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Education Lab Blog

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

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You are currently viewing all posts written by Linda Shaw.

January 15, 2015 at 5:00 AM

Russell and Marshawn are stars, but so are Kenneth and John

John Bransford

John Bransford

Kenneth Zeichner

Kenneth Zeichner

Most of us don’t follow education stars as closely as Seahawks standouts, but the Seattle area has national talent in that arena, too.  Seven Washingtonians, for example, were listed in a ranking of this year’s top 200 education researchers — no small feat, given that there are more than 20,000 of them across the country.

At no. 41, University of Washington Professor Kenneth Zeichner was the highest ranked from this state, followed by John Bransford, a UW professor emeritus, who ranked 59th.

The list was created by Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, who set out to measure scholars’ clout in broad, national debates about education, far beyond academia. To calculate the rankings, Hess used eight measures, including how frequently scholars’ books and papers are cited by colleagues, and how many times they are mentioned in general-interest newspapers and the education press. The full methodology can be found here.

Zeichner received  high scores in the academic-work-cited-by-colleagues category, but he’s also written pieces for The Washington Post, including one that challenges the fact that many low-income schools have a significant number of under-prepared teachers.   (He’s also the father of Seattle teacher Noah Zeichner, who has been featured in Education Lab as one of the nominees for a new, $1 million teaching prize.)


Comments | More in News | Topics: Dan Goldhaber, education research, Frederick Hess

January 7, 2015 at 5:00 AM

Tacoma deputy supe hailed for measuring more than test scores

Josh Garcia, deputy superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools, has received his second national award in two years, named a “leader to learn from” by Education Week, a national newsweekly.

Josh Garcia. Courtesy Tacoma Public Schools.

Josh Garcia. Courtesy Tacoma Public Schools.

That follows his March 2013 honor as one of the nation’s outstanding young educators. That award was given by the ASCD, a 125,000-member education nonprofit founded in 1943.

For the most recent award, Education Week heralded Garcia’s role in building Tacoma Public School’s accountability system, which goes well beyond the usual reading and math scores. In Tacoma, the district and its schools are judged by about 40 measures, everything from how many students participate in extracurricular activities, to how many families are registered as school volunteers. The full list can be found here.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Josh Garcia, standardized testing, Tacoma Public Schools

December 8, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Two Washington teachers up for $1 million international prize

Two Washington teachers — Noah Zeichner and Jeff Charbonneau — are among 50 finalists from across the world for a $1 million award, designed to be the Nobel Prize of education.

Noah Zeichner

Noah Zeichner

The Varkey GEMS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of an international private school chain based in Dubai, hopes its Global Teacher Prize will elevate the teaching profession, although some question whether giving $1 million to one teacher is the way to do that. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is the foundation’s honorary chairman.

Zeichner, who teaches at Seattle’s Chief Sealth High, recently was named World Educator of the Year by the Seattle branch of the World Affairs Council. He was featured on the Education Lab blog in March. Charbonneau, featured on the blog in May, was named the United States’ top teacher in 2013. He returned to Zillah High in Eastern Washington this fall, where he also works as a regional coordinator for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.


Comments | More in News

November 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

In 100 days, hopes for better communication in Seattle schools

In both of his state-of-the-district addresses last week — one hosted by the Alliance for Education and an encore speech at Seattle Public Schools headquarters — interim Superintendent Larry Nyland mostly talked in general terms about the problems and progress in the city’s public schools.

But he mentioned one new, specific initiative – a 100-day plan for improving communication between the district and parents, as well as between central office employees and the teachers, principals and others staff who work in schools.

We caught up with Nyland a few days later to ask him what the 100-day plan will include.


Comments | Topics: communication, Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools

November 19, 2014 at 9:00 AM

On the agenda: Films, discussions on preschool, high-stakes testing

Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

A number of education events will be held this week on early childhood education and standardized testing.

For those of you interested in both topics, we’re sorry to say that two of them are at about the same time this coming Thursday.

On pre-K: King County is hosting a free screening of “The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation,” the opening episode in a series that will air on PBS this spring. King County says the series will explore “the importance of investing in early childhood development.”

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on “what it takes to ensure King County is a community where young children thrive.” Panel participants will include King County Executive Dow Constantine, and early learning advocates and educators. 6 p.m. Thursday, Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center, 400 S. 2nd St., Renton.


Comments | More in News | Topics: early learning, on the agenda, testing

November 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Education Lab, Year II: Staff changes and what’s ahead

educationlab_facebookDear readers,

Education Lab is now past its infancy, and starting its second year.  You may have noticed some staffing changes that we’ve been remiss in formally announcing.

But first, a big thanks to all of you for reading, and sharing your perspectives and questions. Thanks for making this one of the most popular news blogs at The Seattle Times, and helping us grow and improve.

Education Lab is an experiment, a chance to try out new ways of writing about education and, more important, new ways of interacting with you. We’re focused on promising practices we see in our public schools, not as a way to avoid writing about the problems — we’ll continue to do that, too — but as one way to address them.


Comments | More in About Education Lab, News | Topics: Caitlin Moran, Claudia Rowe, education lab

November 12, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Does the U.S. push its students too hard — or too little?

Are U.S. students more interested in athletics than academics, so lackadaisical about their futures that they’re at risk of losing out to more motivated, harder-working students in China and India?

Or are they too stressed out in academic pressure-cookers, pushed to do too much meaningless work, and losing out on real learning — and their sanity?

Two recent documentaries — “Two Million Minutes” and “Race to Nowhere” — make the case for the first as well as the second, two opposing views that will be explored in a University of Washington event this coming Monday.

The event, sponsored by the UW’s Master’s in Education Policy program, will be one of the few if not the only time that excerpts from both films will be shown together. 


Comments | More in News

October 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Judging school performance: Is there a better way?

Many agree that the way we evaluate schools, often with a heavy emphasis on test scores, isn’t working well.  So what would be better?   That’s what the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) asked recently, acknowledging problems with what’s happening now.

Paul Tong / Op Art

Paul Tong / Op Art

“There is a backlash against accountability,” wrote Robin Lake, the center’s director. “Critics have legitimate concerns about imperfect measurement and unintended consequences.”

Many others are asking similar questions. One example: Linda Darling-Hammond, the influential Stanford University professor of education, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, recently announced their own ideas for how to move forward, away from what they consider a test-and-punish approach to a support-and-improve one.

At CRPE, which is affiliated with the University of Washington Bothell, Lake and others recently released a set of eight principles, which they think most can support.


Comments | More in News | Topics: accountability, Center on Reinventing Public Education, Linda Darling-Hammond

October 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Jargon round III: Child-centered, phonemic awareness, equity, IEP

Our jargon expert today is Charles Duerr, a former Bellevue elementary teacher who now coaches first-year teachers. He holds the prestigious national board certification, and, like our previous jargon-definers, is a contributor to the Stories from Schools blog, sponsored by the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession.

Duerr tackled a few more of the tempestuous terms you listed earlier on this blog. See his definitions below.


Charles Duerr

For any other potential definers out there, here are a few other words we’d still like described in plain-spoken language. They are: Alignment, benchmarking, value-added, rubric.  Send a one- or two-sentence definition to, and we may feature it in a future Education Lab post.

Now to Duerr’s definitions:

Phonemic awareness: An early education skill, the knowledge of the sounds that letters and groups of letters make. It is assessed by reading nonsense words: Plub, crin, swar

Child-centered/brain-based/learner centered: Separate but overlapping approaches to teaching that consider the emotional health, developmental stages, and learning styles of students.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, Charles Duerr, jargon

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