Why the EOCs need to be Decoupled from Graduation & the Importance of Passing HB 1046 in the WA State Senate (ACT NOW!)

QUICK SUMMARY: It’s time to call your Washington State senators, as HB 1046 will be on the floor and it will CHANGE the way to view standardized testing as a tool in education. It would eliminate the test as a requirement for graduation (starting backdated with the Class of 2014!) and would rely on the community of educators to do the assessment. It would also still retain the testing, but only as a way to track metrics requested by the state. It has gone back and forth through the House thrice! It is now ready for the Senate! Please read the text and call your senators to pass this puppy! Kudos to Representative MacEwan, the SOLE SPONSOR for this bill (remember that come re-election time if you care about education reform).

Find your Washington State Senator’s contact info here: http://leg.wa.gov/Senate/Senators/Pages/default.aspx and your district here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/.

One of the things that happened while road tripping across the country is that my sister missed her flight back home Mother’s Day morning by 3 minutes. Some jam held her up in security and that was that. After thinking through what to do, I contacted my niece’s dad and asked what he thought about flying Julia down as a surprise. He said he was into it, so we bought Ju a ticket and surprised Mary. I videoed it. It was a AMAZING.

Julia wasn’t sure how long she’d be out. She was planning to fly home and be back in school later that week. Well, the time she was coming back kept changing and we eventually landed on trying to drive back by yesterday morning.

Julia hadn’t realized that although the End of Course (EOC) exam was happening on a specific day, it can’t be individually rescheduled like any regular test taken in class. Instead, the students in her district either take it with their class in the spring or take ONE provided make-up test in January. Apparently the dates have to be told to the state early, and can’t be moved. So this means that Julia will have to take the test for her course materials that she studied and is fresh on now IN JANUARY. Not after school today, not before the end of this year, but SEVEN MONTHS in the future. This is problematic as she won’t remember every nuance. That pretty much sums up why standardized testing should NOT be the be-all-end-all. Students cram to take a test but don’t remember everything. What they do remember, and should be tested on, is the practical application of what they learned.

Another hitch is that the students have to be self-directed to make sure they retain or (let’s be honest – relearn) the info. In her district at least, one teacher makes an online study guide, but there isn’t anything formally done. This is NOT GOOD for students that need a nudge and guidance. Julia will likely form a study group because she cares so much that she is forcing herself to do something so unpleasant, but it’s not fair to her or the other students that there aren’t enough resources to do it formally. For a test that gives important metrics to the state but also can literally hold students back – this is a BIG DEAL. I got the impression that the school is doing the best that they can (often the case by overextended educators and administrators), but that unfortunately is not good enough for the students.

I honestly wasn’t very familiar with the EOC concept because they didn’t exist when I graduated high school and one wouldn’t know the ins and outs unless one asks, which we were forced to because of the schedule. Julia was relieved to find out that it didn’t affect her grade for this school year in science, but is still not happy about having to wait until January.

It just so happens that I was checking out the Facebook page for local community action org Not This Time, and they shared a petition to decouple the EOC tests from the graduation requirement list (while leaving them a requirement). Knowing everything I know about how hard it is to reschedule this sucker, and my personal belief that standardized testing is a good tool but not the best way to tell a students’ comprehension on multiple levels and practical education, I completely endorse it. And BONUS: The text also includes language about teaching more inclusively about the people of color who also founded our nation (or more accurately, the nation was founded on the backs of).

I would love to hear thoughts from teachers and students who have/are experiencing it to let me know what you think, too!

Full text of the HB 1046: http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=1046&Year=2017

Vocational Rehabilitation

Today we went out in search of an amazing Polish Deli (aptly called the Polish Deli here in Leesburg, FL), and sadly it was closed today. Not so sadly, I saw a sign for help with disability and social security and decided to pop in quick to inquire. One of my family members has fibromyalgia, arthritis, and celiac disease. They wanted to see about disability while they look for a job that fits them, but are embarrassed and no
t sure where to start. In going to ask, I found out that not only does the person who was helping me have fibromyalgia too, but that there are programs to help people who have different abilities and chronic pain/illness find work. She also had a lead on a new medication she was trying, which is very heartening, too. Although – my loved one and I have a theory as to the cause of all of her pain and are working on natural ways to reverse her intense sensory overload. Now, on to how this relates to Foothold NW:

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program that helps people who are living with physical or mental disabilities become employed.  You may be eligible if your physical or mental disability interferes with your ability to become employed or find a job.

