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Education Lab Blog

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

Topic: early ed

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October 7, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Speaker series launches Oct. 15 with panel on early education

Next Wednesday, The Seattle Times will launch a new speaker series called LiveWire with a panel discussion on early learning.

The evening event takes place at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond. Times education reporter John Higgins will facilitate the conversation.

LiveWIRE_Logo_TaglineStacked_reverse_WorangePanelists include two leading brain science researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and other elected officials and educators.

Join the Education Lab team immediately following the main program for an informal Q&A with the reporters and editors behind the project.


Comments | More in News | Topics: early ed, early learning, livewire

August 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Child care costs in King County among highest in nation

Child care costs in King County are among the highest in the nation, but it’s not because child care providers are making out like bandits, according to a report issued today by Puget Sound Sage, a nonprofit that advocates for low-income families.

One example of how high costs are here: A single mother making $33,500 a year, the median income in King County, makes too much money for a subsidy. But she would have to spend 52 percent of her salary to cover the market rate for one infant at a child care center, according to the report, authored by Nicole Vallestero Keenan, policy director for Puget Sound Sage.

Graphic courtesy Puget Sound Sage

Graphic courtesy Puget Sound Sage


Comments | More in News | Topics: Child care, early ed, preschool

July 29, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Preschool for all kids? Business leaders get campaign preview

Anh Tuan Ta, 4, second from right, and Jimwel Pelaez, 3, far right, lay out plans before they construct their "spiky space needle" during an open-ended activity session at the Denise Louie Education Center in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Photo by Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times.

Children participate in an open-ended activity session at the Denise Louie Education Center in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Photo by Marcus Yam / The Seattle Times.

In a preview of what’s to come this fall, three high-level speakers debated Seattle’s proposal to pay for universal preschool in front of a roomful of business leaders.

Voters will weigh in Nov. 4 on whether to fund a four-year pilot providing high-quality pre-K education to 2,000 4-year-olds. Total cost: $58 million, to be paid through property-tax increases.

The effort would align Seattle with numerous cities and states funding early-learning initiatives, from San Francisco to Florida. All are responding to compelling evidence about the benefits of preschool for young children. But many are also wrestling with significant questions about the staying power of those gains.


Comments | More in News | Topics: early ed, pre-K, preschool

April 8, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Tracking kids over decades shows effect of early-childhood lessons

Illustration by Donna Grethen / Op Art

Illustration by Donna Grethen / Op Art

There’s plenty of talk these days about the virtues of early-childhood education, and most of it, predictably, comes via education experts. But when medical types chime in, it can add important heft to cost-benefit analyses. Sort of like when scientists began to confirm that climate change is real.

Last month Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician and health policy researcher at the Indiana University School of Medicine, happened upon a 30-year study of early childhood interventions that, as he put it “just blows me away.”

You don’t often hear medical types speak in such terms.

Between 1972 and 1977, researchers randomly studied 111 children, from birth to age 8, and followed up decades later to see whether certain education and medical treatments in childhood reaped significant implications when those kids became adults. (The study was published in Science Magazine, which requires a subscription. But you can read a summary here and look over some data here.)

The kids, all of them from poor families in rural North Carolina, were divided into two groups. One half received language lessons, social stimulation and emotional guidance — that is, high-quality daycare — eight hours a day, for their first five years. They also got two meals, a snack, regular check-ups and medical treatment when ill. The other group received no special attention.


Comments | More in News | Topics: early ed

March 31, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Baby talk 101: New program puts brain research into action

The research is clear: the first few years of life are crucial to a child’s brain development and future language skills. The best way to build strong neurological connections? One-on-one, verbal interactions between the child and an adult caregiver.

But what does that interaction sound like? What’s the best way to talk to a baby who can’t talk back yet?

A Sunday story from reporter Katherine Long describes how a new pilot program is working to give parents in South King County the tools to strengthen early brain development. Called Vroom, the program includes hundreds of suggested activities — from mimicking a baby’s babbling noises to playing peek-a-boo — that parents can try at different ages.

A sampling:

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Comments | More in News | Topics: baby-talk, early ed, early learning

February 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Skin in the game, Lesson One: Mom, do your homework

Claudia Rowe

Claudia Rowe

Parents meeting after-hours in a school cafeteria may not sound like the newsiest event. But I was there, as a reporter and a mom, because my child will be entering Fairmount Park Elementary when it opens this fall, and I wanted to hear what those of us new-to-the-school-system need to know. I’ve covered education for a long time, but the terrain looks very different when your own kid is involved.

Lesson No. 1: March 7 is the deadline for filing the paperwork to enroll your child in any Seattle public school. This applies to kindergarten students, children new to the district or kids applying to switch out of their assigned buildings.

Even in our wired city, that comes down to paperwork. Lots of it. Paper from your child’s doctor certifying immunizations. Paper from utility companies or courts confirming your address. Paper verifying your child’s birth date.

One wonders why a school district handling 50,000 kids would want to do things this way, but so be it. I will be gathering documents.


Comments | More in News | Topics: early ed, kindergarten, registration

January 30, 2014 at 5:00 AM

How Boston’s preschools went from mediocre to outstanding

Corrected version

Preschool has a high profile these days, with many government leaders, from President Obama on down, pushing for more — and better — early childhood programs.

The Seattle City Council, for example, is considering joining a handful of other municipalities across the nation that make preschool available to every 3- and 4-year-old, regardless of the family’s ability to pay.

As part of the city of Seattle’s discussions about preschool, Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess has organized a hearing next week where two researchers will discuss their recent studies on the value of preschool. One of those studies focuses on the program in Boston Public Schools, which Burgess and others see as possible model for Seattle. To date, Boston’s program has seen some of the best success in preparing students for school, the researchers say.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Boston Public Schools, early ed, early-childhood education

January 28, 2014 at 7:27 PM

Education highlights from Obama’s State of the Union address

Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images

Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images

The following are some education-related highlights from Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address, delivered Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol. The excerpts are from a full text version of the president’s prepared remarks, as distributed by the Associated Press.


Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.

Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math.

Some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it’s worth it – and it’s working.


Comments | More in News | Topics: early ed, higher ed, Obama

January 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Listen up, parents: Your baby can’t talk yet, but she’s absorbing every word

Researchers have long known that babies whose caregivers speak to them frequently learn more words — especially when parents use baby-talk, or “parentese.” Now, a new research study underscores the importance of the style of speech and the social context.

If you’re a parent, the quick takeaway is this: The more you talk to your baby face-to-face, using baby-talk, the more words your child will know when he or she reaches the age of two.

The most effective technique is to exaggerate vowel signs and raise the pitch of your voice. When you use these techniques, your baby is more likely to babble back — a sign that he or she is picking up the tools needed to learn new words.

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The latest research comes from Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences and one of the country’s foremost researchers in language development in infants. The research is unique because “this is the first time babies have been recorded at home” while their parents spoke to them using parentese, Kuhl said.


Comments | More in News | Topics: baby-talk, early ed, Research