there are 15 states that have their own network.

WCAN strives to improve access to and preparation for higher education through a network of organizations, agencies, and institutions that collaborate to promote the use of best practices, leverage training, and support public policies ensuring the success of each student. Lee Lambert is the director of the Washington College Access Network and a member of College Success Foundation. He should be commended for organizing such a well attended and enthusiastic conference.

As the program manager for the Seattle College Access Network (SCAN), it was great to see many of the providers working together in a larger network and to see the relationships being forged to advance the cause of College Access.

Throughout the day, sessions focused on student access, the importance and impact of data, developing networks to build capacity, and policy and advocacy. However the highlight of the day was the student panelists. During lunch, a group of students and graduates from colleges throughout Washington State spoke about the challenges and supports they encountered in trying to go to college. A few of the young women were brought to tears as they explained the enormous challenges they face—and still face—in getting into college and staying there. Challenges such as poverty, gang violence, and other harsh circumstances make it tough for these students, but some, such as these fantastic students, have persevered and ultimately thrived. However, all too often these students are the exception and not the norm.

We as college access practitioners must continue to come together in venues like this to give all children the opportunity to go to college.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Teacher Quality Discussions – Part 1

On Monday night, the Alliance for Education and the 37th Legislative District engaged in an open dialogue about teacher quality. We were joined by Seattle Public Schools Board Directors Harium Martin-Morris, Betty Patu, and Steve Sundquist. This event was the launch of a series of community-wide conversations focused on strengthening teachers in every classroom.

The discussion began with all participants indentifying their top priority for improving teacher quality. We then discussed a variety of topics around the distribution of teacher talent, hiring, and evaluation.

Some of the key talking points and recommendations from our participants included:

More Resources for Teachers
· Great teachers are stressed. We [teachers] have a lot of issues to deal with. We need to explore how to address the underlying causes of the stress.
· Teachers are stretched too thin. Overwhelmed and need more assistance. More pay is a good start, but they need other incentives.
· Curriculum and Resources – we need more thoughtful curriculum, and also time to prep deeply into lessons.
· Consider performance pay for student growth and performance.
· Implement quality professional development which provides support for strong teaching

Attracting Innovative Talent

· Recruit teachers who are leaders, particularly for underperforming schools
· Ensure teachers value each child as a unique individual. All students should be on track to succeed.
· Support teachers who can apply different teaching styles. They must provide innovation in the classroom.
· Put increased focus on teacher preparation programs – methods taught at universities. Teaching prep needs support solid classroom management skills.
· Many teacher prep programs prepare teachers to work in suburban classrooms. Need support and learning for teaching in urban areas.
· Place the best principals in troubled schools.

Strengthening Accountability
· Strengthen accountability for teachers and principals effectiveness; need clear accountability for principal evaluations.
· Determine if it’s possible to know that student learning is occurring. It’s hard to measure, but we can’t continually teach to the test. Learning must be based on other factors.

This was an intimate and rich discussion that only scratched the surface of a much larger and significant debate. We invite you to share your thoughts on our blog and join us for upcoming meetings in your area. CLICK HERE to find dates and times for additional meetings. Join the conversation!

-Solynn McCurdy, Community Engagement Manager

Monday, March 1, 2010

Greeting from new Alliance President & CEO, Sara Morris

Greetings! It is a true privilege to take the helm of the Alliance today. I look forward to collaborating with leaders and advocates across the city to continue the drive for meaningful increases in student achievement in Seattle Public Schools.

This is an exciting time in education, both nationally and locally. It is my hope that Seattle can emerge as a national model for success. With the talent and resources our community has to offer, we are a city better positioned than most. Through an openness to innovation, a willingness to speak frankly, and a dedication to crafting solutions rather than merely critiques, we can make major advancements. If we hold high expectations not only of the students we serve, but also of ourselves as teachers, administrators and leaders, we will have a district that provides every child with the tools and knowledge needed to thrive.

Seattle boasts a large and active community of education advocates; every city should be so lucky. From time to time there may be honest disagreements about how to solve certain problems. But a core belief in the transformative power of a quality education - and the fundamental role public education plays in a healthy, functioning democracy - unites us.

