Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.
November 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Many in philanthropy and social services were caught off guard by federal Medicaid officials recent decision to cut off funding to Childhaven, which provides child care and therapy for abused and neglected children. Childhaven would lose $4 million a year, the combined total of the 50-50 match between state and federal Medicaid dollars — nearly half its revenue. Federal officials should reconsider. (more…)
November 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM
Invoking the name of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot and kill by a neighborhood watchman in 2012, can be a powerful symbol of racial profiling and the challenges of being a young, black male in America. But on Wednesday, it was used by the remaining holdouts in the Horace Mann school building takeover in their crass attempt to gain public sympathy for an ill-conceived, and illegal, seizure of a public building.
Seattle police did their jobs. They pushed past chained doors and threats of a rooftop sniper and explosives-laden booby traps to arrest four people. The building is back in district hands and renovations on the school — delays of which had cost the district around $1,000 a day — can start.
AfricaTown Center for Education and Innovation, an umbrella organization for community groups that may or may not have been connected to those arrested yesterday, should have learned a lesson from all of this. The organization allowed its name and agenda to be co-opted by people with no interest or qualifications in building a school. As Superintendent José Banda told the Seattle Times: “It’s hard to distinguish at this point who’s part of that group or not. The hangers-on are not necessarily part of the academic focus of that group.”
How did AfricaTown allow Omari Tahir-Garrett to speak for them? He was convicted of second-degree assault in 2002 after hitting a former Seattle mayor in the face with a megaphone, breaking several bones in the man’s face. Background checks, required in all educational settings, would seemingly have led to Tahir-Garrett’s exclusion rather than inclusion. (more…)
November 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The dearth of women in technology professions or girls taking STEM classes has been well-documented. But I found reason for hope recently during an afternoon with young girls studying STEAM, the acronym for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics education, during full-day workshops on six consecutive Saturdays.
The girls were recruited from Seattle-area middle and high schools and community organizations by the Greater
Seattle Chapter of The Links, Inc., a volunteer service organization for women. At the TAF Academy, the Federal Way public school run by the Technology Access Foundation, the girls engaged in hands-on learning about robotics and gaming technology using NASA STEM education guidelines developed for the U.S. Department of Education. I met the girls on their final day when they had gathered at Rainier Beach Community Center to model their robots – including some talking ones – and debut video games they designed.
The games had stunning graphics and creative twists. I was especially wowed by those inspired by Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. Who says girls are not gamers!
Also, who says STEM should not include arts. The aesthetic of the games, their design and usability, was all about artistic values. The afternoon was a celebration of the girls’ accomplishments but for me it was also a glimpse at the promise of STEAM, rather than STEM, education.
President Obama has emphasized STEM education as necessary preparation for a global and tech-driven economy. I’ve written here and here about the sizeable gap between the number of tech jobs available and the number of job seekers with the training and education to fill those jobs. The inbalance is greater for young people of color. National efforts draw attention to the dilemma, but it is dogged work at the local level, by advocacy and commnity groups like The Links, that moves the needle. (more…)
November 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Anti-poverty efforts must move away from a singular focus on inner-cities and go where poverty is growing fastest: the suburbs. People with limited economic means are stereotyped as living in inner-cities, but America’s poor more often than not live and struggle in suburban communities far from the things they need most, including public transportation, health care and jobs.
These points rest atop rigorous research and public policy advocacy by Alan Berube, a senior fellow and deputy director at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. He is co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty in America (Brookings Press, 2013). Berube was in Seattle early Monday to talk about the poverty’s shift beyond urban centers. There are now four times as many people living in poverty in the suburbs compared to a decade ago. Indeed, there are more poor people in suburbs now than in cities. Part of the story is the migration of low-wage jobs, chiefly in hospitality and fast-food restaurants, as well as limited affordable housing in cities like Seattle.
Berube’s talk was sponsored by the Equity kNOW project, a smart partnership between King County and Futurewise to promote more understanding of poverty and general agreement on solutions. I’m encouraged by all of this. King County has the capacity to offer forward-looking mapping and analysis of changing demographics countywide. Anti-poverty efforts need this type of regional leadership, Berube notes. He also credits smart regional cooperatives around the country, giving a nod here to the Road Map Project, a nonprofit organizing South King County communities around improving public education.
