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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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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 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

National Merit Scholarship semifinalists named

Lakeside School in Seattle once again topped the list of area semifinalists named Wednesday in the National Merit Scholarship program, with 33 students. Bellevue’s Interlake High School has 29 semifinalists, and Garfield High School in Seattle has 11.

They are among some 16,000 high-school students across the country eligible to compete for about 7,600 merit scholarships worth about $33 million that will be offered next spring.

This is the 60th annual competition. The semifinalists, who represent less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, received the highest scores in their states on the PSAT.  The number of semifinalists in each state is proportional to the state’s share of the national total of graduating seniors.

Local semifinalists and their schools after the jump:


Comments | More in News | Topics: National Merit Scholarship Program

September 3, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Survey: Only 30 percent of principals must prove leadership to get hired

Aspiring K-12 principals in Washington state typically interview with lots of people  the superintendent, principals, teachers, students and parents.

But few applicants are asked to demonstrate their leadership before they get the job, according to a survey of Washington superintendents and principals published last month.

Taking a “walkthrough” of a school is one way applicants can show potential employers their ability to observe classroom instruction, evaluate what they see and offer teachers constructive ideas for improvement.

Although 65 percent of principals in the survey said walkthroughs could help them show their leadership potential, only about 30 percent reported doing a walkthrough before they were hired, according to the Center for Reinventing Public Education, a think tank affiliated with the University of Washington – Bothell.

The report suggests that districts require all finalist candidates do a walkthrough or some other “performance task” to give employers more information than they can glean from interviews and written statements alone. In Denver, for example, all candidates conduct a “learning walk” and then create a teacher training plan for the school.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Reinventing Public Education, Principal evaluation

September 2, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Seattle’s special-ed mess: Who’s in charge of what?

Hodan Mohammed, center, of Open Doors for Multicultural Families, joins Fadil Abubakar, 19, left, and Rahma Ali, 18, for a photo at NewHolly Youth and Family Center in June. Mohammed helped them and their families navigate the complexities of special education. Photo by Maddie Myer / The Seattle Times.

Hodan Mohammed, center, of Open Doors for Multicultural Families, joins Fadil Abubakar, 19, left, and Rahma Ali, 18, for a photo at NewHolly Youth and Family Center in June. Mohammed helped them and their families navigate the complexities of special education. Photo by Maddie Myer / The Seattle Times.

More than year after the state ordered Seattle Public Schools to fix its long-troubled special-education program, progress has been incremental at best and falls far short of the district’s own promises.

When national consultants visited Seattle during the spring, they found a bureaucracy still so disjointed that few know who is responsible for what.

They heard, for example, four different versions of how the district is supposed to handle parent complaints about special education.

The data systems are such a mess that nobody could tell them how many of the district’s 7,200 special-education students — with disabilities such as autism, deafness and dyslexia — were in school on any given day.

Go here to read the full story.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Seattle Public Schools, special ed

September 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Court hears arguments in McCleary school-funding case; watch coverage replay

Update 3:25 p.m.: The state Supreme Court turned the Temple of Justice into the proverbial woodshed Wednesday afternoon, demanding that state lawmakers explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing in the last session to come up with a complete plan to fully fund public education by 2018.

“It’s been said that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” Justice Charles Wiggins said to the attorney representing the state. “Why should we think that you’re going to do something different?”

The unusual hearing was the latest clash between the Legislature and the high court arising out of the court’s landmark 2012 McCleary decision declaring Washington’s school funding system unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Thomas Ahearne, has argued that the Supreme Court risks becoming an irrelevant branch of government if it fails to hold the Legislature accountable for failing to carry out the court’s order to submit the funding plan by April — or at least the end of 2014.


Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: live chat, McCleary

August 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Child care costs in King County among highest in nation

Child care costs in King County are among the highest in the nation, but it’s not because child care providers are making out like bandits, according to a report issued today by Puget Sound Sage, a nonprofit that advocates for low-income families.

One example of how high costs are here: A single mother making $33,500 a year, the median income in King County, makes too much money for a subsidy. But she would have to spend 52 percent of her salary to cover the market rate for one infant at a child care center, according to the report, authored by Nicole Vallestero Keenan, policy director for Puget Sound Sage.

Graphic courtesy Puget Sound Sage

Graphic courtesy Puget Sound Sage


Comments | More in News | Topics: Child care, early ed, preschool

August 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Seattle ‘maker party’ promotes Internet literacy, carrots included

Anyone who’s ever wanted to get their feet wet making something for the web instead of just surfing it should join the “maker party” Friday evening at the Seattle Central Library.

The two-day party, which started Thursday, is free and open to anyone 12 and older who would like to tinker with programming languages such as Python, JavaScript and Ruby on Rails, work with volunteer mentors on a web project, or even build a robot.

Scene from a previous Mozilla Makers party. Photo courtesy Mozilla.

Scene from a previous Mozilla Makers party. Photo courtesy Mozilla.

It’s one of several hands-on opportunities in the Seattle area to become a producer of digital culture rather than just a consumer.

“Maker Party Pop-Up Seattle” is part of an annual 60-day cycle of volunteer-run events in hundreds of cities around the world.  They are all organized by Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, to promote web literacy.

One of the local party hosts is the Seattle branch of Geek Girls Carrots, an international organization that brings together communities of girls and women interested in computer technology and professionals already in the field.


Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: coding, Computer technology, STEM

August 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

It’s OK to boldly split infinitives, says Harvard psychologist

English teachers take notice.

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker says in a recent article in The Guardian that it’s important to distinguish between legitimate grammar rules that “lubricate comprehension” and musty admonitions based on pet peeves, crackpot theories and superstitions that “impede clear and graceful prose.”

Some of the latter include:

Ending sentences with prepositions

The prohibition against clause-final prepositions is considered a superstition even by the language mavens, and it persists only among know-it-alls who have never opened a dictionary or style manual to check.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Grammar, Psychology

August 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Study: Dropout risk goes up with higher math/science hurdle

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

The decades-long push to boost the number of math and science classes high-school students must take to graduate has raised a question: Will students who already are struggling to meet the current requirements drop out if the bar is even higher?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recently suggested that the answer is yes.

Their study, published in the June/July issue of the journal Educational Researcher found that students were more likely to drop out of high school if they had to pass six math/science classes to graduate (11.4 percent dropout rate) than if they had to pass two (8.9 percent dropout rate).

“I think our findings highlight the need to anticipate there may be unintended consequences, especially when there are broad mandates that, in effect, make high school coursework harder,” said one of the study’s authors, Andrew D. Plunk in an article about the study published by the university.

African-Americans and Hispanics were especially affected, he wrote.


Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: dropouts, graduation requirements, math

August 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Districts protest: Our schools aren’t failing

Because most Washington school districts don’t have 100 percent of their students passing state math and reading tests, the federal No Child Left Behind law says they must send letters to families explaining why.

But the districts don’t have to like it and 28 school superintendents have jointly written a second letter they will send along with the first, which explains why they think their schools are doing much better than the No Child letters make it seem.

“Some of our state’s and districts’ most successful and highly recognized schools are now being labeled ‘failing’ by an antiquated law that most educators and elected officials — as well as the U.S. Department of Education — acknowledge isn’t working,” the cover letter states.

The letter is signed by John Welch, Superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, which represents the 28 districts.


Comments | More in News, Seattle Public Schools | Topics: NCLB waiver, No Child Left Behind, Puget Sound Educational Service District

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