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Education Lab Blog

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

August 30, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Guest: Special-ed programs fail to meet needs of immigrant families

Ginger Kwan

Ginger Kwan

Research has demonstrated that meaningful family engagement leads to better student performance, and yet our local schools still struggle to engage families from racially, ethnically and culturally diverse communities, particularly when it comes to parents who have limited English proficiency or have children in special education programs.

As a result, many special-needs students from these diverse backgrounds end up getting left behind as their peers advance.

At many school districts in King County, more than 50 percent of students speak a language other than English at home. Serving and communicating with parents who have limited English proficiency should not be a new thing for schools. And yet, many parents are left wondering why it is so difficult for schools to engage diverse families of children with special needs. Is it because the schools lack knowledge of the best family engagement practices? Or because schools do not value special-needs students from other cultures? Or are schools simply unwilling to make needed changes to correct their own cultural bias and the institutional racism against this target population?

The answers are multi-faceted and not easy to answer. The challenges from schools to engage these diverse families are no less than what these families encounter when trying to interact with schools.

Across the system, schools generally lack the language and cultural capacity to engage these families meaningfully. School-hired interpreters are often not trained properly, are not familiar with special education, or speak different dialects than the family. Some families are also told to bring their own interpreters or have their children to interpret for them. In addition to verbal communication challenges, written information has been primarily printed in English or posted on school websites only. All of these obstacles can prevent meaningful communication between families and schools.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Ginger Kwan, Open Doors, special education

August 30, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Rewind: Watch a replay of live chat on special education in Seattle

Education Lab hosted a live chat on special education in Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 11.

The discussion was based off our earlier story about Seattle Public Schools’ long-troubled special-education program and a related report on how San Diego school officials fixed the communication problems in their own special-ed department. Reporter John Higgins facilitated the discussion.

Joining him was Stacy Gillett, a former special-education teacher who directs the governor’s education ombudsman’s office; Phyllis Campano, vice-president of the Seattle Education Association; and Mary Griffin, the mother of a child with disabilities and the immediate past president of the Seattle Special Ed PTSA.

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Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: live chat, special education

August 29, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Round-up: Calif. passes ‘yes means yes’ bill, NYC recruiting students for expanded pre-K

Is screen time hurting kids’ ability to recognize emotions? (KPLU): A new study from UCLA researchers found that sixth-graders who spent five days without exposure to technology were better able to read facial emotions and other nonverbal cues. Patricia Greenfield, a senior author of the study, says she’s concerned about the social cost of schools more widely distributing iPads and other devices.

Calif. passes ‘yes means yes’ assault bill (AP): California is the first state in the U.S. to pass legislation requiring colleges and universities to adopt new consent standards when investigating sexual assault cases. Under the new rules, consent requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.”

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August 29, 2014 at 5:00 AM

How to improve schools? Some students say: Lower class size

Over six days in the past few weeks, 13 high school students, about to enter 12th grade, tackled a tough question: Is education equitable in Seattle, and if it’s not, why?

The students are all part of the prestigious Rainier Scholars program, selected in part because most hope to be the first in their families to attend college. From the time they’re in middle school, the program offers participants a big dose of academic enrichment, along with leadership training and social-emotional support.

Rainier Scholars Cohort VII

Students in Cohort VII in the Rainier Scholars program, who spent a half-dozen days this summer researching educational equity in Seattle. Photos courtesy of Rainier Scholars.

When it came time to present their findings,  the students clicked through Power Points full of statistics — everything from data showing that Ballard High’s PTA often raises more in one year than Franklin High does in 10, to maps showing how far students from low-income neighborhoods have to travel if they want to attend many of the city’s best-performing schools.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: class size, Rainier Scholars

August 28, 2014 at 4:37 PM

Guest: Educators must do more to reach young men of color

Amy Saxton

Amy Saxton

It’s my first time at the New Schools Venture Fund conference, and I’m excited to exchange ideas with entrepreneurs, educators and policymakers. The day will be brimming with innovative approaches to transforming public education for underserved students. But what strikes me first is that, for once, my reflexive search of the room for brown and black faces comes up full.