Poverty will always exist, just as there will always be unemployment. Efforts to raise incomes should be joined by efforts to ensure everyone, regardless of income, lives in communities helping them not simply survive, but thrive. That means close residential proximity to healthy and fresh foods, public parks, quality schools and reliable bus service. There is a large correlation between people who do not have access to these things and their race, ethnicity and income.
Consider the following in King County:
- The number of people of color has quadrupled over the last 30 years.
- People of color account for more than half of young people under the age of 18.
- Tukwila, Renton and SeaTac are majority minority cities.
- Three ZIP codes – Skyway, SeaTac-Tukwila and Seattle’s Rainier Valley – are the most racially and ethnically diverse in the nation.
The YouTube video by the Brookings Institution below offers a vivid snapshot of poverty’s changing face nationwide.
October 24, 2013 at 7:30 AM
Call Embert Reichgott Junge the mother of all charter schools and you’re not far off the mark. The Democrat was in the Minnesota state Senate in the early 1990s and helped write and pass the nation’s first charter school law. That legislative feat led to the expansion of charters across the country.
Washington state was one of the last states to adopt a law allowing charters and with the news this week that 23 organizations have advised the state Charter School Commission of their interest opening a school here, it seemed useful to look at where charters have been to get a gauge on where this state is going. Junge was in Seattle this week speaking with pro-education reform groups and pushing ”Zero Chance of Passage,” her account of the bipartisan effort to pass the first charter school law.
Talking with Junge, one thing quickly becomes apparent. The political history of charter schools is sorely misunderstood. The non-traditional public schools have been cast by opponents as a tool used by the political right to privatize education. The truth is charter schools grew out of the political center. The victory in Minnesota was led by moderates. There was Junge but also the state’s Democratic governor, Rudy Perpich; Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers; and civic leaders looking to improve public schools. Everyone was drawn to charters for different reasons. Perpich wanted to expand school choice. Shanker and other union leaders were drawn to charter schools’ promise of autonomy which they interpreted as allowing teachers more control over school decisions. Now fast forward 20 years later. (more…)
October 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM
UPDATE: One of the two people killed in the Nevada middle school shooting was a teacher who stepped in to protect his students. This Huffington Post story has the details. The teacher’s death may renew ridiculous suggestions by the National Rifle Association that teachers should be allowed to carry a gun or at least have one handy in the classroom.
This New York Times story noted the public is less than enamored with the idea.
#Guncontrol and #schoolshooting began trending on social media minutes after CNN and other news outlets reported two people had been killed and two others were in serious condition after a shooting rampage Monday morning at a Nevada middle school.
Sparks Middle School, located just outside of Reno, was evacuated quickly. Parents picked up their kids. District authorities have gone from tweeting “Code Red” to offering Twitter updates from the crime scene. A new name joins Newtown and other schools in that macabre section of the American lexicon reserved for mass school shootings. Public discourse on social media quickly turned to gun control, a debate that illustrates better than any other policy issue, America’s stark political divide.
Tweeting under the name @globaloutrage, Jack Scharber asked:
“Another day in America. Another school shooting. When are we going to confront the awful root causes of this senselessness?”
“Another shooting in America kills more innocent kids. Their obsession with guns is destroying the country.”
Time for another run at comprehensive gun control. The kind that includes background checks and other safeguards argued for by the Seattle Times Editorial Board, most recently here. I’m not too hopeful this latest shooting will be the catalyst that moves people from their fixed positions on both sides of the debate. That is because the problem has never been a lack of political effort to better regulate guns, the problem is that these efforts never get very far. The heavy thumb of the Second Amendment lobby tamps down on anything that hints of gun safety legislation. A prime example can be found in this piece by the National Rifle Association’s legislative policy arm. The powerful gun lobby brags about the veto by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) of gun control legislation last June. The article calls New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “an extremist” for promoting sensible gun control through “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”
The exception may be Washington state, where almost enough signatures have been secured to mount an initiative calling for universal background checks for gun sales. Initiative 594 would go first to the Legislature. But if lawmakers failed to pass the measure, it would go to voters in 2014, a Times blog reported. Among those helping secure signatures here was Cheryl Stumbo, a victim of the 2006 shooting rampage at the Seattle Jewish Federation. This Washington Post story warns of the uphill battle gun control advocates face in Washington state.
If I’m correct and this latest tragedy failed to move beyond #Nevadashooting on Twitter, then it sadly is just another day in America.
