Home » Branches » DFER Washington

DFER Washington


From Our Blog

DREAMing Leads to REAL Hope
February 10, 2014

By Tania de Sa Campos, DFER-WA Deputy State Director

This week may signal a crucial turning point for undocumented students in Washington State. Following a long battle, legislators are poised to approve a measure that will bring the dream of college far closer to thousands of young people.

Since 2003, in-state tuition has been available to undocumented students who have lived in the state for at least three years. An important step, yes, but here’s the catch: undocumented students don’t currently have access to state financial aid and many can’t afford even in-state tuition. And as higher education costs continue to rise, the problem only magnifies. The fact is, a college degree can simply be unattainable for an undocumented student who does not have access to financial aid.

After being held up by state Senate Republicans since last year’s legislative session, a bill to extend eligibility for financial aid to undocumented students in the form of State Needs Grants got a name change-The REAL Hope Act-and five million dollars, and it could finally become law as early as this week. Whatever the name, Democrats for Education Reform strongly supports the initiative and urges our legislators to make this dream a reality.

However, we won’t be doing undocumented students, or any student for that matter, any favors if we don’t make sure that they’re ready for college in the first place, which is why it’s also crucial for the legislature to seize the opportunity this session to implement a true college and career ready diploma. Right now in Washington, too many students graduate from high school lacking the minimum requirements to attend a public university. In fact, fewer than half of our graduates meet those requirements, so it is somewhat unsurprising that as a state we rank 46th in the nation in sending our students to college. Let’s honor our DREAMers and all of the students in Washington by ensuring that they have a real path to college, and financial support when they get there.

Extending the promise of opportunity to young DREAMers is a no-brainer. Many have lived in the U.S. for nearly their entire lives and have only been educated in American schools. They, like every citizen, make up the fabric of our communities. They are American in every sense of the word—that is until they try to do what their friends, classmates, and neighbors do to move ahead, like applying for financial aid to college. The fact that college is out of reach for so many only underscores the arbitrary, unjust reality of what it means to be “undocumented.” It casts intelligent, hardworking students into perpetual limbo—and, frankly, that’s un-American.

Let’s take a crucial step for Washington by setting all of our students up for academic success and giving them the opportunity and encouragement to keep going—regardless of where they’re from.

Stay tuned.

Tania de Sá Campos joined DFER Washington (DFER-WA) in April 2013 as Deputy State Director. In her role, Tania engages with a growing constituency of active, reform-minded Democrats and works with partners and allies to position Washington state as a leader in the next evolution of the movement to give every child a great education. Read more about Tania here.




Washington’s New Charter Schools: Doing it Right
January 31, 2014

By Tania de Sá Campos, DFER-WA Deputy State Director

It was an exciting day in Washington yesterday—the state commission on charter schools approved seven proposals for new schools, which will begin to open as early as fall 2014. With the approval of Pride Prep in Spokane last week, this brings Washington’s total of new charters to eight. This is a huge accomplishment, given that just two weeks ago that number was zero—but it’s just the beginning of an exciting journey for the new school leaders and the children and families they will serve.

The commission was careful and deliberate in their review of each of the 19 proposals and the recommendations of the review teams, which reflects a statewide commitment to getting it right when it comes to charters. Ultimately, they chose not to follow the recommendation of the review teams in only one instance, approving SOAR Academy for Tacoma (after some pretty moving words from founding school director Kristina Bellamy-McClain) with conditions that must be met before the commission’s next meeting in February.

Some applications that weren’t approved in the end had received significant public support. This clearly demonstrates that families are looking for more options for their kids, and the commission acknowledged the stronger proposals and encouraged them to work on their applications and reapply in the future. Local organizations like WA Charters reminded applicants that they stand ready to support them throughout the process.

These new schools, with the blessings of the charter school commission and Washingtonians across the state, will soon begin changing things for the better for students and families who will benefit from more options, more accountability, and more opportunities. Washington’s doing it right—and that’s the most exciting thing.

Tania de Sá Campos joined DFER Washington (DFER-WA) in April 2013 as Deputy State Director. In her role, Tania engages with a growing constituency of active, reform-minded Democrats and works with partners and allies to position Washington state as a leader in the next evolution of the movement to give every child a great education. Read more about Tania here.




Democrats for Education Reform Commends Spokane School District for Approving Washington State’s First Charter School
January 24, 2014

Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Democrats for Education Reform Commends Spokane School District for Approving Washington State’s First Charter School

SPOKANE, Wa. - January 24, 2014 - Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) issued the following statement from Deputy Washington State Director Tania de Sá Campos congratulating the Spokane School Board and Spokane Public Schools on the approval of Washington State’s first charter school, Pride Prep.

“The Spokane school district has taken a critical, decisive step in improving the future of education for children here and in Washington State as a whole. We are very happy to see Spokane leading the way by bringing an exciting new option to its students, all of whom deserve to be challenged by the best educational practices and teaching methods in the country.

“It is no accident that it took until today to approve the state’s first charter school, even though voters approved a measure in 2012 to make Washington the 42nd state with a charter school system. Pride Prep and the other applicants went through a rigorous democratic approval process with a thorough public discourse to make sure all voices were heard and all options were considered. Pride Prep’s approval after a strong showing of support at the public forum is a testament to a united community committed to providing the very best for its students and future leaders.

