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Education Lab Blog

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

Category: News
November 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Round-up: Nyland considered for permanent job, pension policy could be behind sub shortage

Seattle school board considers Nyland for permanent job: The Seattle school board is planning to vote early next year on a proposal to give interim superintendent Larry Nyland an offer to remain in his job through June 2017. Nyland, who previously served as superintendent in Marysville, came out of retirement four months ago to take the place of José Banda.

Substitute shortage could be a result of state pension policy: State lawmakers are considering changing a controversial 2007 law that makes hefty cuts to the pensions of certain retired teachers who work for a public employer. Currently, 1,003 retired teachers statewide cannot substitute for a single day without losing their pension for an entire month.

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November 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Seattle’s Mercer Middle named School of Distinction for sixth year running

Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times 2011.

Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times 2011.

Corrected version

For the sixth year in a row, Asa Mercer International Middle School in Seattle has earned a spot on a statewide list that applauds schools for sustaining improvements in reading and math.

The highly diverse, high-poverty school has won the School of Distinction award more times than any other school in the state. This year’s list includes 101 schools.

Mercer emerged from declining enrollment and slumping test results to surpass Seattle Public Schools’ average passing rates in math and reading in 2011. At the time, school leaders cited a strong principal, hardworking teachers and the constant use of data to tweak instruction as reasons for the stark improvement. School board leaders hailed the school and said other schools should learn from what Mercer was doing.

Today, that approach is maintaining Mercer’s legacy. Students there passed state tests at rates greater than the district average in all but one area. In sixth-grade reading, 75 percent of students passed, slightly below the district’s average of 80 percent.

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November 26, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Round-up: Nyland apologizes for signing off on Gates grant, Oregon charter enrollment hits 5 percent

Seattle schools chief apologizes for signing off on Gates grant: Interim Superintendent Larry Nyland apologized last week for breaking district policy and signing off on a $250,000 grant from the Gates Foundation before the school board had voted on the matter. Nyland said he did not know he was supposed to get others’ signatures before approving the contract.

Oregon charter school enrollment hits all-time high (The Oregonian): Five percent of public-school students in Oregon currently attend one of more than 100 charter schools operating there. Oregon legalized charter schools in 1999.

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November 26, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Skin in the Game, 5: Teacher meetings aren’t only for the kids

I don’t know what I expected — an inquisition about my parenting style? The discovery that my 5-year-old was a secret sociopath? A misfit genius? Whatever I imagined this bogeyman to be, my first parent-teacher conference was nothing close.

Instead, we adults sat on tiny-person chairs around a miniature table, looking over evidence of my son’s 12-week evolution. I saw his handwriting on the first day of kindergarten, and how it had changed three months later. (Still no “finger-spaces” between his words.) I saw what he could sight-read in September, how he’d tripled that by November, and where on the reading-assessment levels he now rates. (Pretty well, though he still stumbles when trying to read the word “read.”)

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

I pictured this veteran teacher, sitting all day in those itty-bitty chairs, doing the same show-and-tell exercise for two dozen other families, and realized how much an elementary educator’s job involves teaching parents the processes of public school.

It’s visible, the mark this bureaucracy leaves on a 5 year old. On the first day of class, all the kids looked vaguely perplexed at having to sit in fixed seats or at assigned spots on the carpet. That’s gone. You can see it in their faces. They’ve toughened a bit, figured out that they’re being funneled into a much bigger system, and that it has rules.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: parenting, Skin in the game

November 25, 2014 at 1:23 PM

Round-up: Seattle students walk out of class, Georgia schools get creative with school lunches

Seattle high-school students walk out to join Ferguson protests: Seattle Public Schools says approximately 1,000 students from Garfield High School walked out of class Tuesday afternoon to join ongoing protests surrounding Monday’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo. About 250 students from Roosevelt High School also walked out Tuesday morning but were reportedly heading back to the school.

