Flexibility in exchange for accountability at Kent’s iGrad Academy

iGrad Academy Principal Carol Cleveland
iGrad Academy Principal Carol Cleveland

Kent School District’s iGrad Academy is a program unlike any other in the district. Comprised of six pathways, students choose from a range of opportunities.  They can earn a high school diploma or two-year AA degree as iGrad fosters unique plans for individual students that did not find educational success at their previous school. iGrad offers what Principal Carol Cleveland calls a 1418 program, which follows a nontraditional calendar year, nontraditional instructional hours, a lower teacher-to-student ratio, a lower counselor-to-student ratio, and commits to addressing the needs of the whole child.  These unique elements are what make iGrad one of a kind.

As a young girl, Principal Cleveland dreamed of becoming a doctor but education ran in the family. After substitute teaching in Georgia, she witnessed a lack of adequate attention given to students with special learning needs. These students were being directed down a path that would ultimately create a larger achievement gap. It was this experience that made her realize the education system needed her help.

Determined to influence educational policy, decision making, and progress for students like those with special needs, Cleveland began working tirelessly. In 2012, such determination brought her to her position today as the leader and principal of iGrad Academy.

As an advocate for specialized education systems, Cleveland is passionate about the iGrad program and curriculum. The basic principle of the program, she says, is to grant young learners and educators the flexibility to think and operate outside of the box to ensure that students are college, career, and life ready. Such a foundation enables all those who attend, and teach, to have more freedom. The teachers at iGrad all believe that students can learn and experience academic, social, and personal success. Common belief in individual potential creates a strong bond between educator and student and contributes to the success of the program.

At iGrad, relationships are everything. Principal Cleveland goes out of her way to get to know every single student. By setting up monthly meetings with students, Cleveland takes a hands-on approach as school leader. She hears directly from participants in the program about what is and is not working. For students to reach their goals, Cleveland values listening to what they want and what they need. As a result, iGrad has seen exponential educational growth.

After several years at iGrad and tracking the progress of the program and its students, Principal Cleveland is thinking about the future. By working to strengthen relationships between middle schools and high schools, businesses and colleges, Cleveland hopes to expand opportunities to teach students how to apply what they are learning in the classroom to the real world. Students gain greater insight and create more options for themselves when they learn from business professionals which skills and abilities are desirable in employees.

Unfortunately, funding remains a challenge for the program. In addition to statewide inadequacies in support for public education, Open Door programs have different accountability measures and that can directly impact funding.   Even though students don’t always show academic progress in accordance with state timelines, Principal Cleveland and her staff believe that every student can learn. Many students have been given the tools needed to move forward in their educational pursuit by attending iGrad and Cleveland hopes the community will continue to support her efforts to increase the number of success stories.

Carol Cleveland’s medical career never took flight but she is healing broken dreams and changes hundreds of lives every day. Through her dedication to closing the opportunity gap and her success as the leader of iGrad Academy, she has created a pathway to success for many young adults who have struggled to find their own way. The League of Education Voters celebrates this amazing woman and her stellar program.

Caring, innovative, supportive, flexible, and successful – shouldn’t Carol Cleveland’s approach be basic education?

iGrad Academy is grateful for the support students receive from community members.  If you are interested in making a donation, iGrad is always in need of the following items:

School Supplies:  paper, pencils, pens, pee-chee style folders, spiral single-subject notebooks

Metro Bus tickets / Orca Cards: Help students get to and from school

Graduation Items: Gowns, Caps, Tassels

Toiletry items: for males and females, all ethnicities

New undergarments: for males and females

Gift Cards for achievement prizes: Starbucks, Fred Meyer, Target, etc…

One time need:

Female and Male mannequin (to dress in caps and gowns for inspiration)

Young Adult Books:

Many iGrad students love to read and the Academy is working to build a library of young adult books for them. If you’re interested in making a donation, there are lists of suggested titles and authors below:

King County Library System Teen Booklist:

http://www.kcls.org/teens/booklists/bibliocommonsBookList.cfm?booklist_id=209620665

Alex Award for Young Adult Fiction:

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/alex-awards

Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers:

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/quick-picks-reluctant-young-adult-readers

Other Specific Publishers:

Orca

Saddleback

Other Specific Authors:

Ellen Hopkins

Allison Van Diepen’s urban fiction

Other Specific Title:

Nickel Plated

If you prefer to donate cash:

If you prefer to donate cash, iGrad Academy has established a trust fund which is used to purchase items that will allow students to focus on their learning. In addition to the above items, the Trust Fund may purchase online access for a student without internet, required materials for a college class, or a change of clothing for a homeless student.  Please call 253.373.4723 to express interest.

