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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.

November 26, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Skin in the Game, 5: Teacher meetings aren’t only for the kids

I don’t know what I expected — an inquisition about my parenting style? The discovery that my 5-year-old was a secret sociopath? A misfit genius? Whatever I imagined this bogeyman to be, my first parent-teacher conference was nothing close.

Instead, we adults sat on tiny-person chairs around a miniature table, looking over evidence of my son’s 12-week evolution. I saw his handwriting on the first day of kindergarten, and how it had changed three months later. (Still no “finger-spaces” between his words.) I saw what he could sight-read in September, how he’d tripled that by November, and where on the reading-assessment levels he now rates. (Pretty well, though he still stumbles when trying to read the word “read.”)

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

I pictured this veteran teacher, sitting all day in those itty-bitty chairs, doing the same show-and-tell exercise for two dozen other families, and realized how much an elementary educator’s job involves teaching parents the processes of public school.

It’s visible, the mark this bureaucracy leaves on a 5 year old. On the first day of class, all the kids looked vaguely perplexed at having to sit in fixed seats or at assigned spots on the carpet. That’s gone. You can see it in their faces. They’ve toughened a bit, figured out that they’re being funneled into a much bigger system, and that it has rules.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: parenting, Skin in the game

November 21, 2014 at 1:05 PM

White House officials to hear from Native students on Monday

The federal Department of Education will visit Seattle next week to hear from Native American students, their families and educators about ways to better meet the academic needs of Native American youth.

The listening tour had been planned for earlier this month by the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, but was abruptly cancelled out of respect for grieving families after the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting, in which four students were fatally shot, and another injured, before gunman Jaylen Fryberg turned the weapon on himself. Fryberg was a member of the Tulalip Tribes.

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November 21, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Not a pretty picture: A call to action for black girls in school

Update, 11:05 a.m.: This post was updated to include information about students at Chief Sealth High School winning a film award related to race and education.

Across the country, educators are talking about new ways to handle student discipline, and while there is broad acknowledgement that punitive, zero-tolerance policies have fallen disproportionately on African-American boys, a recent report points out that black girls are suspended at a rate six times that of whites — and at rates that also surpass those for Latino, Asian and white boys.

Though research shows that they do not engage in more frequent or serious misbehavior than other groups, African-American girls account for 43 percent of all female students arrested at school. They constitute only 17 percent of the nation’s female students.

Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity,” authored by the National Women’s Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, highlights these facts and attempts to quantify some of the long-range costs.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, race

November 15, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Lessons learned: Some common themes to improving schools

The assignment sounded clear enough: Find schools making demonstrable improvements to student achievement, then explain how they did it so that others might do the same.

Education Lab reporters could look anywhere for these lessons. The only criteria were evidence of success and ideas that could be transferred without a tremendous investment of extra time or money. In other words, we would look beyond examples of individual heroism to practices that could be replicated broadly.

Would we find advances in brain science that influenced the best classroom teachers? Were there little-known techniques that worked magic?

Hardly. Twelve months, 17 stories and hundreds of blog posts later, our team has interviewed students, parents and educators from the West Coast to the Heartland, identifying new ways to improve instruction, help more kids finish high school and go to college. Yet there were certain basic themes common to every successful effort.

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November 15, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Where are they now? Updates on Education Lab’s past stories

Over the past year, Education Lab has examined 17 schools, districts and approaches to learning last year, searching for proven results in student learning. Did the early promise we found continue? Did it increase? Here are updates from some of our most popular stories.

White Center Heights Elementary
After a year of boosting scores on state tests by double digits across the entire school, White Center Heights acknowledged far less rosy results after it took the new, Common Core tests this spring.

“We were at 50 percent proficiency across the building — not good,” said Principal Anne Reece. “I’ll tell you right now, my teachers are worried.”

City Year Corps member Becka Gross, right, and student Taylor Trimming chat in the hallway between classes last fall at Denny Middle School. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

City Year Corps member Becka Gross, right, and student Taylor Trimming chat in the hallway between classes last fall at Denny Middle School. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Diplomas Now
Both of the Seattle middle schools in the Diplomas Now program had another year of encouraging results.

Denny Middle School had the top daily attendance rate for the month of September — 94.7 percent — among any of the 16 middle schools in the national Diplomas Now network.

