Issaquah School District files for extension on new state civics requirement

April 3, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

With the approval of the school board, the Issaquah School District has filed for a two-year exemption from new graduation requirements put in place by the Washington State Board of Education.

The new state rules specifically spell out the social studies credits students in the graduating class of 2016 will need in order to take home a diploma.

For Issaquah schools, the biggest hurdle seems to be a requirement for .5 credit hours of civics: voting rules and so on. The district already meets other requirements, such as credits of Washington history and government.

Until February, the district thought it could embed the .5 in civics inside an existing class, said Patrick Murphy, executive director of secondary education for the district. State officials informed the district the civics class must be a separate course, Murphy added.

He made his comments to the school board at its March 28 meeting.

“I don’t believe we can address it at this time for the next school year,” said Emilie Hard, executive director of teaching and learning.

She and Murphy said the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is expected to ask for further changes under the broad category of social studies sometime soon. Administration officials felt it made sense to make all of the needed changes at once instead of attacking the problem piecemeal. Murphy noted district officials did not have to ask for an extension, but simply notify the state they were taking an extension. That the state was automatically granting exceptions to the new rules indicated Olympia officials knew there would be plenty of districts looking for more time, school board member Suzanne Weaver said.

In the end, the school board voted unanimously to go along with the extension or exemption, but board President Chad Magendanz urged Murphy and others to act quickly. Just because the district will have a two-year exemption, there is no reason changes need to necessarily take two years to implement, Magendanz said.

In other news from recent school board meetings:

Teacher evaluations move forward

State legislators recently put in place a mandate requiring every Washington school district to adopt a new method of evaluating teachers and principals.

However, the Issaquah district is at the forefront of that effort and ready to implement a new system, Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele said.

Thiele made his comments during a school board meeting March 14.

Winning applause from numerous grassroots education groups, the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 5895 requiring districts to choose and put in place one of three performance rating systems. The bill contains several other mandates, including a call for student performance data to be a substantial factor in teacher and principal evaluations. New teachers receiving unsatisfactory ratings in their third year would be prevented from receiving continuing contracts.

Issaquah schools had volunteered to be one of the districts to do a dry run of the new evaluation procedures. Thiele and other officials studying the issue decided on a modification of a system the district already uses, a system known as the Charlotte Danielson framework.

When the state passed its new law, Thiele said the district became somewhat more restricted in how to apply the new evaluation method. Officials had planned some adjustments to the Danielson plan, but state officials now want stricter adherence to their plans. Thiele said he was “mildly disappointed” that the district will have to realign its format.

“You have to use the model in its pure form,” he said, adding state officials want to be sure they are comparing very similar programs from district to district.

“This is good work for the district to be doing,” Thiele added.

Kindergarten registration

In another Puget Sound school district, parents got in long lines to try and sign their children up for all-day kindergarten classes.

Not so locally, said Jake Kuper, chief of district finances and operations.

Of the 1,144 students who are so far signed up for kindergarten next year, parents of 817 requested all-day kindergarten. The district was able to meet 92 percent of those requests, Kuper said. While parents must pay tuition for all-day kindergarten classes, Kuper added that Issaquah schools awards $75,000 worth of kindergarten scholarships.

Overall, kindergarten registration has stayed relatively flat, according to Kuper. He said he expects additional students to appear between now and October, for a total of 1,281, only a 2.5 percent increase over current numbers.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or www.tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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