#BeyondBasic

New Achievement Gap Report Generates Concerns

By the LEV Policy Team

Education Equality Index slide

The recently released Education Equality Index takes a look at the achievement gap in student performance between low-income students and the whole student population. The report assesses the gap in 35 states and 100 large cities across the country, including Tacoma, Spokane, and Seattle. No state fared well on the index. On a scale of ‘no gap’ to ‘massive gap,’ 9 states’ achievement gaps for low-income students rated ‘large’ while the remaining 26 states have ‘massive’ achievement gaps for low-income students.

The index compares the percentage of low-income students that score proficient on a state assessment to the percentage of the entire student population that scores proficient. A rating score is then determined based on this comparison.  The report authors also adjust scores “to more fairly compare schools [and states] serving a higher percentage of FRL [free and reduced lunch] students.” States with a larger low-income student population receive additional points because of the added ‘challenges’ that accompany serving low-income students. And while there are issues with comparing one student group to the whole student population, addressed here, there are larger philosophical concerns with adding points simply for enrolling large populations of low-income students.

Awarding points for having a large low-income student population sets different expectations for schools, cities, and states serving low-income students, and, ultimately, sets different expectations for the students themselves. While poverty is a challenge, we cannot claim that education is the great equalizer if we allow our systems to count different outcomes as success for different populations of students.

This report reaffirms that we have large and unacceptable achievement gaps for low-income students across the country. But it also highlights that we continue to develop measures that do not further our understanding of how to better serve those students. Adding extra points for the mere enrollment of low-income students does not push schools, cities, or states to better serve students. How do we devise a measurement that acknowledges some students will require more resources and supports, without lowering the bar for systems serving those students? How do we determine what schools, cities, and states are giving kids the extra push they need, celebrate them, and learn from them? How do we encourage systems to guide resources towards students that need them the most?

Supreme Court Leaves Kids in Limbo

The Washington State Supreme Court issued a devastating ruling late on Friday afternoon, prior to a 3-day weekend and after charter schools had already started their year, declaring the way the state funds public charter schools unconstitutional.

The ruling puts the immediate future of over 1200 students in jeopardy. In addition to public charter schools, the ruling may impact tribal compact schools, Running Start, and other programs that do not fit into the Court’s narrow view of what can be funded with education dollars. Many strategies aimed at addressing the state’s achievement and opportunity gaps are at risk.

The parents with children in these schools, and the advocates who support them, will continue to work to ensure these schools stay open now and into the future.

  • Teams of supporters are reviewing the Court ruling and preparing a legal response.
  • Options for keeping these schools open are being explored.
  • Advocates are asking the Governor and legislators to act immediately to rectify the situation.

You can help by contacting your legislator and asking them to support a technical fix to ensure public charter schools are funded and other investments aimed at closing gaps continue now and into the future.

Emphasizing an education continuum

In 2014, after eight long years of work, Washington state updated its high school graduation requirements. The League of Education Voters worked with partners and community members to pass this 24-credit College and Career Ready Diploma.

Now the work begins for many school districts in implementing the new diploma. However, a number of districts are ahead of the game, and some have been for many years.

West Valley High School logoOne such school district is West Valley, in the Yakima area. West Valley began requiring 24 credits for high school graduation beginning in the 2001–2002 school year, when they increased their English language and social studies requirements. The second phase of the transition to a College and Career Ready Diploma happened in the 2006–2007 school year, when the district increased their math and science requirements. In 2013, more than 80 percent of their seniors graduated from high school, and of those who graduated, 67 percent continued onto college. Read More

A smart, balanced approach for all students

Community and technical colleges throughout Washington, as well as the six public four-year institutions, are partnering to use students’ high school Smarter Balanced assessment scores in fall 2016 in lieu of their campus-based placement tests.

Students who score at levels 3 or 4 on their 11th grade Smarter Balanced assessments will be able to enroll directly in credit-bearing college courses. Students who score below those levels will be enrolled in newly designed “Bridge to College” courses that will quickly raise them to college-level readiness rather than taking remedial courses that effectively copy high school courses they have already taken. These new courses are being collaboratively designed and developed by higher education faculty, high school teachers, and curriculum specialists from around the state.

