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

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January 9, 2015 at 5:00 AM

Charter school operator eyes church in West Seattle

A charter group opening two high schools in the Seattle area this fall has its eyes on a third location in West Seattle, though a charter for the school has not yet been approved.

Summit Public Schools co-founder and CEO Diane Tavenner said her group is starting early on plans to turn a West Seattle church building into a high school in the hopes that its application for another charter is approved this year.

“To have a facility up and running and available, you have to start the facility process before the charter process,” Tavenner said in an interview Tuesday.

Summit is working with Los Angeles-based Pacific Charter School Development to purchase and remodel the building at 9601 35th Ave. SW, which has been home to Freedom Church of Seattle. The sale is expected to close in two to three months, Tavenner said. Pacific Charter School Development is listed as the pending owner on a site plan submitted to the city of Seattle, which shows several additions to the building that, according to Tavenner, was a grocery store before it was a church.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Charter school, Summit Public Schools, West Seattle

December 31, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Some education news to watch for in the upcoming year

As the final days of 2014 tick by, here are five of the education stories we plan to keep an eye on in 2015:

From left, Kelsey McCleary, 20, mother and plaintiff Stephanie McCleary, and son Carter McCleary, 15. Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times.

From left, Kelsey McCleary, 20, mother and plaintiff Stephanie McCleary, and son Carter McCleary, 15. Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times.

1. More money for schools

Lawmakers in Olympia will wrestle this session with how to meet a court order to give more state dollars to public schools and pay for a sweeping class size initiative that voters approved in the November election. Some lawmakers say they’re ready to send Initiative 1351 back to voters with a price tag and a proposal for how to pay for it.

But lawmakers will have a tough time dodging the state Supreme Court’s unanimous September decision to hold the Legislature in contempt for failing to ramp up public school spending quickly enough, which the court ordered back in 2012. The court gave lawmakers until the day after the session to come up with a plan to increase school spending to the required levels or convince justices they shouldn’t issue sanctions.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: 2015, Initiative 1351, Larry Nyland

December 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Inslee’s budget calls for all-time biggest boost to early learning

Among a slew of education proposals announced during Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget rollout last week, Inslee suggested a hefty boost to the state’s Department of Early Learning — $177 million over the next two years, more than doubling the amount of money the department gets from the state today.

The governor hailed that increase as the “largest-ever state investment in early learning.”

He is right.

Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee

As far as the 8-year-old Department of Early Learning is concerned, the $177 million increase would be the department’s biggest ever, said Mike Steenhout, its chief financial officer. Among other child care and early learning services, the department runs Washington state’s preschool program, called the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or E-Cap, which currently provides preschool to about 10,000 low-income students statewide.

If adopted, Inslee’s suggested $177 million increase would be nearly three times greater than the next largest funding spike in the department’s history, which came as it was ramping up around 2007. Inslee proposed adding $2 million for home visits, $4 million for early intervention with special needs toddlers and providing $70.5 million in state dollars for the Early Achievers child care rating and improvement program, which is today almost entirely funded by a one-time federal grant.

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Comments | Topics: early learning, Jay Inslee

December 19, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Former Federal Reserve building may yet end up as a public school

A few weeks ago, the Seattle School Board declined the chance to get the former Federal Reserve branch in downtown Seattle for free in exchange for turning it into an elementary school.

Board members were uncomfortable with some of the terms — especially the fact that accepting it from the feds would have come with a mandate to turn the hulking structure into an elementary school within three years or face fines. District staff estimated that project would cost between $50 million and $53 million, and board members didn’t want to commit the district to that price before they asked voters to support it.

But a meeting this week made it clear they haven’t given up on turning the building into an elementary school.

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Comments | Topics: Downtown school, Federal Reserve, Seattle Public Schools

December 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

How much learning happens on field trips? A lot, a new study says

A field trip group from St. George School on Beacon Hill tours the area around the Seward Park Environmental and Audubon Center. Photo by Alan Berner / The Seattle Times 2008.

A field trip group from St. George School on Beacon Hill tours the area around the Seward Park Environmental and Audubon Center. Photo by Alan Berner / The Seattle Times 2008.

There’s something special about stepping onto a bus, leaving school and walking into a theater that grabs students’ attention more than popping a DVD into a television set.

Much like babies who learn more by watching real people than by looking at two-dimensional screens, teenagers learn better from real humans, too.

But students don’t just enjoy field trips because they’re fun — they can often learn more than they do in the classroom, according to a new study from the University of Arkansas.

