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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: Your voices
October 16, 2014 at 11:22 AM

Poll: Should student test scores be tied to principal pay?

Illustration by Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

Illustration by Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

A Seattle Times investigation has uncovered more details about the testing controversy at Seattle’s Beacon Hill International School.

Student testing booklets had been stored in a janitor’s closet for several weeks, a practice that is common in Seattle schools but recently drew concerns from an internal auditor. Five staff members at Beacon Hill — the principal, Po-yuk Tang, an assistant principal, a family-support worker and two custodians — had access to the closet where the test booklets were scored.

State officials announced Tuesday they had invalidated the school’s test scores after finding a large number of wrong answers had been erased and changed to the correct response.

In Seattle, principals can earn up to $7,500 extra each year based on student test scores and a number of other performance indicators. The Association of Washington School Principals says it is not aware of any other district in the state that incorporates test scores into principal pay.


Comments | More in Poll, Your voices | Topics: Beacon Hill, test scores

October 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

Your voices: Readers’ opinions, concerns on expanded pre-K

As part of our three-part series on early learning, Education Lab recently asked readers to share their thoughts on the idea of expanded pre-K and whether a city-sponsored program would meet the needs of their families.

We received dozens of thoughtful responses to our call out. What follows is the two questions that appeared on the questionnaire, and a selection of reader answers. Some responses have been edited for length or clarity.

Q: Do you agree preschool should be a universal offering, available to all families regardless of income? Why or why not?

Yes, as long as it is actually universal. I do not believe in the middle class subsidizing the poor while still having to pay full or marginally reduced price for my own children. I have 3-year-old twins, and this is of great interest and importance to me. I will most likely vote against the subsidized pre-K initiative.

 Scott Jeffries, Seattle

No. I think we should spend our taxpayer money on boosting the quality of our elementary through high-school education instead. We need smaller classrooms and more individual help for students who need it  too many are falling through the cracks. We should still keep Head Start for the under-privileged.

 Lisa Stultz, Anacortes


Comments | More in Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: early learning, pre-K

October 8, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Poll: Should parents be able to pay for teachers’ salaries?

School Board member Marty McLaren, left, meets Tuesday with parents from Gatewood Elementary School in West Seattle who have organized to raise money to prevent one of their teachers from being transferred. Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times.

School Board member Marty McLaren, left, meets Tuesday with parents from Gatewood Elementary School in West Seattle who have organized to raise money to prevent one of their teachers from being transferred. Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times.

Parents at Gatewood Elementary in West Seattle are scrambling to raise $90,000 to prevent one of the school’s teachers from being transferred to nearby Fairmount Park Elementary, which reopened this fall.

A group of parents calling itself Friends of Gatewood had collected about $52,000 as of Tuesday. Seattle Public Schools gave organizers a fundraising deadline for Wednesday, Oct. 8, but the school has asked for an extension.

The fundraising effort began after an official headcount of students on Oct. 1 revealed the school had fallen short of its enrollment projections, and Fairmount Park ended up with more students than expected.


Comments | More in News, Poll, Your voices | Topics: Fairmount Park Elementary, Gatewood Elementary, school funding

September 25, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Guest: New graduation rules will help all parents get more involved


Maria Estrada

Parent engagement is key to helping students make good decisions about their future and successfully achieve their dreams, particularly during students’ high school experiences.

But for me, parent engagement isn’t just about what I can do for my daughter. It’s also about what I can do to benefit all children.

My daughter Paulina and I moved to Washington from Mexico a few years ago. The language barrier made it difficult for me to understand how the school system worked or what classes my daughter was enrolled in.

Parents need to be engaged, but they also need accessible information about their child’s education. From personal experience, I can tell you that remaining engaged in your child’s education isn’t possible when you’re struggling to understand complex, bureaucratic information in a foreign language.

As a result, while in high school, Paulina took Algebra 1 four times, despite earning good grades and passing the class each time she was enrolled. This fall, Paulina must enroll in remedial math classes at a community college to learn the math she didn’t learn in high school before she can apply to a four-year institution.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion, Your voices | Topics: graduation requirements, parent engagement

September 20, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Tell us: Do you support universal pre-K? Would you sign up?

