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Education Lab Blog

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

September 16, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Round-up: UW says WSU med-school plan is flawed, tech CEOs limit kids’ screen time at home

UW says WSU med-school plan is deeply flawed (AP): The University of Washington has released a statement criticizing Washington State University’s analysis into the feasibility of a new WSU medical school in Spokane. The state Legislature would need to approve funding for the project.

Why tech CEOs limit kids’ electronic usage at home (The New York Times): Executives and founders of companies ranging from Twitter to Apple are known for limiting their kids’ screen time. One common restriction: no devices allowed in the bedroom.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

September 16, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Google flash-funds ‘Ukuleles Unite!,’ other teacher projects

Amanda Burke (left), a kindergarten teacher at Highland Park Elementary in Seattle, was one of several local teachers surprised by Google on Monday. Photo courtesy Google.

Amanda Burke (left), a kindergarten teacher at Highland Park Elementary in Seattle, was one of several local teachers surprised by Google on Monday. Photo courtesy Google.

Music teacher Yvonne Berz got her wish Monday: a classroom set of ukuleles for her students at Springbrook Elementary School in the Kent School District.

It was one of 388 projects that Google fully funded or topped off on Monday in a “flash funding” campaign for teachers in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

For Berz, Google added to 16 other donors who contributed to her proposal, titled Ukuleles Unite!” though the nonprofit crowd-sourcing website,, where teachers can seek funding for specific learning projects.

Google’s $338,000 donation helped teachers buy supplies ranging from books, laptops and Legos to yoga mats, acoustic guitars and a digital microscope.

A kindergarten teacher at Highland Park Elementary School in Seattle, for example, asked for four HP Chromebook laptop computers and a Microsoft Surface tablet. A teacher at Lowell Elementary School in Everett asked for mapmaking supplies.

Google has sponsored other DonorsChoose “flash funding” campaigns in recent months in San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Austin, Kansas City and Los Angeles.


Comments | More in News | Topics:, Google

September 15, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Guest: Project-based classrooms help kids become active learners

Michael Golden

Michael Golden

With the new school year under way, a major initiative related to class size on the ballot in November, and an unrelenting race-based achievement gap across the country, how we educate our children and prepare them for the world is under the microscope. It should be a wake-up call that we continue to fall behind other countries in educational outcomes. The world is changing at a remarkable pace, yet how we educate our youth remains largely the same.

Kids today live in a world that engulfs them in stimuli, changing the way their brains process information and how they learn. What might have worked in the classroom 20 years ago does not work today, but it is still widely used.

To engage today’s students, lessons have to be truly meaningful to them. One effective approach is the use of project-based learning.

What does project-based learning look like? It could be a language arts teacher facilitating a student-initiated project to write a screenplay about a local female rapper. The students would need to learn the mechanical structure of a screenplay, research the nature of the music industry, identify a handful of venues where rappers perform and who some of her fellow musicians might be. Their teacher would guide them through the project and connect them with experts such as screenwriters and music-industry executives in Hollywood.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion

September 15, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Round-up: WSU regents OK med school plan, Portland volunteers seek dropouts door-to-door

WSU regents approve medical-school plan (AP): Washington State University’s board of regents has approved a plan to create a new medical school in Spokane, citing a need for more doctors outside the Seattle metro area. The proposal is opposed by the University of Washington, which operates the only medical school in the state.

In Portland, volunteers go door-to-door seeking dropouts (The Oregonian): Portland Public Schools’ Reconnect to Your Future campaign trains volunteers to go door-to-door encouraging high-school dropouts to return to the classroom. On Saturday, their list included the names of about 200 former students.


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September 15, 2014 at 5:00 AM

‘Compassion’ sounds soft but demands action, new website says

It’s easy enough to say you value compassion in schools, but quite another thing to actively practice it.

Monday marks the launch of a new social-networking website created by Seattle educators to boost this important but oft-overlooked trait by providing parents, teachers and administrators with tools for building more compassion into their schools.

“People’s emotional states really affect the way their lives turn out, and their personalities are being shaped in school,” said longtime fifth-grade teacher Peter Hubbard, who works at Lawton Elementary in Seattle. “So we need to be deliberate about how we’re developing children. Social isolation is definitely an issue. The kids who are stronger psychologically survive and go into war mode  they’re just toughing it out. But it’s still a pretty alienating experience.”