I know first-hand that urban public schools can be high-performing schools; my children are in one. As a parent with kids in the system, I look forward to connecting the dots between policy decisions and grassroots reality. I am honored to join you, and look forward to the conversations that follow.

Sara Morris, AFE

Monday, February 22, 2010

Geoffrey Canada

On Tuesday, February 9th community members packed Kane Hall at the University of Washington to hear a provocative lecture by Geoffrey Canada. Since 1990, Mr. Canada has been the President and Chief Executive Officer for Harlem Children's Zone, which The New York Times Magazine called "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time." In October 2005, Mr. Canada was named one of "America's Best Leaders" by U.S. News and World Report. Over the years, the agency introduced several ground-breaking efforts: in 2000, The Baby College® parenting workshops; in 2001, the Harlem Gems® pre-school program; also in 2001, the HCZ Asthma Initiative, which teaches families to better manage the disease; in 2004, the Promise Academy, a high-quality public charter school; and in 2006, an obesity program to help children stay healthy.

His speech was filled with alarming statistics on the state of America’s education system, thoughtful personal stories, proven success, and inspiring recommendations. Below are a few of Mr. Canada's key points:

· If we are going to save our kids, we (the community) have to do it. We can’t wait for our education and government leaders.
· Start early with supports for our students and families – cradle to college.
· We must weave the safety net so tight, that our students cannot fall through the cracks.
· College education should be the benchmark. I have never met a wealthy or successful person who did not value higher education.
· Schools have to be redesigned for success. They are currently designed for the negative results that are getting.
· We have not allowed innovation to take root in education. We have allowed for innovation in other fields such as technology. But If we are going to dramatically affect student success; we must continue to think “outside of the box” and allow for innovation inside and outside the classroom.
· Changing the model of education will cost more money, teachers will have to work harder, and all adults will have to be responsible for student learning. Communities are part of the equation.
· Evaluation has to be a tool that drives student performance.
· Hope [in education] is as infectious as despair.

I think it is safe to say that the majority of attendees left the lecture inspired, renewed, and determined to be bold as we all work toward improving our educational system.

For more information on Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone, please go to

-Solynn McCurdy, AFE

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alliance for Education announces Sara Morris as new President & CEO

We are excited to share with you that Sara Morris will be the next President and CEO of the Alliance for Education, beginning on March 1, 2010. Sara has been serving as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for OVP Venture Partners.

Sara has a passion for the issues and brings a diverse set of skills to the Alliance from the private and public sectors. We considered many qualified candidates during the search for our organization’s new CEO, but Sara is well positioned to serve as a bridge between private donors and the school district. Equally important, she will continue our work in building a great relationship with Seattle Public Schools and the broader community.

Morris spent 17 years in marketing and communications. She served as a communications aide in the Clinton administration, as Group Marketing Manager at, and Executive Director of Technet Northwest. As an independent consultant for Seattle Public Schools, Morris led large-scale, interdisciplinary projects that moved diverse groups of people toward common objectives. Morris also serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Technology Access Foundation and was named one of Seattle’s “40 under 40” by the Puget Sound Business Journal in 2003.

In her previous work at Seattle Public Schools, Sara served as a strategic advisor to then Superintendant Raj Manhas, and Staff Director to a 14-member commission. Her work led to sweeping reform recommendations aimed at improving academic achievement and reaching fiscal sustainability throughout the system.

Sara has three children, two who are currently attending West Woodland Elementary.

With Sara at the helm, the Alliance looks forward to continuing our work in ensuring that every child in Seattle Public Schools achieve academic success.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Seattle College Access Network (SCAN) Retreat

This past Friday, February 5th, SCAN held its first planning retreat where we discussed our collective agreement on the purpose of the network and started setting clear accountability protocols for priorities in 2010 and beyond. As a reminder, SCAN’s purpose is to increase the college–readiness of students among low income, first-generation, and students of color populations, our target population. The goal of our work is to increase the number of students in these populations who apply for, attend, and graduate from college.

