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

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August 27, 2014 at 9:59 AM

Today’s story: Seattle’s Garfield High wants hazing to be history

A group of Garfield High upperclassmen cracks up Monday after performing during their training at the school. Garfield is hosting the Link Crew leadership training course before the start of school next week. Photo by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times.

A group of Garfield High upperclassmen cracks up Monday after performing during their training at the school. Garfield is hosting the Link Crew leadership training course before the start of school next week. Photo by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times.

As an eager, if nervous, ninth-grader, Anya Meleshuk allowed several older girls to blindfold her one afternoon, put her in a car and drive her to a park where she was told to “propose” to a stranger. Later, dressed in fairy wings, she downed a dozen flavors of ice cream while her friends watched, and went home afterward feeling as if she had been accepted, initiated into Garfield High School, where such “froshing” has a storied history.

Many alumni cherish similar memories and were outraged last fall when Principal Ted Howard, long an opponent of this tradition, showed up unannounced at a Homecoming Weekend event to quell what would become Garfield’s moment of hazing infamy.

Go here for the full story.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Garfield, hazing, Seattle Public Schools

August 26, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Support staff growth modest here, while nationally it explodes

National growth in education staffing and enrollment, 1970–2010 Credit: Thomas B. Fordham Institute

While public school enrollment in Washington has surged by more than 23 percent since 1990, the state still employs roughly the same number of school support staff as it did a generation ago, making us either admirably lean or in dire need of more classroom aides – depending on your perspective.

The information comes via a national report released by education reformers at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute which finds that, nationally, school staffing has exploded since 1950, climbing by more than 400 percent.

Since 1970, the biggest driver of this growth has been teacher aides, who went from being virtually non-existent in classrooms during the 1970s to the largest category of employees other than teachers. Much of the increase is likely due to federal laws mandating equal education for handicapped kids and bilingual students, which resulted in many more paraprofesisonals working with children.

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Comments | Topics: Fordham Institute, school spending, teacher aides

August 21, 2014 at 5:00 AM

It ain’t flashy but it works: Get personal and schools improve

Becka Gross, right, walks with student Taylor Trimming to class earlier this week at Denny Middle School in West Seattle. Gross belongs to a group called City Year, which works in designated middle schools to encourage better attendance and tutor students. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2013.

City year tutor Becka Gross, right, walks with student Taylor Trimming to class at Denny Middle School in West Seattle. City Year is a nonprofit that works in designated middle schools to encourage better attendance and tutor students. The program was featured in an Education Lab story last fall. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2013.

In the search for answers to problems in education, the go-to phrase employed by everyone, on all sides, is this: There are no magic bullets. Well, there might be one, but it’s squishy-sounding, labor-intensive and difficult to measure.

In every full-length Education Lab story we reported over the past year — each demonstrating clear gains in public schools — one constant echoes: the power of relationships.

Schools that are turning the corner point to this over and over, a focus on forging solid, sustained, one-on-one relationships — primarily between teachers and students.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: ed reform, relationships

August 20, 2014 at 5:00 AM

More minorities aim for college, but academic preparation lags

ACT graf

Results from Washington students who took the ACT. In 2014, the total was about 14,000. Credit: ACT

First, the good news: In just four years, the number of Hispanic students taking the ACT college entrance exam in Washington state has nearly doubled, suggesting that significantly more minority youth here aim to pursue higher education. And overall, Washington students scored two points higher than the national average on the country’s most widely administered college-readiness test.

Yet in other areas, the results, released Wednesday, underscored a series of troubling trends:

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Comments | More in News | Topics: ACT test, college readiness

August 15, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Former teacher focused on equity mulls run for state superintendent

Despite the highly politicized climate around education, there was little such rhetoric at the first Teachers United conference on Thursday. That may surprise some — like the handful of protesters gathered outside — who view the three-year-old organization as little more than a union-busting wedge.

True, Teachers United has supported charter schools and opposed several aspects of tenure, particularly the “last in, first out” seniority-based hiring policies that are dear to labor. Yet inside the Transformative Teaching Conference at UW’s Alder Hall, educators representing nearly 30 Washington school districts were learning from one another about adolescent brain science and promising trends in education technology.

Erin Jones speaking at the Teachers United conference on Thursday. Photo courtesy Kristina McCormick/Teachers United.