Across town, Aki Kurose was honored as Middle School of the Year by Diplomas Now, and has kept its daily attendance rate steady at 95 percent — a marked upgrade from 2010, when more than half the school’s 600 students missed at least 10 days of class. Referrals for bad behavior are down 62 percent. Academic performance has improved steadily too.

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November 7, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Bob Craves, who helped thousands go to college, dies

Bob Craves

Bob Craves

More than 3,800 people hold college degrees today, in part because Robert Craves decided to address the prohibitive costs of higher education.

Craves, a corporate leader who was a founding officer of Costco and then went on to found the College Success Foundation, died Wednesday at age 72.

In 2000, stunned that thousands of students never consider higher education because of its price tag, he helped start the then-small nonprofit in Issaquah, providing scholarships and mentoring to low-income and first-generation Washington students. That work soon spread across the country to the nation’s capital. The foundation now estimates that 5,000 young people are currently enrolled in college with financial help from Craves’ group.

He counted politicians and billionaires among acquaintances – former Washington Governor Gary Locke credits Craves with uplifting a generation – yet inspired equally powerful devotion from students whose names don’t appear in boldface.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Bob Craves, College Success Foundation

November 6, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Students performing their own stories find relevance in school

Students from Scriber Lake High School will perform their own stories in "Behind Closed Doors."

Students from Scriber Lake High School will perform their own stories in “Behind Closed Doors.”

In the search for ways to make schoolwork relevant to students, Marjie Bowker, who teaches English at Edmonds’ Scriber Lake High School, may have hit the jackpot.

Her students — many of them credit-deficient, involved in gangs or otherwise difficult to reach — are now clamoring to participate in Bowker’s “Write to Right” program.

The curriculum, which Bowker created with memoirist Ingrid Ricks after reading her book “Hippie Boy,” teaches ninth graders how to excavate their personal stories, structure them for publication and perform these works for the public. On Friday, at 1 p.m., they will present “Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Inside Out” at the Seattle Public Theater, located in Bathhouse Theater on Green Lake.

Much of the work covers tough material, including struggles with sexual identity, addiction, self-harm, depression, assault and parents in prison.

“These are edgy stories, as edgy as it gets,” said Bowker, who was searching for a way to teach Common Core standards — in this case, nonfiction narrative — to students who’d previously found little about school that interested them.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: common core, Scriber Lake High

November 5, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Updated: What’s school like for Native kids? Feds want to hear from you

Update, 10:30 a.m. Nov. 5: The U.S. Department of Education has canceled Friday’s Native American student listening tour “out of respect for the Tulalip tribe and the family of the shooting victim whose funeral is that day,” said spokeswoman Dorie Nolt. The session will be rescheduled, but a date has not yet been set.

Original post, 5 a.m. Nov. 5: The shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School on Oct. 24 has left many wondering about underlying factors behind Jaylen Fryberg’s decision to gun down five of his friends, and then, fatally, shoot himself.

None of that is yet clear, though federal officials expect the question may come up at a meeting Friday in Seattle about the education of Native youth in Puget Sound. The White House had scheduled this “listening tour,” which is open to all, long before the shooting in Marysville that left Fryberg’s school and community reeling.

The meeting runs all day at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center in Seattle’s Discovery Park and is among a nationwide series organized by the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education. Federal officials hope to collect feedback from educators and community members on bullying, discipline issues and imagery of concern to Native American students.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Marysville Pilchuck High School, Native American youth

October 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Former Seattle board member offers controversial school fixes

Relatively rare are the moments when education reformers and die-hard public school staff find any common ground.

But Donald Nielsen, a former Seattle school board member who counts Jeb Bush among his acquaintances, shares an important observation about the problem in our public schools with teachers union firebrand Jesse Hagopian.

Donald P. Nielsen. Courtesy photo.

Donald P. Nielsen. Courtesy photo.

In a word (or three): the cookie-cutter approach.

Both men have new books out, and in many ways they could not be further apart. Nielsen, a wealthy corporate honcho who writes of casual phone chats with former U.S. Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, says the fundamental structure of public education is the problem.

Hagopian targets standardized testing.

Yet each offers a passionate call to stop treating students as widgets on a factory assembly line.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Donald P. Nielsen, education reform

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.

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

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