“The Smarter Balanced Assessments will give 11th graders a much-needed heads up on whether they’ll place into math and English language courses in college, or whether they’re headed toward remedial classes instead,” said Bill Moore, director of K–12 partnerships at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. “Students then have their senior year to either catch up or take even more advanced classes.” Read More

Back to school: The excitement, the disappointments, and the magic. (It’s ok to be nervous.)

By Emma Margraf

An empty classroomI have always loved September. I love the warmth of the end of summer, I love new backpacks and pencils and notebooks… I love the promise, and the hope and the possibility. As Jane gets new books for new classes I get excited and say, “Oh boy! YOU get to read THIS!” and she rolls her eyes.

But the reality of back-to-school time has never lived up to my expectations. So my hopes for Jane and the new school year might be a little misguided. Read More

All means all: Preparing all kids for the future

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we believe that all Washington students should have access to a high-quality public education that provides the opportunity for success. All means all. Our recent work to implement a rigorous high school diploma that prepares every student for college and career is a good step in the right direction. But as a recent guest blog post mentioned, 64 percent of foster kids in Washington do not graduate from high school in the first place.

That’s why we are thrilled to highlight the work of one of our partner organizations, Treehouse, which works to give every foster kid a childhood and a future. Continue reading for summaries of several Treehouse stories about preparing students for their future and for life beyond high school. Read More

Making the sky the limit

Making the sky the limit. (View from Spokane.)Rogers High School in northeast Spokane had a graduation rate of 50 percent in 2010. This year, the graduate rate was 85 percent, an increase of 35 percent in four years.

What changed between 2010 and 2014? Not the student body. Seventy-five percent of students at the high school are eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL). What DID change is how students prepare for high school and life after high school.

Rogers High School is in its sixth year of a Navigation 101 grant from College Spark Washington, and they have also implemented the AVID program in their school. Both Navigation 101 and AVID are programs designed to prepare students for college or career.

One aspect of both of those programs is the High School and Beyond Plan, used to help students chart a path through high school to achieve their post-high school career goals. The High School and Beyond Plan is also one part of the newly updated high school diploma for Washington, which was passed during the 2014 legislative session. The League of Education Voters is working with communities across the state to ensure that the implementation of the new diploma is as effective as possible.

So how did Rogers High School implement the High School and Beyond Plan successfully? Read More

A partnership across Washington

Rural Alliance for College Success logoThe Rural Alliance for College Success was recently awarded a three-year, $120,000 grant from College Spark Washington to reduce the number of students who require remedial math in college. Jerry Dyar is a guidance counselor in the Mary Walker School District in Spokane, and he has been a leader in the Rural Alliance partnership for the last four years.

The Rural Alliance is a collaboration among rural school districts in Eastern and Central Washington with a focus on college and career readiness for all students, as well as post-secondary program completion. It began as a collaboration between nine or ten districts in northeastern Washington in 2002 and grew from there.

The alliance is now made up of 51 school districts that have about 35,000 K–12 students between them. The majority of the districts in the alliance have very low-income students, with a population where more than 70 percent of students are free and reduced lunch-eligible (FRL). Forty percent are Latino, and 20–25 percent are English Language Learners (ELL). Jerry also estimates that 10-12 percent of all students live in homes with parents who are migrant workers. Read More

What a college and career ready high school diploma means

The field of Human Centered Design & Engineering is growing, and more than 80% of the program’s graduates are employed within 6 months of graduation. But Stephanie White, an undergraduate advisor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, says that even though the undergraduate program has been flooded with applications, a lot of the students who want to study engineering in her department can’t—they simply don’t have the prerequisites to qualify. “Many students find out their junior year of high school that they don’t have the prerequisites to study STEM in college—by then it’s too late to take the courses they need.”

Sadly, Stephanie’s experience isn’t unusual. Only 4 in 10 graduating seniors meet the basic admissions requirements to get into a public university in Washington. And nearly 60% of students who attend community or technical college must take remediation classes to get to those basic 4-year college admissions requirements. In other words, many students must pay tuition to learn what they should have been taught in public high school. Help us to change this for Washington students by signing a petition in support of a college and career ready diploma.

Read More