To measure just how much students learn from culturally enriching field trips, researchers from the University of Arkansas gave hundreds of high school-aged kids tickets to see one of two plays: Hamlet and A Christmas Carol. Another 340 students who signed up for the trial were randomly chosen to not see the play, but still be in the experiment. Some were assigned to read the play or watch a movie version in class, some were not.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Field trips, Jay Greene

December 17, 2014 at 5:21 PM

State’s first charter school on probation; timeline set for fixes

A state commission overseeing charter schools on Wednesday released a series of deadlines for improvements to the state’s first charter school, First Place Scholars in Seattle, which has floundered since classes began in September.

By Jan. 5, the school must hire an interim special education director, to replace a contractor who quit in late October. Currently, no First Place teacher is qualified to work with some two dozen kids who qualify for help with special needs.

And by this Friday, the school must describe how it  has been meeting those kids’ needs since the contractor left.

The deadlines are part of ongoing negotiations between the commission and First Place following the commission’s rejection of the school’s improvement plan last week. Not only did the school fail to turn in its proposed fixes on time, it hardly addressed any of the commission’s concerns, the commission said in a letter to the school Tuesday.

As a result, the school is now on probation, meaning commission staff will visit monthly to make sure the school is following  its charter, a contract that allows First Place to operate as a publicly funded, privately run institution, similar to thousands of charter schools in nearly every other state across the country.

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Comments | Topics: charter, charter schools, First Place

December 16, 2014 at 6:01 PM

Gov’s plan would spur court sanctions, says state schools chief

Washington state schools chief Randy Dorn lambasted Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed education budget Tuesday, saying it falls far short of what the state Supreme Court has ordered lawmakers to do when it comes to how much money they provide to public schools.

In his budget, released Monday, Inslee said he wants to pay for all-day public kindergarten and reduce average class sizes in grades K-3. But he did not set any money aside for reducing the number of students per class  in grades 4-12, which voters approved in the November election. And while Inslee suggests reinstating cost-of-living raises for teachers, Dorn says that’s not enough.

To meet the court’s requirements, Dorn said, lawmakers must fund a basic education for all students, without school districts having to contribute to those costs through local property tax levies.

“This issue is not complicated,” Dorn wrote. “Over and over again our courts have ruled that relying on levies to fund a major portion of our education system is unconstitutional.”

Dorn said Inslee’s proposal, if adopted, will lead the Supreme Court to sanction lawmakers.

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Comments | Topics: class size, Education budget, Initiative 1351

December 15, 2014 at 4:39 PM

Seattle charter school plan to be public Tuesday

A Seattle charter school’s plan to fix a slew of problems will be made public Tuesday, according to the head of the state commission governing charter schools.

Joshua Halsey, the commission’s executive director, initially said the plan and the commission’s response to it would be available to the public Monday. He said Monday the documents will be published Tuesday.

On Thursday, the commission rejected the school’s corrective action plan, saying it was deficient and submitted late.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: charter schools, First Place Scholars Charter School, Joshua Halsey

December 15, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Base teacher pay on local market rates? Issaquah lawmaker says yes

Rep. Chad Magendanz, the ranking Republican on the state House education committee, wants to pay teachers based on local market rates and likes the idea of sending a recent class-size initiative back to voters with a price tag — and a proposed source of funding.

Those are among the ideas the Issaquah lawmaker talked about during on a visit to The Seattle Times last week.

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah

State lawmakers, he said, will be hard pressed to find enough money to cover what’s required under the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, as well as the new class-size initiative that voters passed in November. He also pushed for a host of teacher compensation reforms, not just local labor market adjustments but also better raises for teachers earlier in their careers.

Here are Magendanz’s thoughts on some big issues facing Washington education today:

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Chad Magendanz, Initiative 1351, McCleary

December 12, 2014 at 3:31 PM

State commission rejects Seattle charter school’s correction plan

Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times

First Place Scholars in Seattle. Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times.

The state commission overseeing Washington charter schools has rejected a corrective action plan from First Place Scholars in Seattle, the state’s first charter school.

The plan from First Place, which has floundered since opening in September, was deficient in some key areas and not submitted on time, said Joshua Halsey, the commission’s executive director. As a result, Halsey said he didn’t have enough time to review it.

Now begins a round of stricter negotiations, where Halsey will detail what changes First Place must complete or face losing its charter.

“The next step is to go over (the corrective action plan),” Halsey said. “It will become more prescriptive, as opposed to the school having the ability to pick the plan and how they’re going to go about that.”

School leader Linda Whitehead did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon.

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Comments | Topics: charter schools, First Place

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