SCAN is a coalition of existing college access providers, including community based organizations, Seattle Public Schools (SPS), funders, and advocacy groups. This coalition is currently building a framework to enable regional groups to connect with each other in order to share best practices, provide college access training, and facilitate a forum for understanding key policy issues that affect college access.

During our retreat, we discussed high priority network tasks and activities critical to member success and we reviewed a draft network agreement and decided how to advance its development.

In a nutshell, we started putting some teeth and claws into our membership duties and agreements. SCAN has grown from seven organizations and 14 members to 20 organizations and 40 members. In addition to the aforementioned groups listed above, we were excited have an active student, teacher, and counselor presence in the dialogue. They’re input is critical to the success of our network since they are in the frontlines of all the college readiness work. We are thrilled to have them at the table.

Throughout our retreat, Paul Vandeventer, author of Networks that Work, provided us with a structure to create and sustain an optimal network. We started breaking down our goals and priorities into four distinct subcommittees:
  • Student access
  • Policy and advocacy
  • Research and data development and
  • Governance
We started laying the foundation for our work and it is clear that there are significant challenges ahead. But it is also evident that all participants in the network appeared excited, engaged, and committed to the work of helping our target populations become college-ready. We realize challenges and conflicts will arise but we are off to an amazing start with all members on the same page. We’ll keep the ball moving forward.

Stay tuned …

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Teacher Focus Groups

This week the Alliance conducted teacher focus groups. As you likely know, we've been participating in a conversation about how to best ensure a strong teacher in every classroom.

The purpose of this effort was to to hear what teachers are experiencing in the classroom, and collect feedback and responses to the larger teacher quality discussion. As a parent, I hear pieces of it, but getting to the big picture requires hearing different perspectives from teachers across the district.

We are just starting to analyze the information, but a few things are clear. There is no single voice for how teachers feel about particular issues. The priorities vary. The experiences vary. There appears to be a deep desire to do the work in a respected and autonomous way. These are perspectives that should be heard as we look for solutions in serving all students.

We will share the results of these focus groups with the public in the near future.

In all of our areas of work, we are finding that the more we can collaborate in our search for solutions, the greater the potential impact. I look forward to seeing how these voices can contribute to the larger conversation.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Rainier Beach Coalition Town Hall

Last night, community residents of the Rainier Beach area packed Southlake High School for the annual Town Hall. This event was hosted by the Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition. Under the leadership of Mr. Gregory Davis, a local resident, the coalition has been instrumental in strengthening a sense of community and advocacy throughout the neighborhood.

The evening was filled with food, a dynamic arts presentation, awards ceremony, outlining of Coalition priorities and project activities, and facilitated breakout groups. Special guests included Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith, City Councilmember Sally Clark, and Seattle School Board Director Betty Patu, along with over a hundred youth and families.

I had the distinct pleasure of facilitating the education breakout session in partnership with Dawn Bennett, African American Family and Community Engagement Liaison for Seattle Public Schools. Our group included current Rainier Beach High School students, community based organizations, educators, parents, and senior citizens. During this rich dialogue, we explored timely issues such as the South East Initiative, strategies to increase accountability for academic achievement, early education, mentoring, environmental education, and civic engagement.

It was truly inspiring to hear the thoughtful concerns and ideas of our youth and community advocates. They clearly identified a vision and need for quality education in the southeast community. There are some elements of great programs and practice, but more consistent resources are needed across all schools. Our participants addressed key issues such as teacher quality and the need for schools to become the hub of our community; a place that provides full academic and social support for students. The principal of Rainier Beach High School, Dr. Robert Gary, specifically stressed the need for the community to mobilize around our schools and for all residents to play an active role in the support of our students, staff, and families.

Other breakout sessions explored issues of public safety, transportation, environment, economic development, and youth and families.

It is clear that great community building is happening in the southeast, but we all have a responsibility to contribute to the success of this prosperous neighborhood.

For more information on the RB Coalition, please click on the attached link

-Solynn McCurdy, AFE

Friday, January 22, 2010

Reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Given that this past Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and from all the scenes we have seen in the wake of the tragedy in Haiti, I think it is worth mentioning some thoughts around the Alliance’s programs in the context of social justice and equity. All of our programs, whether it be continuing our work in community schools and community engagement, increasing college access and readiness for all students, ensuring the quality of all teachers in Seattle Public Schools, or our educational investments, have a significant impact on those students that are economically and socially disadvantaged. In much of our work, and in many of the grants we manage, our target population includes students of color and low-income communities.

