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Education Lab Blog

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

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You are currently viewing all posts written by Claudia Rowe.

October 21, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Into the fray: Charter high school targets low-income Seattle

During early rumblings about charter schools in Washington, many national chains backed away, taking a wait-and-see approach before wading into Seattle’s treacherous waters.

That wariness was understandable. The state’s charter school law squeaked by in 2012, weathering vigorous push-back from the teachers union, and in Seattle distaste among voters was particularly strong. Acknowledging the skepticism, Marco Petruzzi, president and chief executive officer of the California-based Green Dot chain, said his company did not want to “be in the situation of being intruders.”

But now, Green Dot is here, meeting with South Seattle parents, gaining approval for a middle school in Tacoma and winning authorization to open a combination middle-and-high school in Seattle.

So why the shift? Only one charter — First Place — has opened within Seattle’s city limits, and there has been little softening of anti-charter rhetoric in the blogosphere.


Comments | More in News | Topics: charter schools, Green Dot

October 16, 2014 at 5:00 AM

School chiefs concede: Too much testing crowds out learning

As in politics, education-speak generates incessant reading of the tea leaves. So Wednesday’s statement from state education chiefs calling for more “rationality, coherence and purpose” in student testing sounded, possibly, like an admission that those things are lacking.

In New York, for example, State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said testing “sometimes even crowds out time for student learning.”

That’s about as blunt as state school officials get. Even U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan took up their call: “In some places, tests  and preparation for them  are dominating the calendar and culture of schools,” he said.

Whoa. Are the backers of Common Core State Standards (and the tests that come with them) waving a white flag? Extending an olive branch to teachers and parents who have pushed back with increasing vigor against standardized testing?


Comments | More in News | Topics: Arne Duncan, common core, standardized testing

October 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Help on the way: $10 million from feds for kids’ mental health care

One of every six students in Washington has emotional, behavioral or developmental problems, and the vast majority of all mental illnesses appear before age 24. Yet nationally, less than half of children with diagnosable conditions receive treatment.

To help fill this hole, three school districts — Battleground, Marysville and Shelton  will share a $10 million federal grant aimed at linking students with mental health providers, offering more drug treatment and, overall, making schools a happier place to be. The grant covers five years and will touch about 29,000 kids.

“We are so excited,” said Dixie Grunenfelder, who manages intervention programs at Washington’s education department, and said the ultimate aim is to create a much-improved statewide system for providing mental health services to young people.

“We have to get more sophisticated about this,” she said. “When we interview kids who’ve dropped out, very often the reasons are not academic. Often, it’s substance abuse and mental health  these things just plague us. So to get this grant was a godsend.”


Comments | More in News | Topics: mental health

October 9, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Ms. Moore goes to Washington: Two Seattle teachers teach pols

Kristen Le, a kindergarten teacher in Seattle, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Courtesy Seattle Teacher Residency.

Kristen Le, a kindergarten teacher in Seattle, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. At left is Rachelle Moore, a first-grade teacher at Madrona K-8. Photo courtesy Seattle Teacher Residency.

As they learn students’ names, allergies and bus schedules during the first weeks of school, addressing Congressional staffers in Washington, D.C., is surely the last thing on the mind of most teachers.

But that’s exactly where two Seattle educators  Kristen Le and Rachelle Moore  were on Tuesday, invited to share their experiences with representatives of Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. David Reichert and a slew of other politicians interested in better preparing educators for the classroom.

Teacher training, or the lack of it, looms large in the public conversation about problems in public education. Seattle has attempted to address this with an apprenticeship program, the Seattle Teacher Residency, aimed at preparing educators in ways similar to young physicians-in-training. Those accepted into the intensive, year-long program receive a University of Washington masters degree and, often, a job with Seattle Public Schools.

Moore, 27, had nothing like that when she began teaching first-graders at Madrona K-8 five years ago. Since then, all four educators who started there with her have left, and two quit the profession altogether.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Seattle Teacher Residency, teacher training

October 6, 2014 at 5:00 AM

College kids now: socially liberal gamers stressing about bucks

William L. Brown / Op Art

William L. Brown / Op Art

Millennials get a lot of grief  “self-involved” and “entitled” are among the adjectives frequently used  so it’s interesting to see how they view the rest of the world.

Since 1966, pollsters at UCLA have been recording the attitudes of incoming college freshmen across the country on a variety of topics, and last year’s crop revealed themselves to be more fiscally focused and socially liberal than their predecessors.

Nearly half of the 166,000 students surveyed said financial aid offers were “very important” in deciding where to enroll, the highest rate ever reported in The American Freshman.


