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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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September 17, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Round II: Another top teacher explains more of jargon you hate

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Spencer Olmsted

In our quest to illuminate some of the education jargon you’ve said confuses and confounds you, today we offer plain-spoken definitions of five more terms, provided by National Board Certified teacher Spencer Olmsted from Olympia. Thanks, Spencer!

He follows Mark Gardner, a Camas high-school teacher (also nationally certified) who tackled three terms last week.

Both Olmsted and Gardner write for the Stories from School blog, a project of the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, a Washington nonprofit.

Olmsted teaches fifth grade in Olympia. His full bio is below.

He chose to define manipulatives, formative assessment, constructivist, scaffolding and number sentence.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, jargon, Spencer Olmsted

September 9, 2014 at 5:00 AM

What does data-driven mean? Maybe not what you think

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Mark Gardner

A few weeks back, we asked you to tell us what education jargon frustrates, exasperates or confuses you — and we got a long list, everything from alignment to value-added.

Then we asked some of our state’s most talented educators  ones who have earned the prestigious National Board Certification  to come up with some plain-spoken definitions.

Today, we feature responses from one of them: Mark Gardner, a high school English teacher from the Camas School District in southwest Washington and a blogger for Stories from School, a project of the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, a nonprofit dedicated to building a strong teaching force in Washington state.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, jargon, Mark Gardner

August 29, 2014 at 5:00 AM

How to improve schools? Some students say: Lower class size

Over six days in the past few weeks, 13 high school students, about to enter 12th grade, tackled a tough question: Is education equitable in Seattle, and if it’s not, why?

The students are all part of the prestigious Rainier Scholars program, selected in part because most hope to be the first in their families to attend college. From the time they’re in middle school, the program offers participants a big dose of academic enrichment, along with leadership training and social-emotional support.

Rainier Scholars Cohort VII

Students in Cohort VII in the Rainier Scholars program, who spent a half-dozen days this summer researching educational equity in Seattle. Photos courtesy of Rainier Scholars.

When it came time to present their findings,  the students clicked through Power Points full of statistics — everything from data showing that Ballard High’s PTA often raises more in one year than Franklin High does in 10, to maps showing how far students from low-income neighborhoods have to travel if they want to attend many of the city’s best-performing schools.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: class size, Rainier Scholars

August 27, 2014 at 10:56 AM

State test results for 2014: Some ups and downs

Update at 3:30 p.m.:  For a fuller story, see the Associated Press coverage here.

Original post:  Results from this year’s state tests showed ups and downs, in the last year that most students will take them, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction reported Wednesday.

Next year, the state will switch to a set of exams called Smarter Balanced, which are tied to the new Common Core learning standards. Most states have agreed to use the Common Core, replacing a system in which each state has its own learning goals for each grade and subject.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: common core, OSPI, test scores

August 11, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Tell us: What’s the most vexing education jargon you’ve heard?

With summer in full swing, it’s time to have little fun on the Ed Lab blog. As an education blog, we offer a bit of educational fun.

All you have to do is help us define education jargon in plain English.

Submit a term you don’t understand — or don’t fully understand — by typing it into the form below. We’re looking for terms that frustrate, exasperate or confuse you — or all three. Terms that you would like to ban forever. Terms that might as well be written in Martian — if they were Greek, they would be easier to understand.

Here are a few possibilities: Authentic assessment, child-centered, competency-based, alignment, critical thinking, differentiated instruction, mastery learning, constructivist, inquiry, direct instruction, developmentally appropriate, benchmarks, criterion-reference test, formative assessment, phonemic awareness, rubric, teacher leadership, research-based, best practices, stakeholders.

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Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: jargon, your voices

August 4, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Former governors urge court to allow more time in McCleary case

Update| 6:28 p.m.: Earlier today, we wrote about two friend-of-the-court briefs concerning the upcoming state Supreme Court hearing on the McCleary decision. Then we found out that every single living former governor of Washington got together and filed their own brief. Yep, every single one. Their message is simple. Instead of punishing the state Legislature in September’s hearing,…

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Comments | Topics: McCleary decision, school funding

July 30, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New group’s mission: when parents speak, schools listen

Probably no one in the state has worked harder to boost parent involvement at schools than Adie Simmons, who helped found the family engagement office at Seattle Public Schools, and was the first education ombudsman in the governor’s office.

Adie Simmons

Adie Simmons

Now she’s launched a new nonprofit one she hopes will help her use all she’s learned in the past 28 years to build the kind of parent-school relationships she’s always dreamed about. It’s called the Washington State Family and Community Engagement Trust.

Simmons envisions schools where working with parents is part of the day-to-day routine, not a perk offered in some places but not others. She also wants to build a bigger cadre of parents ready and willing to voice their views on education and child welfare in Olympia, as well as in their school districts and cities.

That’s similar to the goals of the Logan Square Parent-Mentor program in Chicago, which we wrote about earlier this year.

For years, Simmons said, she’s heard parents say “we are just parents, nobody listens to us.”

“We need to change that paradigm.”

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Adie Simmons, parent engagement, parent involvement

July 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Teacher quality and test scores: Recent studies raise questions

As we reported earlier this week, the standoff continues between our state and the feds over the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.

The U.S. Department of Education continues to insist that test scores should play some role in teacher evaluations. Washington lawmakers have refused to require school districts to do so and, as a result, lost the state’s waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

This week, the feds refused Washington’s request to get back a piece of that waiver — the part that would have saved schools from having to send letters home saying they have failed — as most other schools in the nation have failed — to ensure that all students were proficient in reading and math this year.

So what about the substance of the argument? Are test scores a valid indicator of a teacher’s effectiveness?

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Comments | More in News | Topics: teacher evaluation, teacher quality, test scores

July 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Uncool in middle school? That might be a good thing

Remember the cool kids in middle school? The ones classmates admired and longed to befriend? The ones whose rejections sent many of us into a funk?

If you’re still not over it, take heart. Turns out, as adults, the popular kids tend to slip to the other end of the social spectrum.

In a study published in Child Development, researchers from the University of Virginia found that by the time they reach their early 20s, many popular seventh-and eighth-graders are often viewed as socially inept.

The researchers tracked 184 students from 13 to 23. As young teens, they were all in the popular crowd, judged by interviews with peers and the students themselves.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Child Development, middle school, popularity

July 23, 2014 at 5:00 AM

How are the kids? Improving in some areas, suffering in others

Housing starts and employment reports give us one picture of the state of our economy, and our nation.

But what about the state of our children and the indicators of their well-being — the percent without health insurance, for example, or the percent of families without even one securely employed adult?

For 25 years, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has tracked such numbers, which it argues are just as important to the nation’s future as our minute-by-minute watch of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

“Far more attention should be paid to child well-being indicators because everyone else’s future is wrapped up in theirs,” said Lori Pfingst, of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, one of the groups that works with the foundation to collect data in Washington state.

So how are the nation’s 74 million kids doing?

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Annie E. Casey Foundation, child well-being, Kids Count

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