We at the Alliance believe education is a fundamental right for each child in our community. At our recent Board meeting this past Tuesday, Dr. Goodloe- Johnson and Seattle Board President Michael Debell talked about the school district’s and state’s significant budget shortfall in light of the grim economic landscape we face. It is no secret that we are in tough financial times, but those who bear the worst of the impact will not have the necessary resources or skills to compete in our new economic landscape.

That is why the Alliance and the entire community need to redouble our efforts to help the school district adequately serve these communities. Whether it is providing more resources to counselors to help students get into college, or continuing a much needed discussion on teacher quality, or helping raising more money for the District so that it will ease some of the painful cuts they have to make; these efforts will go a long way in helping students excel toward a pathway of opportunity.

As Dr. King said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” Isn’t that the type of education we would like to impart on all children in the District?

- Mark Yango, AFE

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Community Schools Work

Here's a quick update on our work.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we are working with community partners and SPS staff to explore the potential of a Community Schools initiative here in Seattle. There are already two schools within SPS that are recipients of a federal grant to implement a community schools model, and the leaders of those programs are closely involved in our work of looking at this on a larger scale.

I mentioned previously how many resources we have in our city, and although there are some exceptions, most are not delivered in a coordinated structure. Last year we did an initial piece of work, identifying approximately 300 providers. We surveyed those and about 50% responded and shared where they are in schools across Seattle. The results of that survey were not comprehensive, but showed a lot of resources for students. You can find that information here:

We are building on that previous work and have now identified upwards of 500 potential service providers for students in SPS. A new survey has gone out and we will follow up in a variety of ways to put together as comprehensive of a picture as we can.

Over the next couple months we'll share this on our Web site and through community partners. Stay tuned...


Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 - The year to come

Happy New Year!

As we leave behind the first decade of the 21st Century it's a great time to reflect and think big about what lies ahead.

The end of this first decade came much faster than I anticipated. I wonder how we would score ourselves over the past decade? Let me know what you think, but I feel as if we've been caught at the end of the race without really reaching our full running potential.

In some ways we've done very well, and in other areas we've struggled. And in education you can see examples of how we've done both. We can easily find challenges we have not met, such as the achievement gap. And we can also find great examples of where classrooms across the city are building a love of learning in their students.

So how do we keep moving in the direction of all students succeeding? At the Alliance we are continuing along a path that we've carved out over the past few years which prioritizes working on sustainable programs that will result in equitable support for all students in all schools (equitable does not mean "the same").

Our programs include community schools, teaching quality, college access and success, and engaging all communities in support of students. Our work in these areas is progressing steadily, and we are enjoying the potential that we see in our work, and the work of many other individuals and organizations.

For the community schools initiative we are currently working on two areas of research and outreach. Primarily we are working to get a handle on what services exist for students in Seattle Public Schools, and find out where they are located. Last year we conducted a survey of community based organizations, sending to roughly 300 organizations. We received 147 responses, giving the first real glimpse at what organizations are serving students in our schools. This next level of research adds additional organizations to the original list, and updates the information through a variety of channels including survey, school information, and outreach to the organizations.

This work will also feed into the college access initiative as we better understand the resources available to students. There are many programs providing mentoring, financial assistance, course planning and other support to keep kids on track to be able to choose whichever post-secondary educational opportunities they desire.

Education is an incredibly complex topic. Let's start with the fact that we're dealing with children, the single most important thing in a parent or family's life. And let's compound that by the fact that most of us have been through school with widely varying experiences. Those two things alone make it difficult to start a conversation from the same place. Then add a lot of economic and racial diversity, and we've got a complex mix of ideology, culture, opinion, and reality.

But the bottom line is, we all care about the kids. Let's start the New Year in that place, thinking about what we share. Happy New Year to you all and I look forward to working with you in the coming year.


(Isn't it amazing to think that there are young people out there who have no idea what Y2K means?)