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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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April 16, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Suspensions and expulsions: A close look at nine districts

Screen grab

Screen grab of Washington Appleseed’s preliminary analysis for Seattle Public Schools. Go here for a full resolution version.

Last year, the nonprofit Washington Appleseed had a difficult time finding out exactly how many students are suspended or expelled each year in Washington state.

This year, with more data available from the state, it is putting together a still-incomplete, but much fuller picture, looking at patterns among the roughly 47,500 students suspended or expelled at least once in the 2012-13 school year.

This week, the group released an analysis of discipline data from nine school districts: Bellevue, Edmonds, Federal Way, Marysville, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma and Yakima.

Appleseed warns that the numbers are preliminary, so they might contain errors. It also cautions against reading too much into district-by-district comparisons because some districts report differently than others.

One salient example: Federal Way counts all the days expelled students are absent, and other districts do not. That’s why it looks like students in Federal Way miss much more school due to suspensions and expulsions than much bigger districts such as Seattle and Spokane.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline

April 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New rules for school discipline: Time for the public to weigh in

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

State lawmakers passed a new law last year that, for the first time, puts a one-year limit on how long students can be suspended or expelled from school, with exceptions for those who pose a risk to public safety.

The new law also requires school districts to work with students and their parents on a plan to get students back in school.

Some of the provisions are pretty clear-cut, though many details have yet to be finalized — including just what those reentry plans should look like and what role students and parents might have in developing them.

The state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has come up with its proposals, and is now soliciting the public’s views. Comments and recommendations can be submitted by mail, email or fax — see details below. A public hearing is scheduled for May 5, from 10 a.m. to noon at OSPI’s offices, 234 8th Ave. in Olympia.

Some of the groups that lobbied for the law are expected to lobby for changes they’d like to see. The League of Education Voters, for example, would like districts to be required to meet with students and their parents as part of drawing up a plan to return to school. OSPI’s proposed rules say districts should do that, but not that they must.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, expulsions, League of Education Voters

April 9, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Like to code or want to learn? Events offer help for students

Attention high-school and middle-school students who like to code or want to learn how: Two upcoming events are designed for you.

For coding-newbies as well as those with some experience: On Friday, May 23, Rainier Beach High will host an all-day app session where students can learn how to create applications and games on cell phones, iPads, laptops — whatever devices they bring. Workshops and assistance will be provided by Rainier Beach teachers, University of Washington computer science students and engineers from the UW and Microsoft.

Even students who have never programmed before can end up with an app at the end of the day, and many did so last year. Geekwire called last year’s event a “geeky field trip that helped expose kids to the world of computer programming.”

The event also will feature a DJ, dance competition and raffle giveaways. At the end of the day, participants will be invited to show off their new apps.


0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: coding, computer programming, Puget Sound App Day

April 3, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Cheating on standardized tests? State to keep closer watch

When Washington state switches to the new, Common Core tests in spring 2015, it will, for the first time, do the kind of post-test analyses that many experts recommend to detect any cheating, like the problems that have cropped up in Georgia and a number of other states.

On Wednesday, the Inspector General’s office at the U.S. Department of Education joined those urging all states to do such analyses, saying neglecting them would be a “missed opportunity to detect and prevent cheating.”

That recommendation was part of an audit of test security in five states:  Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina and Texas. Here’s a report from Politico, and the full audit can be found here.

While Washington was not one of the states studied, it has been one of a declining number that don’t routinely do any post-test forensic analysis, such as looking for suspicious erasure patterns on answer sheets.

But that’s about to change, a spokesman for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction said Wednesday.  When Washington starts using the new Common Core tests, he said, the state will also do forensic analyses that could detect potential problems at the state, district and school levels.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: cheating, common core, standardized tests

April 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Who aces problem-solving exam? U.S. above average, but Asia rules

When it comes to success in life, it’s not just what students know, but what they can do with what they know.