Erin Jones speaking at the Teachers United conference on Thursday. Photo courtesy Kristina McCormick/Teachers United.

Keynote speaker Erin Jones, however, may be a politician-in-the-making. In her half-hour talk, Jones, 43, a former English and foreign language teacher, discussed her mission to change the way educators are trained, as well as the eye-opening experience of watching her own African-American children navigate public schools.

“I’m never going to college because college is for white people,” Jones’ 6-year-old daughter said one evening at the dinner table.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Erin Jones, Randy Dorn, Teachers United

August 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

After Newtown massacre, mother urges compassion in schools

Scarlett Lewis. whose 6-year-old son was among the 20 children murdered in the Newtown school shooting, spoke at Seattle's first Compassionate Schools Conference, held at Cleveland High School on Tuesday.

Scarlett Lewis. whose 6-year-old son was among the 20 children murdered in the Newtown school shooting, spoke at Seattle’s first Compassionate Schools Conference, held at Cleveland High School on Tuesday. Photo by Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times.

Scarlett Lewis’s 6-year-old son, Jesse, was among the 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. On Tuesday, the 46-year-old single mother spoke to Education Lab about her journey from despair to forgiveness for shooter Adam Lanza, and the surprising power she discovered through practicing compassion.

The conversation has been slightly condensed for space. A story about the conference where Lewis spoke Monday is also here.

Q: You talk about creating compassionate schools. How would they be different from traditional schools?

A: I see compassion woven into regular lessons in each classroom. There can be compassion in science, in math, in English on a daily basis. I think we assume that compassion is taught in the home, but when I look back on raising my own boys, I don’t remember ever sitting down and specifically teaching a lesson about compassion. This needs to be consistent across society  not only in schools, but in our homes, our governments, our hospitals, our police departments. And this isn’t just a feel-good movement. We know that compassion actually helps corporations’ bottom line.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Newtown, Sandy Hook, Scarlett Lewis

August 12, 2014 at 5:00 AM

What’s a few days missed? Autumn absences often snowball

Students who frequently miss class do much worse than their peers academically. No surprise there. What’s astonishing is how early in the school year those patterns show up and, by extension, how quickly they could be addressed.

New research from Baltimore — ground zero for documenting the link between spotty attendance and future dropout rates — shows that, on average, kids who miss just two days of school in September go on to miss at least a full month each year, with predictably dismal outcomes: Studies show that six graders who miss 20 days of class have only a 20 percent chance of graduating high school on time.

Chronic Absenteeism by September Absence Rates

Chronic Absenteeism by September Absence Rates. Screen shot from the Baltimore Education Research Consortium.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: absenteeism, attendance, Diplomas Now

August 5, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Slowing down to power up: teacher says mindfulness works

As a middle school teacher, Renee Metty often found herself torn between focusing on academics and helping her students with persistent difficulties in relating to one another, and to their teachers – the arena educators refer to as “socio-emotional” skills. Her frustration grew so pervasive that Metty eventually left the school district, vowing never to…

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Comments | Topics: Mindful Schools, mindfulness, Renee Metty

July 31, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Math teacher-turned-activist says Olympia needs more schooling

The battle to improve American education falls, roughly, into two camps: those who favor more evaluation of teachers (based, in part, on student scores), and those who insist educators need freedom to direct classwork as they see fit. The trouble is, both approaches pretty much leave teachers to sink or swim on their own. “In America,…

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July 29, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Preschool for all kids? Business leaders get campaign preview

Anh Tuan Ta, 4, second from right, and Jimwel Pelaez, 3, far right, lay out plans before they construct their "spiky space needle" during an open-ended activity session at the Denise Louie Education Center in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Photo by Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times.

Children participate in an open-ended activity session at the Denise Louie Education Center in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Photo by Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times.

In a preview of what’s to come this fall, three high-level speakers debated Seattle’s proposal to pay for universal preschool in front of a roomful of business leaders.

Voters will weigh in Nov. 4 on whether to fund a four-year pilot providing high-quality pre-K education to 2,000 4-year-olds. Total cost: $58 million, to be paid through property-tax increases.

The effort would align Seattle with numerous cities and states funding early-learning initiatives, from San Francisco to Florida. All are responding to compelling evidence about the benefits of preschool for young children. But many are also wrestling with significant questions about the staying power of those gains.

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

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