Juan Martinez, left, and Katherine Gaytan, enrolled in Community Action Project's Disney School, play with magnetic building pieces in Tulsa, Okla. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Juan Martinez, left, and Katherine Gaytan, enrolled in Community Action Project’s Disney School, play with magnetic building pieces in Tulsa, Okla. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

This fall, Seattle voters will consider two ballot measures that seek to improve early education programs in the city, and make them affordable to all families.

One measure sponsored by the mayor and city council would focus on 3- and 4-year-olds, and include free tuition for families who earn less than 300 percent of federal poverty level. A competing plan, backed by two child-care unions, would cover children from infancy through age 5.


Comments | More in Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: early education, pre-K, preschool

September 20, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Chat replay: What does ‘high-quality’ preschool look like?

The proposals to expand and improve early education in Seattle raise many questions about what effective preschool looks like. And what does “high quality” mean, anyway?

The Education Lab team hosted a Google+ hangout on all things early education this on Sept. 23. The discussion was facilitated by reporter John Higgins.


Comments | More in Video, Your voices | Topics: early education, early learning, pre-K

September 5, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Last chance: Tell us what you think about Education Lab

educationlab_facebookWhat do you think about The Seattle Times’ education coverage?

As we near the one-year mark for Education Lab, we’re taking a moment to collect your feedback on the project so far.

Go here to take the survey. We appreciate your opinion and will enter your name into a drawing for a $100 gift card.

Responses must be entered by 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9, to qualify for the drawing.


| More in About Education Lab, Your voices | Topics: survey

September 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Court hears arguments in McCleary school-funding case; watch coverage replay

Update 3:25 p.m.: The state Supreme Court turned the Temple of Justice into the proverbial woodshed Wednesday afternoon, demanding that state lawmakers explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing in the last session to come up with a complete plan to fully fund public education by 2018.

“It’s been said that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” Justice Charles Wiggins said to the attorney representing the state. “Why should we think that you’re going to do something different?”

The unusual hearing was the latest clash between the Legislature and the high court arising out of the court’s landmark 2012 McCleary decision declaring Washington’s school funding system unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Thomas Ahearne, has argued that the Supreme Court risks becoming an irrelevant branch of government if it fails to hold the Legislature accountable for failing to carry out the court’s order to submit the funding plan by April — or at least the end of 2014.


Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: live chat, McCleary

September 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Your voices: Local teachers on their ideal first day of school

With the start of the new school year just around the corner, we asked local teachers for their thoughts on what a perfect first day would be like. The following are their responses.

What does your ideal first day of school look like?

I am able to get everything done in 51 minutes. There is laughter and focus. Students leave looking forward to returning.

Ellen Simonis, Trout Lake School, Trout Lake

My ideal first day would be one where all of the students in my classes come to school properly fed, clothed, sheltered, and without any damaging stress caused by living in poverty.

—Bill Foster, Cheney Middle School, Cheney

Students with schedules already established, going to classes wherein they find the teachers contracted for the year. All the books/supplies for the quarter are already in place, and students and teachers can start learning about each other. No first day placement tests. No excessive hall wandering. Lots of smiling.

Tom O’Kelley, Oakland High School, Tacoma

A class that is reasonable in size so I can reach out to every student every day, necessary supplies that I don’t have to buy out of my own pocket (approx. $500 a year, or more) and a clean, safe classroom.

—Corie Jones, Elk Plain School of Choice, Spanaway


Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: first day, teachers

August 30, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Rewind: Watch a replay of live chat on special education in Seattle

Education Lab hosted a live chat on special education in Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 11.

The discussion was based off our earlier story about Seattle Public Schools’ long-troubled special-education program and a related report on how San Diego school officials fixed the communication problems in their own special-ed department. Reporter John Higgins facilitated the discussion.

Joining him was Stacy Gillett, a former special-education teacher who directs the governor’s education ombudsman’s office; Phyllis Campano, vice-president of the Seattle Education Association; and Mary Griffin, the mother of a child with disabilities and the immediate past president of the Seattle Special Ed PTSA.


Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: live chat, special education

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