The conference won’t necessarily be better or worse, the discussions more or less fruitful, but that simple moment of recognition, the feeling of an invisible but meaningful weight lifted off of my shoulders — that I don’t have to represent, and I can, just a little more than usual, simply be— gives me a powerful moment of connection with a subject never far from our minds at Summer Search: reaching and serving more young men of color.

Despite our best efforts, Summer Search, a national non-profit focused on creating opportunity for low-income and underserved students, has enrolled only three males of color out of every 10 students. Over the last two years, we have focused on recruiting and retaining more of these young men through pilot programs and innovative strategies, but it remains an uphill battle.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Amy Saxton, Summer Search

August 28, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Round-up: Beacon Hill school under review for test scores, Oklahoma loses NCLB waiver

Beacon Hill school under review after sharp jump in test scores: State officials are investigating the Seattle elementary school after its most recent test scores included sharp increases in math and reading. Overall, the statewide scores that were released Wednesday showed no significant changes from the previous year.

Oklahoma becomes second state to lose No Child Left Behind waiver (Politico): Federal education officials confirmed Thursday that Oklahoma will become the second state to lose its No Child Left Behind waiver, two months after Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill repealing the state’s adoption of Common Core. State officials had begun to draft new standards to replace Common Core but failed to complete their work prior to submitting the request for a waiver extension.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

August 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Washington loses more college students than it gains

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

When he was president of  the State University of New York Institute of Technology (SUNYIT), Bjong “Wolf” Yeigh was well aware of New York’s brain-drain problem: The state’s bountiful numbers of college students didn’t stick around after graduation.

Now that he’s chancellor of the University of Washington Bothell, Yeigh finds he’s in a state with education issues that are, in some respects, the opposite.

New York, which is home to hundreds of small liberal arts colleges, attracts more college students than it loses to other states. In fall 2012, for example, federal data shows that about 33,000 of New York’s first-time college students (primarily freshmen)  left the state to go to college elsewhere. But about 39,000 students from other states moved to New York to go to college, more than making up for the loss.

Yeigh was analyzing the data this year and was surprised to learn that Washington experiences the opposite effect. In fact, it’s one of only 11 states with a net loss of first-time college students.

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Comments | Topics: College-going, higher ed, UW-Bothell

August 27, 2014 at 2:23 PM

Round-up: Louisiana Gov. Jindal sues over Common Core, local schools install cameras on buses

Louisiana Gov. Jindal files lawsuit over Common Core (AP): Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, saying the federal government’s implementation of Common Core violates the state sovereignty clause in the U.S. Constitution. Critics have dismissed Jindal’s efforts as mere political pandering.

Local schools install cameras on buses to catch traffic violators (AP): The Bethel School District in South Pierce County and the Highline School District in South King County are launching pilot programs that use cameras to catch drivers breaking traffic laws. The cameras, manufactured and maintained by American Traffic Solutions, will take photos and video of motorists who illegally drive around the buses’ red stop-sign paddles.

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August 27, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Back to school: Your photos from the first day

Update: The submission period for first-day photos has ended. Thanks to everyone who uploaded a photo!

Original post: Back-to-school season is here, and kids (and parents) across our region are busy picking out first-day outfits and making sure all their pencils, notebooks and colored markers are in order.

Does your family line up for photos on the front stoop? Got any throwback photos from your own first days of school?

Whether you’re a parent who is currently shuffling the kids out the door, or someone whose time prepping for the back-to-school rush has (thankfully) passed, we want to see your first day of school photos. Awkward family poses and old-school fashions will get an extra gold star.

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August 27, 2014 at 10:56 AM

State test results for 2014: Some ups and downs

Update at 3:30 p.m.:  For a fuller story, see the Associated Press coverage here.

Original post:  Results from this year’s state tests showed ups and downs, in the last year that most students will take them, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction reported Wednesday.

Next year, the state will switch to a set of exams called Smarter Balanced, which are tied to the new Common Core learning standards. Most states have agreed to use the Common Core, replacing a system in which each state has its own learning goals for each grade and subject.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: common core, OSPI, test scores

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