Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Testimony - changes to required action for schools

PRO - HB 1177 - Modifying the education accountability system to allow state criteria, resources, and strategies to be used for assistance and intervention.

Testimony to House Education Committee

Good afternoon Chairwoman Santos and committee members,

Washington State PTA’s top priority is to continue to improve basic education by implementing and building on the reforms started in 2009 and 2010. This bill does just that.

In the last 2 years, much attention has been given to the federal turnaround models, less to the instructional audit and partnerships that successful turnaround requires.

Intervention must be a joint effort of state and local entities and include the people most affected – the students and their families – in every step. Washington State PTA supports the required action (and especially the audit component) of 2010’s Senate Bill 6696. This update reaffirms that component. We also thank you for adding non-Title I schools.

One change we would suggest:
The bill repeatedly references mathematics and reading; mathematics and English language arts would better reflect the new learning standards adopted by Washington. If we are going to prepare children for work, ongoing study and citizenship then they need to communicate, not just read. Any turnaround model needs to fully support our learning standards, and those include writing and presentation skills.

It’s an important distinction and one that carries forward to school reform. Communication goes two ways. Just being informed doesn’t cut it. The neighbors and families of struggling schools need to be brought into the civic process and truly engaged and empowered. Failure to partner is brought up repeatedly by groups most affected by the achievement gaps.

2010’s reform bill provided for an audit and community participation in drafting the intervention plan. It created a structure that required all the parties to acknowledge the school wasn’t working and together turn it around. Everyone had to pause and consider what they needed to do individually and collectively to meet the unique and demanding needs of the students.

That is empowering. That is change.

Thank you for updating and continuing this essential reform.
-- Ramona Hattendorf, WSPTA government relations coordinator

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