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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 Linda Shaw.

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

September 17, 2014 at 5:00 AM

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


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.


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

image001 (2)

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.


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.


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.


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.


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,…


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.”


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

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