“We are excited to follow Pride Prep’s progress as it works to open the first charter school in Washington and look forward to watching more communities and districts embrace the opportunity to expand educational options for families and offer new, high-quality public school options for our students. Congratulations to Spokane for being the first of many in the state to put Washington’s schoolchildren first.”

About Democrats for Education Reform

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a political reform organization with 13 state offices that cultivates and supports leaders in the Democratic party who champion America's public schoolchildren.

###




Washington Leads on Common Core, Smarter Balanced Assessments for Students
January 16, 2014

By Tania de Sá Campos, DFER-WA Deputy State Director

It’s easy to get lost in all the back-and-forth debates over the widespread implementation of Common Core State Standards and all that it represents. But maybe it’s not that complicated - especially not for Washingtonians.

In the end, these standards seek to raise the bar for what we teach our students in order to give them the best possible education. And they have broad public support in the state, all the way from Governor Jay Inslee to regular Washington voters. (80 percent of Washington voters supported Common Core, according to a 2013 survey.)

Washington is leading the nation in developing “Smarter Balanced” assessments aligned with Common Core that accurately measure student progress and prepare them for success in college, work, and life.

The standards and tests are both relatively new, so they are not yet perfect. That’s why developers are running field tests (despite some assertions to the contrary) both to make sure the assessments are fair and to give teachers and schools the opportunity to gauge their readiness ahead of the first “real” assessments in spring 2015.

We’ve seen a backlash against new types of testing here in Washington. Smarter Balanced assessments address those concerns head-on, moving beyond “fill in the bubble,” deemphasizing rote memorization, and bringing what we know about best teaching practices into the conversation.

In fact, thoughtful teachers are taking it upon themselves to try out the tests—like Kristin, who was initially overwhelmed by the idea of new standards but gave the Smarter Balanced Assessment a second chance and decided “Guess what? It’s a good test.”

Perhaps Nancy Pfaff, a Lake Washington School District teacher and Common Core supporter who won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Instruction, summed the ideas up best in a recent interview with the Seattle Times when she said, “We’re not only focusing on the content, we’re focusing on the thinking skills that go along with the content.”

Jeff Charbonneau, 2013 National Teacher of the Year, from Zillah, Washington has said that the Common Core State Standards “allow freedom for teachers to determine what the path is…as long as our students get to the same place.”

We’ve all heard the statistics; United States students are falling behind their international peers. The U.S. ranks 25th in math and 17th in science out of 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But there are sobering statistics from Washington state too. We rank 46th in the nation in sending our students on to higher education, which means in our knowledge-based economy, employers are forced to look outside of Washington to hire.

We need to do better in preparing our children for the future, and that means evolving our educational standards to take on the challenges of tomorrow’s biggest industries. That’s where the Common Core State Standards come in—as a state-sponsored national framework that establishes benchmarks for teachers and students, allowing for better teaching and learning methods nationwide. Washington says, “Onward with Common Core!”

Tania de Sá Campos joined DFER Washington (DFER-WA) in April 2013 as Deputy State Director. In her role, Tania engages with a growing constituency of active, reform-minded Democrats and works with partners and allies to position Washington state as a leader in the next evolution of the movement to give every child a great education. Read more about Tania here.




Public Forums for Charter School Applicants Begin Today
January 6, 2014

By Tania de Sá Campos, DFER-WA Deputy State Director

As Washington’s charter school authorizers continue the application review process to determine which public charter schools will be approved this year, they are offering a prime opportunity for Washingtonians to voice their opinions on those that applied in a series of public forums beginning tonight.

The Washington State Charter School Commission will host nine forums across the state during the month of January. These forums are part of the official evaluation process for applications. During the forums, applicants will have the chance to express their vision and community members will have the opportunity to express their support and concerns.

Charter applicants will be given 10 minutes to present their vision, then the floor will be open for 30 minutes of public comment. Community members who wish to comment publicly will be randomly selected in a lottery prior to the meeting.

Individuals or groups wishing to provide written comment may send their statements to the Washington State Charter School Commission, P.O. Box 40996 Olympia, WA 98504-0996. Comments may also be hand delivered to the public forums. Written comments are limited to one page (12 point font). 

The first public forum takes place today, January 6th, at the Spokane Public School Administration Building. (The complete schedule of forums is listed below.)

Separately, on January 15th the Spokane Public Schools School Board will hold a public forum for the three applications they received. 

These forums are the next step toward opening public charter schools in our state and we look forward to hearing the opinions of all in attendance. If you’re from Washington— or just happen to be in town this month— please come show your support for public charter schools in the Evergreen State! And, keep your eyes peeled for a subsequent blog post as we move forward with the authorization process.

Tania de Sá Campos joined DFER Washington (DFER-WA) in April 2013 as Deputy State Director. In her role, Tania engages with a growing constituency of active, reform-minded Democrats and works with partners and allies to position Washington state as a leader in the next evolution of the movement to give every child a great education. Read more about Tania here.




More from Our Blog