Enter the Compassionate Schools Network, a website where users can interact with one another around specific topics (similar to Facebook). The site also features a resource-sharing center focused on five areas: community service, mindfulness, re-imagining education, environmental stewardship and social-and-emotional growth.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Compassionate Schools, Scarlett Lewis

September 12, 2014 at 1:28 PM

Round-up: Contempt ruling in school-funding fight, Common Core town hall next week

Contempt ruling ups the ante in school-funding fight: A unanimous order handed down by the Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday gives state lawmakers until the end of the 2015 legislative session to hammer out a plan for school funding. If legislators do not comply, they could face fines or be barred from funding non-education programs.

California study shows deep racial divide in attendance rates (AP): A new study on school absences from the California Attorney General’s office found 37 percent of black elementary students in a sample were considered truant during the 2013-2014 school year, compared to about 22 percent of students overall. Truancy was defined as being absent or arriving more than 30 minutes late without a valid excuse three or more times a year.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

September 12, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Brigham Young tops list of WA’s out-of-state college choices

Recently, we wrote about the large number of Washington state students who go out of state for a college education. Of all the western states, Washington loses the most college-bound students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a federally-run data clearinghouse.

Where do they all go? Believe it or not, the two most popular out-of-state schools for the 2012-13 school year were Brigham Young University-Idaho and Brigham Young University in Utah. Those two schools account for nearly 9 percent of the 7,409 Washington students who graduated in spring 2012 and went immediately to out-of-state colleges in the fall.

State universities in Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Arizona were also big draws. Popular California schools included the public California Polytechnic State University (or Cal-Poly, as it’s known), and three privates: Santa Clara University, the University of Southern California and Chapman University.

But what’s also striking is that the top 25 schools only account for 40 percent of the students who leave the state. That suggests to us that Washington students choose many, many different schools across the nation when they decide to leave home.


Comments | Topics: college, out-of-state

September 11, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Round-up: Utah teacher shoots self in leg, profs read mean student feedback aloud on YouTube

Utah teacher shoots self in leg at school (AP): A Utah teacher is recovering at a hospital after accidentally shooting herself in the leg in a faculty bathroom. In related news, Missouri lawmakers passed legislation Thursday giving specially trained school employees the option to carry concealed guns on school campuses.

Professors read mean student feedback aloud (The Chronicle of Higher Education): Taking a cue from late-night comedy, college professors around the country are now creating YouTube videos where they read critical student reviews of their courses out loud. Most of the comments come from, a site where students give instructors anonymous feedback and ratings.


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September 11, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Supreme Court finds Legislature in contempt on education funding

By Joseph O’Sullivan

03_OlyThe Washington state Supreme Court is holding the Legislature in contempt for not making enough progress toward fully funding public education but, for now, won’t issue sanctions.

In an  order Thursday on the McCleary case, the court  said it will hold off on sanctions until at least the close of the 2015 legislative session. After that, action could be swift.

“On the date following adjournment of the 2015 session, if the State has not complied with the court’s order, the State shall file in the court a memorandum explaining why sanctions or other remedial measures should not be imposed,” reads the order, which was signed by Chief Justic Barbara Madsen.


Comments | More in News | Topics: McCleary, school funding

September 11, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Kids with poor attendance score lower on national tests

Students who don’t show up in class are likely to do worse in school than their peers. That stands to reason, but now there’s hard data to back this common-sense assertion.

Last week, researchers from Attendance Works in Maryland released a study correlating national test results with student absenteeism in each state. Their findings? Washington has slightly worse attendance rates than the national average, and the more days students miss, the lower their scores in reading and math.

National results.  A score of 208 in fourth-grade reading is considered "basic." At 238, students are rated "proficient." In math, the basic rate is 214, and proficient is 249. Courtesy: Attendance Works

National results. A score of 208 in fourth-grade reading is considered “basic.” At 238, students are rated “proficient.” In math, the basic rate is 214, and proficient is 249. Graph courtesy Attendance Works.


Comments | More in News | Topics: attendance, Attendance Works, NAEP

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