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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

March 31, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Baby talk 101: New program puts brain research into action

The research is clear: the first few years of life are crucial to a child’s brain development and future language skills. The best way to build strong neurological connections? One-on-one, verbal interactions between the child and an adult caregiver.

But what does that interaction sound like? What’s the best way to talk to a baby who can’t talk back yet?

A Sunday story from reporter Katherine Long describes how a new pilot program is working to give parents in South King County the tools to strengthen early brain development. Called Vroom, the program includes hundreds of suggested activities — from mimicking a baby’s babbling noises to playing peek-a-boo — that parents can try at different ages.

A sampling:

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Comments | More in News | Topics: baby-talk, early ed, early learning

March 31, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Round-up: Preschool levy could face competition, SPS eyes vacant Federal Reserve building

Pilot program gives parents tools to boost babies’ brains: A new program from the Bezos Family Foundation is teaching parents how to help their children’s brain development at a very early age. Called Vroom, the awareness effort emphasizes one-on-one interaction between parent and child, starting in infancy.

Seattle Public Schools eyes downtown Federal Reserve building: The federal government is in the process of giving away the long-vacant Federal Reserve building — for free. Several nonprofit groups are urging Seattle Public Schools to apply for the 90,000-square-foot building and turn it into a school.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

March 31, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Scholarship program for women to double number of awards

A nonprofit group has greatly expanded the number of scholarships it will award this spring to women who don’t meet the typical profile of a college student.

Washington Women in Need is doubling the number of scholarships it offers, from about 44 yearly to 88. It will also offer some women a four-year scholarship, instead of a single grant.

The expansion, which is a pilot for the organization, will help the selected women finish their degrees.


Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, scholarships, Washington Women in Need

March 28, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Guest: High-school internships offer strong path to STEM careers


Julie Burr

If you’re raised in a family with a mom who’s a computer programmer and dad who’s an aerospace engineer, chances are you’ll take the right high school classes and consider pursuing a bright future in a STEM career.

If you come from a different background, the fields of science, technology, engineering and math — collectively known as STEM — might seem uninviting. Upon graduation from high school, you won’t suddenly develop an interest in a STEM career. If you do, you likely won’t be admitted or succeed as a STEM major in college if you have a lack of high school preparation. With the huge shortage of skilled workers in STEM fields, this seems a travesty.

Highline Public Schools’ new Raisbeck Aviation High School serves as a model for how schools can help fill the local skills gap and give hope to students with limited opportunities. The school’s internship program, in particular, enables students to start exploring STEM careers early on in their high-school careers while gaining important real-world experience.

Raisbeck students are surrounded by caring professionals from aerospace careers on a daily basis. A scaffold approach to STEM career exploration begins with the freshman-level Career Choices class, where a constant stream of STEM professionals come to inform and inspire. Students become comfortable networking with professionals, and many doors are opened, such as tours to commercial space flight company Blue Origin or Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Math and science, Opinion | Topics: Highline School District, Raisbeck Aviation High School, STEM

March 28, 2014 at 12:30 PM

Round-up: Student debt widens wealth gap, undocumented Portland student shares story

Student loan debt contributes to widening wealth gap (AP): Americans are collectively saddled with $1 trillion in student loan debt, making it difficult for many to start saving or investing at a young age. A 2012 Pew study found 40 percent of households led by someone 35 or younger had some form of student loan debt.

ACLU settles lawsuit over schools’ access to online accounts (AP): A Minnesota school district has agreed to pay $70,000 to settle a case involving a student who made disparaging comments about a teacher’s aide on her Facebook page. The student, a sixth grader at the time, was given detention after school officials allegedly accessed her Facebook profile and email accounts without her parents’ permission.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

March 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Anxious about the SAT? More colleges say ‘don’t worry about it’

Almost anyone who has applied to college can trot out a horror story about the much-dreaded Scholastic Aptitude Test, better known as the SAT. The four-hour, fill-in-the-bubble test of math and reading skills has spawned innumerable opinion pieces, diatribes and nightmares.

There’s even a book, The Perfect Score Project, by Debbie Stier, a single mom and public relations professional who took the exam seven times (surely an exercise in masochism), trying to achieve a perfect 2400. Stier’s book is filled with tips for improving student scores, most of which boil down to one unsurprising adage: Study more.

Yet anyone who has flipped through an SAT-prep booklet knows there are easy strategies for gaming the test — techniques that can dramatically improve one’s score, as described here, by Education Lab opinion columnist Dennis McDuffie, a high school senior in Richland, Wash.

Likewise, educators across the country insist that the SAT is a poor measure of student aptitude or likely college success — a backlash that gained more credence after a recent SAT-overhaul by the College Board, which is trying to better align it with classroom curricula.


Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, SAT, standardized tests

March 27, 2014 at 11:25 AM

Round-up: North Seattle College names new president; report says NY schools are most segregated

North Seattle College names new president: North Seattle College has selected Warren Brown as its next president, the school announced Wednesday. Brown is executive vice president for instruction and student services at Seattle Central College and has 17 years of experience in the state’s community college system.

Report finds NY schools are most segregated in nation (AP): New York state has the most racially segregated school system the the U.S., according to a report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Researchers say charter schools in New York City are among the least racially diverse of all.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

March 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

A year later: What’s up with school discipline case in Seattle?

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

A year ago this month, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education publicly acknowledged it was investigating racial disparities in student discipline in Seattle’s public schools.

So is the investigation close to completion?

No clue. The silence from the federal education department remains as thick as it was a year ago.

“About all we can tell you is that the compliance review remains under investigation,” a spokesman said Wednesday.

Seattle Public Schools officials say they don’t know the status of the investigation, either.    But they also say they are working to  reduce the number of suspensions in their schools.

Federal investigators last visited some Seattle schools late last year, saying they wanted to do more interviews, said Pat Sander, a district  administrator. But they have not called to set those interviews up, she said.


Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, race, Seattle Public Schools

March 26, 2014 at 4:39 PM

Students: How have guidance counselors helped you?

As more and more young people set their sights on higher education, high-school guidance counselors continue to serve an important role. For many students, they are the only people available to help walk them through college applications, standardized tests, financial-aid forms and personal essays.

In an upcoming story, Education Lab will examine the growing workload of high-school counselors and how certain programs are working to give students more one-on-one attention. In the meantime, we’re reaching out to current high-school students and recent graduates to get their take on the current role of the guidance counselor:

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Comments | More in Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: counselors, high school, higher ed

March 26, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Round-up: State funding boosts STEM scholarships; Spokane prepares to arm school officers

State funding boosts public-private STEM scholarship program: A $25-million boost from the state Legislature is expected to help the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program to get contributions from private businesses. The scholarships are available to undergraduate Washington residents who are studying at in-state public or private colleges and whose family income is at or below the 125th percentile.

Spokane prepares to arm school resource officers (The Spokesman-Review): School resource officers in Spokane are being trained as Spokane Police Department reserve officers so they can carry guns on school grounds. The training is part of an extensive security upgrade at Spokane Public Schools that also includes installing more cameras and improving security locks.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

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