In June, Stand for Children is celebrating 20 years of advocacy, community engagement and electoral work that has positively impacted students across the nation. Here at Stand for Children Washington, we have nearly 10 years of standing with parents, students, legislators and community members to create better education outcomes for our children.
Our work in Washington started in 2007 with a small, but mighty team and a launch grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Stand for Children Washington staff channeled their drive and passion towards building a strong bipartisan coalition – linking up with other nonprofits, and connecting with legislators, school administration, families and students to advocate for an updated definition of Basic Education. Parents from Tacoma, East King County and even Spokane stood with us in Olympia. Together with a broad coalition we redefined Basic Education with the passage of ESHB 2261 during the 2009 legislative session. As a result of our coordinated efforts, Washington’s Basic Education now includes increased instructional hours, enhanced high school diploma requirements, a new transportation funding formula, and funding all-day kindergarten.
With Stand’s leadership, 2009 also witnessed the establishment of the Beginning Educator Support Team (BEST) − research-based educator mentoring program that invests in early career teachers by connecting them with carefully selected teacher mentors. Due in part to Stand’s advocacy for continued funding, BEST still serves our Washington teachers today, providing professional development and resources for our newly minted educators.
In 2010, we were part of a coalition championing a bipartisan compromise bill that improved our teacher and principal evaluations through updated criteria, a four-tier evaluation system (from a two-tiered system) for teachers and principals that included student academic growth as a minor factor. Phase-in of the new evaluation system began in 2013-14 and must be completed by the end of 2015-16.
Another high-water mark in our relatively brief history in Washington was our work in 2012 on Initiative 1240, to allow public charter schools in our state. This year marked the first year for Washington’s public charter schools, with over 1200 students opting for school choice at one of nine public charters. While our opponents are still fighting to undo the will of Washington’s voters through the courts, our public charter schools are excelling, expanding and providing options for underserved children. And finally, in 2013, we helped pass a bill that encourages districts to adopt Academic Acceleration and provides funding for those who do. Modeled after a successful policy in Federal Way Public Schools, Academic Acceleration automatically enrolls students performing on grade level in advanced courses. This eliminates barriers, real or perceived (such as cost or information), that prevent students from taking the advanced courses that can help them earn college credits in high school. Over the years, Stand for Children Washington has staked our reputation as a bold and courageous organization that puts results for children first -- taking on challenging issues and supporting policies and programs that have direct, high value impact for students.
From the beginning, Stand for Children Washington has also worked to provide families with a voice through our parent organizing model and Stand University program, Stand UP. With Stand University, we teach parents how to work with their child, teachers and if needed the school district and elected officials; so that their child gets the best education possible.
At the end of the day, we are proud of the relationships we have built through strong coalition work, family engagement in the community we serve and passing legislation that prioritizes students first. The powerful voices of parents, students, and school leaders have been and will continue to be instrumental in directing school system change.
Although there have been many successes, we are just getting started. Together with our partners, we are standing strong for Washington’s students.