Comments | More in News | Topics: college, higher ed, millennials

October 3, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Kent schools chief leaving for post with national education group

Kent Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times

Kent Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times

Edward Lee Vargas, superintendent of the Kent School District, who oversaw a rise in reading scores during a time of increasing student poverty, is leaving his post to work with a national  as yet unnamed  education nonprofit.

Named Washington’s state superintendent of the year for 2014, Vargas led Kent for six years and was widely recognized for his intense focus on increasing technology in education.

He often emphasized the importance of subject “mastery over seat-time,” a theme that characterized Kent’s heralded iGrad program for re-engaging dropouts, which won national recognition and a personal visit from Gov. Jay Inslee.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Edward Lee Vargas, Kent school district

October 3, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Test-boycotter’s book a salvo in ‘revolution’ against Common Core

For anyone who wonders what’s powering the virulent opposition to standardized testing, Common Core standards and so-called education reform, Jesse Hagopian’s new book, More Than a Score, will be an illuminating read.

A mosaic of essays from teachers, parents, students and administrators, Hagopian’s work  scheduled for release by Haymarket Books in December — is a polemic. The Garfield High School history teacher who attracted national attention for helping to rally Seattle educators in a boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test believes those who value testing as a measure of student achievement are not merely possessed of a different viewpoint, but flat-out driven by dollars.

Jesse Hagopian discusses Garfield High School teachers' decision to refuse to the give the MAP test to their students in 2012. Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times.

Jesse Hagopian discusses Garfield High School teachers’ decision to refuse to the give the MAP test to their students in 2012. Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times.

He may have a point. Bill Gates is quoted promoting the Common Core for creating “a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.”

Slamming this approach, Hagopian presents testimonials from students in Portland, parents in New York and administrators in Austin, all of whom rail against the mass testing that comes with Common Core. He has an essay from Diane Ravitch, assistant secretary of education under the first President Bush, who once supported No Child Left Behind.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Garfield High, Jesse Hagopian, standardized tests

October 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Tossed for disrespect? It happens even to kindergartners

Even at the highest levels of government, among people programmed to duck controversy, there is no mincing words on the problem of school discipline: Racial discrimination seriously skews who gets punished, and for what, says U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

He was speaking to educators in Maryland, where kicking kids out of school starts as early as kindergarten  or earlier. In that state, 91 preschoolers were suspended or expelled during the 2011-’12 school year, a disproportionate number of them African-American.

The city of Seattle tops that figure with its kindergarten and first-graders, temporarily tossing 104 of its youngest students out of school in 2012-’13.

What could a little kid do that’s serious enough to get suspended, even for a short time?

Statewide student discipline categories, 2012-’13 school year. Courtesy OSPI.

Statewide student discipline categories, 2012-’13 school year. Courtesy OSPI.


Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, race

September 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Pre-K researcher offers answer to ‘Show me the money’

When debating bang-for-the-buck in early childhood education, most people focus on academic results. That is, improving the ability of kids to absorb what their teachers want them to learn. But the real prize is life outcomes, and on this, convincing evidence is harder to find.

As reported in the Times, a handful of preschool programs  in Michigan, North Carolina and Illinois — have tracked children through adulthood and found encouraging long-term benefits, particularly around decreased criminal involvement when students grow up. But those studies are decades old.

In 2011, however, researcher William Gormley published a paper projecting the future earnings of 4-year-olds in Tulsa, Okla., preschools and forecast that each would make an extra $27,179 to $30,148 over the course of their working lives. (Defined here as the time between age 22 and 66.)

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Comments | More in News | Topics: early education, pre-K

September 23, 2014 at 5:00 AM

State’s top educator aims to energize teacher recruitment

Lyon Terry reacts to being named Washington state's Teacher of the Year. Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times.

Lyon Terry reacts to being named Washington state’s Teacher of the Year. Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times.

A familiar storyline for teachers is that the newest are brimming with idealism, the more seasoned struggling not to burn out. But after nine years on the job at Lawton Elementary School in Seattle, Lyon Terry’s combination of energy and experience were notable enough that last spring a parent nominated him to be Washington state’s Teacher of the Year.

Monday, while sitting on stage with eight other finalists at EMP Museum, he learned that he had won.

“I was not expecting this,” said the visibly moved fourth-grade teacher, his voice breaking, as he accepted the award.

A statewide selection committee of parents and educators cited Terry’s classroom balance between intellectual conversation and hands-on experimentation “with just a bit of guitar thrown into the mix” — nodding to the teacher’s penchant for sometimes bursting out in song.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Lyon Terry, Seattle Public Schools, teacher of the year

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