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Education Lab Blog

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

Topic: Seattle Public Schools

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November 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

In 100 days, hopes for better communication in Seattle schools

In both of his state-of-the-district addresses last week — one hosted by the Alliance for Education and an encore speech at Seattle Public Schools headquarters — interim Superintendent Larry Nyland mostly talked in general terms about the problems and progress in the city’s public schools.

But he mentioned one new, specific initiative – a 100-day plan for improving communication between the district and parents, as well as between central office employees and the teachers, principals and others staff who work in schools.

We caught up with Nyland a few days later to ask him what the 100-day plan will include.


Comments | Topics: communication, Larry Nyland, Seattle Public Schools

November 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Special education is ineffective and too expensive, report says

In 2013, 76 percent of Washington’s students graduated from high school within four years, but only about 54 percent of students with disabilities got their diplomas on time.

Graduates with disabilities move on to higher education at less than half the rate of their peers.

And in several large Washington school districts, special education students are between 2 and 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their peers.

But the vast majority of children  in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.

Those are among the findings of a report to the state Legislature released Wednesday detailing the need for a statewide “blue ribbon” commission to improve the way the state’s schools educate children with special needs.


Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, Seattle Public Schools, special education

November 11, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Wanted: Perspectives on special education in Seattle schools

Seattle Public Schools is looking for volunteers to weigh in on how the district serves — or fails to serve —  its more than 7,000 students with special needs.

The district is looking for anyone — especially principals and special education teachers — to be on an advisory committee that will make suggestions to district staff on special education issues. Wyeth Jessee, the district’s interim director of special education, said he hopes the committee becomes a place where the district can hear from a variety of voices.

The district’s special ed department has been under scrutiny in recent years. This fall, the state withheld $3 million in federal funds — about a third of the department’s federal funding but only a fraction of its overall budget — until the district can fix compliance and management problems. The district is in its second year of an improvement plan that was supposed to have been completed June 30.


Comments | More in News | Topics: parent engagement, Seattle Public Schools, special education

November 5, 2014 at 5:22 PM

Task force will weigh concerns about length of lunch, recess

Photo by Leah Todd / The Seattle Times

Photo by Leah Todd / The Seattle Times

Before dozens of parents and students showed up at a school board meeting Wednesday to protest what they say is too little time in the lunchroom and on the playground at Seattle schools, district officials had already responded, issuing a news release saying that a wellness task force is looking into their concerns.

The task force is researching nutrition, physical education and activity, and “passing time” on the way to and from lunch and recess, the district said, and will recommend potential changes on nutrition to the superintendent in February.

School leaders report providing at least 20 minutes for lunch, the district said, which is longer than what the parents report.

At the board meeting, parents and students arrived with signs saying “Let us play” and “Recess is instruction.”


Comments | More in News | Topics: lunch, recess, Seattle Public Schools

November 5, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Guests: Seattle schools need formal policy on recess time


Dayna Provitt


Jana Robbins

Seattle parents, do you know how much recess time your children get each day?

In many schools, students return after summer break to learn that recess has been further reduced. Who is most impacted? According to a recent KUOW investigation, schools with the shortest recess times have more low-income students and students of color.  KUOW also reported that in the past four years, schools with 20 minutes or less recess time per day have increased from just one school to 11 schools in the Seattle district.

Recess is a valuable and essential learning time for children. Research has proven what we’ve also known for years: Children need recess to develop social skills, hone problem-solving skills, explore their own ideas, recharge their minds after periods of structured activity, and simply exercise.

Furthermore, research has shown that adequate recess time actually improves student behavior and academic goals. Children who have recess are better able to manage their behavior and focus on learning in the classroom.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Your voices | Topics: guest opinion, recess, Seattle Public Schools

October 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Want later school start times for teens? Here’s how it’s done

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia — the 11th largest school district in the country — will delay the starting time for high schools next fall so teens can get more sleep.

The school board voted last Thursday to push back high school start times from 7:20 a.m. to between 8 and 8:10 a.m.

Fairfax middle schools will start at 7:30 a.m., but the district says it will try to get those times closer to 8 a.m.

The shift will cost the district almost $5 million.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in August  that middle and high schools start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m., citing decades of research showing that later start times for adolescents improve health, safety and academic achievement.

Many parents and local sleep experts want later start times in Seattle, too, and the Seattle school board directed the staff this summer to begin a 15-month study of the issue.


Comments | More in News | Topics: school start times, Seattle Public Schools

October 23, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Garfield students, teachers protest staff cut


Garfield students left school early Thursday to protest the district’s plans to remove one teaching position from the school. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Hundreds of students and teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School walked out of class early on Thursday over news that one of their teachers will be cut because the district says the school’s enrollment is lower than anticipated.

District leaders say they are reviewing the school’s headcount because school staff believe Garfield has more students than anticipated, not less.


Comments | More in News | Topics: enrollment, Garfield High, Garfield High School

October 8, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Parents succeed: Gatewood Elementary gets to keep its staff

Update at 4:05 p.m.: A district spokeswoman says parents have not raised the full $90,000, which was based on the average cost of hiring a full time teacher, including salary and benefits. Details to come. Original post: Parents at Gatewood Elementary School in West Seattle who scrambled to raise $90,000 in less than a week to…


Comments | More in News | Topics: Seattle Public Schools

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 30, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Later high-school start times: How 70 districts have done it

Mounting scientific evidence shows that chronic sleep loss compromises teenagers’ learning, health and safety, prompting the American Academy of Pediatrics last month to recommend that middle and high schools start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Yet changing bell times has proven so logistically and politically complicated that only about 70 school districts around the country have figured out a way to do it.

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Donna Grethen / Op Art

In July, Seattle’s school board waded into those waters, directing the district’s staff to begin a 15-month study to change school starting times. The district is now accepting applications to participate in a year-long task force on that will include district staff, parents, students and community experts. The deadline to apply is Oct. 6.

To appreciate the magnitude of the work involved, Seattle and other interested school districts should check out what’s been going on in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, the 11th-largest school district in the country.

Fairfax has been trying to change bell times for more than a decade. The latest push was launched in April, 2012, when the Fairfax board set a goal of having no high school begin before 8 a.m. The board may finally be approaching the finish line with a plan up for a vote on Oct. 23.

To develop its plan, Fairfax hired Children’s National Medical Center’s Division of Sleep Medicine, which published a report in April that examined how the 70 school districts that changed bell times got it done.


Comments | More in News | Topics: school start times, Seattle Public Schools, Teen sleep

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