Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.
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December 12, 2013 at 6:00 AM
With the growing amount of educational materials offered on the Internet for free, are textbooks on their way out?
They soon may be. In the Lake Washington School District, for example, educators are investigating whether they can replace their high-school science texts with e-books built from free materials available online.
Up until recently, district officials didn’t think there was enough online curriculum to replace traditional textbooks, said Linda Stevens, director of curriculum and assessment.
Now, the district believes online materials may be equivalent or superior to what’s in print — and cheaper, too.
December 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM
In our Sunday story about tapping into the power of parents in education, we summed up some of the research into ways parents can help students achieve.
But there’s much more, including studies from the “social capital” camp — researchers who study the webs of relationships that can bring benefits to individuals, families and schools.
That concept was at the heart of “Bowling Alone,” a book that got a lot of play a few years back for tracking the demise of social ties in America.
The studies ring true to anyone who has ever gained from being part of a school community, getting advice and information from other parents as well as teachers and principals.
December 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
In case you missed it, Tuesday was PISA Day.
With a lot of fanfare, officials released the 2012 scores for perhaps the most closely watched international test, the Programme for International Student Assessment — PISA for short.
For the U.S., the news was that our scores didn’t change much from 2009, the last time the test was given, though we dropped some in the rankings.
Whether that’s a clarion call for change depends on your point of view. Opinions varied, with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the reform organization Achieve lamenting the results, while others found them worthless or at least worth a more nuanced look. See author and testing critic Diane Ravitch, and these folks in Education Week and Slate.
November 28, 2013 at 9:00 AM
This year’s state superintendent of the year is Edward Lee Vargas, honored in part for his efforts to infuse Kent schools with technology.
In announcing the honor, the Washington Association of School Administrators pointed to a number of awards the Kent School District has won since Vargas arrived in 2009, including its selection by Microsoft as an international model for how to use technology in the classroom.
The district also was selected to be part of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, a coalition of 40 school districts and 24 states committed to using technology effectively.
November 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM
What would happen if teachers with a track record of raising test scores transferred into low-performing schools, enticed by a $20,000 bonus?
In middle school, not much, according to a new study by Mathematica Policy Research. In elementary schools, however, the study found the transferring teachers raised test scores more than a control group.
The study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, was conducted in 10 school districts in seven different states. The districts offered the bonuses to teachers who ranked in the top 20 percent in their districts in raising student test scores, and 81 teachers participated. To get the bonus, they had to agree to stay at the low-scoring school for at least two years.
November 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM
A new article in The Atlantic raises an ongoing question about class sizes: Is it better to put a lot of students in the classroom of an excellent teacher, or lower class sizes for all teachers?
That debate has been going on for some time, and, despite the conclusion of a new report described in The Atlantic, probably will continue.
The report, based on a simulation of data from North Carolina, says that excellent teachers are a better investment than small class sizes.
November 19, 2013 at 6:00 AM
School transformation, to succeed, must be tailored to each individual school, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, said during a visit to the Seattle area.
But one common thread important to success is collaboration, Van Roekel said, getting teachers and principals and other key players to agree to work together on solutions.
Getting all those parties to the table is the most important step, he said, and the hardest. Without that, “the probability of success goes way down.”
November 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is trumpeting Washington state’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of tests that a sample of students take every few years in selected grades and subjects.
On Wednesday, his office issued a news release with a link to hear U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan praise Washington for its gains this year.
But the picture isn’t quite that simple.
Washington students’ scores did go up and, in a simple ranking, went up more than most other states. But according to a critique by Tom Loveless, such rankings lose a lot of meaning when the tests’ margin of error are taken into account. For those who want to dive deep into the details, Loveless provides it.
For those who just want the conclusion: Washington did improve, but not as much as Duncan’s message may make it sound. And when it comes to overall scores, it’s really only safe to say that Washington ranks somewhere in the middle.
November 14, 2013 at 6:00 AM
A new film that tracks two middle-class black boys for 13 years, including the time they spent at the prestigious Dalton School in New York City, will be shown Tuesday in Seattle at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave. S.
The free screening of “American Promise” is intended to spark discussions about how we educate children, the hopes and hurdles all parents face, and the challenges for black families and their sons.
The film is being presented by the African American Leadership Forum, the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute and the Multicultural Education Rights Alliance.
A panel discussion with four speakers will follow the screening — Geneva Gay from the University of Washington, Trish Millines Dziko of the Technology Access Foundation, Emijah Smith of the Children’s Alliance, and Tilman Smith of Child Care Resources. Don Felder of Casey Family Services will facilitate.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The film is scheduled to start at 6:15 p.m. and the panel discussion will follow at 7:40 p.m. Seating is first-come, first serve.
November 13, 2013 at 3:55 PM
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), along with 11 other lawmakers, today proposed a bill that would help carry out President Obama’s pledge to offer every child in the country a chance to attend a high-quality preschool.
The bill, as explained in a story by Seattle Times reporter Kyung Song, would help states provide free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families.
See Song’s story for more details, but here are a few headlines: Some 50,000 Washington students could possibly qualify. States would have to contribute money to match the federal grants. The bill calls for all preschool teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. The initial price tag for the first five years: $34 billion.
The bill would require state-funded kindergarten as a condition for federal grants — a full day, not the half day that Washington state guarantees. But according to Murray’s office, states such as Washington that are moving toward providing full-day kindergarten classes could qualify, too.
What are your thoughts on expanded preschool? Weigh in by leaving a response to our Question of the Week.
About the authors
Katherine Long has been a reporter for The Seattle Times since 1990, focusing for the past three years on higher ed, with stories that have ranged from the complexities of prepaid tuition programs to nontraditional ways to earn a degree.
Claudia Rowe joined The Seattle Times’ reporting staff in 2013. She has written about education for The New York Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, among other publications.
Mike Siegel has been a news photographer at the Seattle Times since 1987. His photography was used in a series titled "Methadone and the Politics of Pain," which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for investigative reporting.
Janet Horne Henderson is The Times’ education editor. She has directed award-winning stories and projects examining race, immigration, religion and health, in addition to education
Caitlin Moran is community engagement editor for Education Lab. Her role is to help foster constructive dialogue online and in person
Read extended bios.
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