Goals for the Lake Washington School District School Board
Focus on academics especially the math curriculum for all elementary school students.
Move high school start times to 8:45 - 9:00 AM and elementary start times to 8:00 - 8:30 AM.
Identify students who are falling behind and initiate early intervention and evaluation for Special Education programs.
Our elementary teachers must be proficient at teaching many subjects to their students including reading, writing, spelling, math and science. They have many subjects to teach during the school day and do an excellent job. As a board member, my goal is to enhance the elementary math curriculum to help teachers provide greater options for students to practice their math skills and to learn core concepts. Beginning with exercises to drill students on addition and subtraction that are designed to show students how to think (for example: 8+6 can be thought of as 8+2+4), the district can build an on-line library of files that can be accessed by students, parents and educators.
More complex concepts can be introduced with corresponding practice assignments for students as they progress. Our students need to become fluent in converting between fractions, decimals and percents and must learn to internally visualize the concepts. I believe that ALL students can comprehend the fundamental math concepts, but it takes time, it takes a teacher or para-educator monitoring the student's progress, and it takes practice.
The Seattle School District moved its high school start times nearly an hour later in 2017. University of Washington researchers put wrist sensors on high school students to track their sleep patterns before and after the start times were changed. What they found was that high school students got an extra 34 minutes of sleep per night and their grades improved!
The Lake Washington School District convened its own School Start Time Advisory Task Force in 2017 with the intent of changing the starting times for high school students to coincide with their internal clocks. The group initially considered start times between 8:00 am and 9:10 am. They used the Hanover Research report "Impact of School Start Time on Student Learning" that showed that high school and also middle school students benefited from later start times. The report also noted that elementary students are awake and focused at 7:00 am so moving start times earlier is not detrimental; however, elementary students who start school at 9:30 am have missed the productive 8:00 - 9:30 am learning window when they are most alert and ready to learn.
At the same time that the School Start Time Advisory Task Force was meeting, another task force in the District, the College and Career Readiness Task Force decided to add a 7th period to the school day in order to give high school students additional opportunities to earn 24 credits required for graduation (up from 22 credits.) They also decided to extend the high school day by 20 minutes.
Despite evidence that high school students would benefit from later start times and overwhelming community support for later high school start times, the School Start Time Task Force "recommended" keeping the high school start time at 7:30 am and changing the start times for elementary schools. Beginning in 2018-2019 all elementary school start times were moved 30 minutes later to 9:00 am and 9:30 am.
The School Start Time Advisory Task Force's mission to move high school start times later in the morning was nullified and superseded by the College and Career Readiness Task Force's plan to add a 7th period and 20 additional minutes to the high school schedule. The negative impact on elementary students and their families so that high school students could have the benefit of an extended day is unacceptable. The school board approved this decision and the current superintendent chose not to change the policy for 2019-2020.
Parents send their children to school with expectations that the schools will know how to provide a great education and that their children will learn to the best of their abilities. For many families, students learn quickly by following the teachers' instructions and lessons in all areas being taught.
During the school year, some students start to fall behind for a variety of reasons including failing to pay attention or missed class time because of illness. For some students, issues with learning are due to behavioral issues or neurological problems that impair information processing.
Parents may notice that their students are confused or are having trouble with their lessons and want to find out how to get help and advice. Parents who contact their child's teacher or principal, or access the district's website are met with terms and acronyms that are confusing. IEP, 504, IDEA, BCBA, ABA, LEA, LRE, SNAPS and other combinations of letters are routinely used. Finding an answer to the question, "How can we help my student learn?" is baffling for most parents.
The Lake Washington School District needs to create documentation that clearly explains what services students are entitled to, laws surrounding the District's obligation to each student, how each student's needs are being evaluated and addressed, and most importantly, how parents can contact the school to advocate for or inquire about the issues that their students may have and whether the student has been referred to a specific program. Documentation must be available in both paper format at the school and also easily accessible on the district's website.
Additionally, teachers and principals must be involved in the process. They must feel empowered to refer their students for additional services and receive appropriate help from therapists, para-educators and counselors.
Students in Special Education programs must be educated in the regular classroom, also known as Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). The District's practice of using the Learning Centers as group containment rooms for SPED students for long periods of time must end.
In the District's F-195 Draft Budget for 2019-2020, the General Fund Summary shows that the Special Education Instruction expenditure will be $62,033,890 for 2019-2020. Board and superintendent oversight needs to be implemented to figure out how so much money is spent with so few students being served.
See page 4/151 at https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1561473351/lwsdorg/w0gc0lrvz29j1qctmpyy/1920LWSDDraftBudgetF195.pdf for the Special Education Instruction expenditure.
The Superintendent is responsible for creating a plan for implementing the Multi-Tier System of Support and also providing Special Education Services to all eligible students starting at the elementary school level. The school board must hold her accountable for the progress of the plan and ask for updates every month. If progress is not being made, the school board members must make it clear that providing educational programs that address the needs of all students is the top priority.