This is especially important for parents and students in high school to know, as there is a program called School to Work Transition.

The School to Work Transition Program helps students with disabilities train for a job, continue their education, or find a job after high school.

Check out more at http://www.rehabworks.org – it’s a Florida non-profit but the program is federal so it’s a good place to start.

Foothold NW is on the Road!

I’m on a 2-3 week road trip. It started as a means to move some things to our new little place in Florida, followed by bringing Gram’s ashes to rest in Michigan City and family time. It’s now expanded to my sister coming with me to do rolling business planning and strategy, interviewing folks across the country, and seeing as many friends and family along the way that we can muster. Follow us on Instagram to see our progress and read some stories along our way! http://www.instagram.com/footholdnorthwest #footholdnwontheroad

The Power of Matching Gifts

Do you work for an employer that matched your gifts? If you do, and you give to charities or have aspirations to do so, make sure you maximize that match. Matching gifts are an amazing way to increase the impact you can make – especially for small organizations like Foothold NW that count on every dollar to deliver our services.

Here is a list of the Top 10 Matching Gift Companies, from DoubletheDonation.com:

General Electric 1:1 $25,000
Soros Fund Management Up to 3:1 $300,000
BP (British Petroleum) 1:1 $5,000
Gap Corporation 1:1 $10,000
State Street Corporation 1:1 $35,000
ExxonMobil Up to 3:1 $22,500
CarMax 1:1 $10,000
Johnson & Johnson Up to 2:1 $20,000
Boeing Up to 1:1 $6,000
Microsoft 1:1 $15,000

What is Foothold NW?

I’ve been mulling over the idea of finding a way to help people with student loans since I discovered that my now husband, who served in the Navy and even had GI Bill assistance, carried tens of thousands in student loans. Barraged with news of the crises related to student loans and personal conversations with friends, it suddenly became clear that this was a bigger problem than just affecting us and a few others. I tried to find assistance for us but could only find new startups that sound great but actually restrict our ability to be flexible when situations come up, like we can with our federal loans.

The ideas for Foothold NW have been developing fast and furious, partially from my own experience and also from leaning on those with much more experience than me in entrepreneurship, non profit management, education reform, and community building.

Here is the basic premise:

My husband and I carry tens of thousands in student loan debt. It’s one of the main reasons that we delayed buying a home and starting a family into our thirties, and I know we’re not alone.

Student loans are a national crisis.

With 12 years of experience in non profit fundraising, marketing, and program management, I have decided to put my skills to use and build a team that can work toward resolution of this crisis.

The mission of Foothold NW is to make higher education accessible to everyone who is interested in attaining it, primarily through education finance reform.

We have three main focuses:

1) Counsel and inform prospective students on their options for school funding, including private and public loans, Americorps education credits, and scholarships.

2) Help people in crisis who need assistance with their loans. The first step will be financial education and reviewing their finances holistically. We will first start with sharing information on the options available, including what they can do with their current servicer as well as if they choose another for consolidation. If it looks necessary or if they have a goal in mind and need help (such as buying a house, paying down credit card debt, etc), we will use donor contributed funds to do 6-12 month boost payments on their loans. Using the power of a 1:1 or 2:1 match to their payments, we will allow the student to maintain accountability and ownership of the loan while giving them a boost of morale to pay the loans off faster. We are also actively seeking banking partners to help provide low interest consolidation loans for non-traditional clients.

3) Advocacy and lobbying. We will work to curate information on education funding possibilities and use research and reporting to inform policy positions that we will use as a basis for informing the public and talking to lawmakers. We will also heavily collaborate with educators, organizations, and lawmarkers that are working on change.

Funding Needed: I am aiming for enough initial funding for five full time staff members for two years, base salary plus benefits. These staff members are the Executive Director (myself), Chief Strategy Officer, Prospective Student Program Manager, Current & Former Student Program Manager, and the Advocacy Manager. I will also be contracting with local artists and photographers to tell our story effectively.

I believe non profit employees deserve a competitive wage as they are the reason the organization succeeds. I estimate $80,000 in total compensation each to start, with each employee starting at a minimum of $30/hr with consistent evaluations, annual cost of living adjustments, and merit-based raises. This gives us a goal of $400,000 to start our operations. Overhead will be relatively low beyond staff compensation, as all of our employees will telecommute and use cloud-based collaboration software.