Georgia schools get creative with cafeteria lunches (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution): Across the country, fewer students are opting for cafeteria lunches following the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and an uptick in meal prices. The decline has prompted some schools in Georgia to offer more meal choices and cook more food from scratch in a effort to get more students in the cafeteria line.

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November 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Why North Dakota is increasing, not cutting, higher education

When the great recession hit in 2008, most state legislators, including those in Washington, made up for a shortfall in revenue by cutting funding to higher education. That’s why college tuition skyrocketed over the past few years, often by double-digit amounts, at public colleges and universities across the country.

But two states — North Dakota and Alaska — have taken advantage of rapidly-improving economies in their states to put money back into higher education.

A Hechinger Report story out this week tells why North Dakota pumped more than a quarter of a billion dollars into the University of North Dakota in recent years, along with $80 million into North Dakota State University and another $179 million for public colleges and universities statewide.

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November 24, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Round-up: Corinthian Colleges sells off local schools, UVA suspends all fraternities

Corinthian Colleges sells off schools (AP): Corinthian Colleges, a chain of for-profit colleges facing scrutiny from federal and state regulations, is selling most of its campuses operating under the name Everest or WyoTech, including six campuses in Western Washington. A non-profit company called ECMC Group is buying 68 schools for $24 million and plans to close 12 of them after their current students graduate.

UVA suspends all frats amid sexual-assault allegations (Bloomberg): The University of Virginia has suspended all fraternities until Jan. 9 after a story appeared in Rolling Stone that reported several students there had made accusations of sexual assault that were not pursued by the university. The student at the center of the story says she was raped by seven men at a Phi Kappa Psi party in 2012.

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November 21, 2014 at 11:33 AM

Videos: College students share struggles, triumphs at Education Lab event

On Nov. 15, five local college students appeared before an audience at the University of Washington to share their journeys of achieving college access despite significant challenges and set-backs. “Storytellers: How I Got into College” was hosted as part of the UW Dream Project’s Admissions Workshop Weekend, an annual event that brings dozens of high-school students from throughout King County to UW for assistance completing their college applications.

Go here for a written recap and photos from the evening’s program. Videos of each storyteller are posted below.

Jenée Myers Twitchell, director of the Dream Project, kicked off the event by sharing the story of her own upbringing in Yakima. “My story is filled with addicts,” she said. “Pretty much everybody in my family had gone through or needed to go through rehab.”

Her own struggles inspired her to begin working with local youth and start the Dream Project.

“I didn’t want it be about luck. I didn’t want getting to college to be about, ‘I just hope I meet the right person,'” she said.

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Comments | More in News, Video, Your voices | Topics: Dream Project, storytellers, University of Washington

November 21, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Not a pretty picture: A call to action for black girls in school

Update, 11:05 a.m.: This post was updated to include information about students at Chief Sealth High School winning a film award related to race and education.

Across the country, educators are talking about new ways to handle student discipline, and while there is broad acknowledgement that punitive, zero-tolerance policies have fallen disproportionately on African-American boys, a recent report points out that black girls are suspended at a rate six times that of whites — and at rates that also surpass those for Latino, Asian and white boys.

Though research shows that they do not engage in more frequent or serious misbehavior than other groups, African-American girls account for 43 percent of all female students arrested at school. They constitute only 17 percent of the nation’s female students.

Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity,” authored by the National Women’s Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, highlights these facts and attempts to quantify some of the long-range costs.

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November 20, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Round-up: Seattle pre-K program won’t include transportation, shooting at Florida State

Seattle preschool program won’t include transportation: Mayor Ed Murray says Seattle remains committed to a diverse mix of students in its subsidized preschool program, despite a lack of funds for bus transportation. Murray’s new Office of Education and Early Learning is set to present a detailed implementation plan for the program to the city council by Feb. 23.

Alumnus shoots three at Florida State University (AP): Three people were injured early Thursday morning after a Florida State University alumnus opened fire in the school’s library. The gunman was shot and killed by police.

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