To gauge that ability, a problem-solving section was part of the 2012 international tests known as PISA, or Programme for International Student Assessment.

The section, given to about 85,000 15-year-olds worldwide, “goes well beyond whether students can reproduce what they were taught,” said Pablo Zoido of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which manages the PISA exams.

To do well, the OECD says, students must be “open to novelty, tolerate doubt and uncertainty, and dare to use intuition to initiate a solution.”

And that’s where U.S. students shine, at least in part.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: Asia, PISA, problem solving

March 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

A year later: What’s up with school discipline case in Seattle?

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

A year ago this month, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education publicly acknowledged it was investigating racial disparities in student discipline in Seattle’s public schools.

So is the investigation close to completion?

No clue. The silence from the federal education department remains as thick as it was a year ago.

“About all we can tell you is that the compliance review remains under investigation,” a spokesman said Wednesday.

Seattle Public Schools officials say they don’t know the status of the investigation, either.    But they also say they are working to  reduce the number of suspensions in their schools.

Federal investigators last visited some Seattle schools late last year, saying they wanted to do more interviews, said Pat Sander, a district  administrator. But they have not called to set those interviews up, she said.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, race, Seattle Public Schools

March 26, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Inspiring teachers: Tacoma features its stars on YouTube

With all the debate over how to improve our nation’s public schools, it’s easy to overlook the bright spots.

 Tacoma Public Schools, in a series of short YouTube videos, is providing some compelling reminders.

The series, “Inspired teaching: Stories from Tacoma’s Best,” features six teachers who talk passionately about why teaching is important, how they try to inspire students, and how their students inspire them.


0 Comments | More in News

March 20, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Myths and zombies: Locals speak at big ed-tech festival


David Hunter. Courtesy Zombie-Based Learning.

The South by Southwest Festival in Austin is best known for music, but it also includes a four-day conference on educational technology, which took place earlier this month.

A bunch of local folks participated. One was David Hunter of Zombie-Based Learning, a Bellevue teacher who talked about the middle-school curriculum he created that teaches geography through an imagined Zombie Apocalypse. The project also was featured on KPLU last year.

Another was Lindsey Own, a science teacher at Evergreen, a private K-8 school in north Seattle, who participated on a panel about how to help education technology entrepreneurs and teachers work together better.

One myth, she wrote in her report on the panel, is that entrepreneurs “just make a cute product, then kick back and let the $ roll in.” One myth about teachers, she said, “They want free free free.”


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: SXSWedu

March 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Report: Typical student spends hour or less on homework

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Many think students these days suffer under a heavy — and growing — load of homework.

But a new report by the Brown Center on Education Policy concludes that’s just not true.

While some face hours of homework each night, as reported in stories like this one in The Atlantic late last year, the Brown researchers say the average homework load hasn’t changed much for the past 30 years.

And the percent of students who report no homework, they say, still is much greater than those who say they do two or more hours a night.

The Center focused on a questionnaire that students fill out when they take a national test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

A sample of students from across the country take NAEP tests every few years.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: Brown Center on Education Policy, homework, NAEP

March 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM

STEM programs to open at all Lake Washington high schools

Juanita High School student Jacob Curtis displays his sustainable housing design. Photo courtesy Lake Washington School District.

STEM High School student Jacob Curtis talks about his sustainable housing design. Photo courtesy Lake Washington School District.

For the past two school years, students at STEM High School in the Lake Washington School District have been spending big chunks of time working on real-world projects such as designing sustainable homes, solar light towers and portable heart monitors.

They get help from experts in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, some of whom come to STEM High for what amount to in-school internships.

But the district isn’t limiting its STEM opportunities to just one school. This fall, it opened what it’s calling STEM Signature Programs at three other high schools. Next fall, all high schools will have at least one such program.

Students who sign up for the programs take a three-class block designed around a STEM theme and complete projects related to the theme.


0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: Lake Washington School District, problem-based learning, project-based learning

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