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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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 lshaw@seattletimes.com, 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.

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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

olmsted

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

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.

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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

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