October 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
In the vast arena of public education, the part least understood or addressed well is mental health. Think about it. Schools remain vigilant about ensuring students perform well academically. Immunizations are legally required and periodic check-ups for hearing and vision remain even as school systems have cut back in many areas. These things are appropriate because they directly impact students in the classroom.
Mental health also directly impacts students, as I note in my latest column. But a combination of stigma and inattention has left mental health issues on the periphery of education policy discussions. I write in my column about the many ways that is changing.
An example: In the Seattle Public Schools, all the comprehensive high schools and middle schools, plus the Interagency Academy and the World School, have mental health professionals on staff. This is possible because of the Seattle Families and Education levy, a seven-year measure approved by voters four times, most recently in 2011 for $231 million.
A focus on student health that includes the range from emotional/social issues to diagnosed disorders is a key piece of prevention efforts. It is obviously needed. About one in five adolescents has a mental health disorder and 60 percent to 90 percent of them don’t ask for or receive treatment, according to Child Trends. Most mental health needs of adolescents are first identified in schools, although the point I make in my column is that intervention often does not come soon enough.
This conversation ought to continue next Tuesday when Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler holds a public hearing about insurance plans and coverage of mental health services. Participation is vital because testimony from the public hearing will be used to craft rules guiding mental health parity requirements in this state. Families looking for more information about mental health services can find plenty at the Early Assessment Support Alliance website.
October 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Technology is as omnipresent in public education as pencils and paper. We’ve seen the growth in tools like interactive white boards, document cameras and those egg-shaped devices that help students respond in classrooms. But another side of the technology debate revolves around storage of the copious amounts of data collected by schools, school districts and state education departments. So much data is floating around that districts around the country have turned to private companies to store information in the cloud. The companies protect files with high-level encryption, but still privacy rights advocates are mounting challenges to districts that rely on third parties for data storage outside of schools, reports The New York Times. Privacy advocates’ paranoia is not totally unwarranted. (more…)
October 16, 2013 at 12:12 PM
It may not seem so at first glance, but parents in the Federal Way School District have their priorities in order. At a recent meeting, former School Board President Tony Moore voted along with a board majority to step away from his leadership post in light of a criminal investigation, in which he is charged with stealing tires for his salvage business.
But as a Times blog post reports, dozens of parents spoke up at the board meeting, not for or against Williams, but rather about the board spending more than $60,000 for trips to Europe, Australia and South Korea. The district is studying education in those countries in preparation for a global partnership program. In the age of Skype and other video-conferencing options, did the Federal Way School Board really need to travel around the world, stay in hotels and eat meals on the public dime?
I am not accusing the board of embarking upon international junkets, although parents interviewed in this KOMO 4 story did. I do think policy leaders need to get out of their silos and see up-close and personal the effects of their decisions. Moreover, Federal Way’s 37 schools are part of a global education initiative partnering them with 1,000 schools from 10 countries. The district website offers more details on the program touted as a way to bring innovation and deeper learning to Federal Way.
I get the desire to understand why South Korean schools are so darn successful. A new area of tourism has been practically carved from the large numbers of American educators making pilgrimages to South Korea, Finland and other highly educated countries. But the search for successful models must better fit the extraordinary economic times we’re living in. The state Legislature just a few months ago essentially robbed Peter to pay more for public schools. Sagging teacher compensation is the embarrassing elephant in the education policy room. And it is now considered normal, rather than dysfunctional, for music and arts education to raise their own funds to remain viable parts of education. Never mind activities like band and sports, which are almost exclusively funded by parents and the community. With so many drains on public education dollars — and with little in relief, in terms of a long-term funding plan, in sight — policymakers must be aware of the message their financial decisions send. What’s your take on this?
October 15, 2013 at 12:08 PM
I wish I could be a fly on the wall at a Seattle panel later today that promises to better frame critical debates about teacher effectiveness. Tonight teachers and those who help train them will talk about how teachers are prepared, supported, evaluated and paid.
The teacher prep event, hosted by Teachers United, starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday at McKinstry Innovation Center, 210 S. Hudson Street in Seattle. This is billed as a deep-dive discussion geared toward teachers, but I suspect everyone following the teacher quality debate would be interested in following along. Changes to state education laws and local school district policies are going to be culled from conversations like this one.
Here are the panelists for tonight: Elham Kazemi, Associate Dean of Professional Learning at the University of Washington; Marisa Bier, Director, Seattle Urban Teacher Residency; Lindsay Hill, Executive Director, Teach For America for Washington state and Jeff Wilson, Project Director of Performance Management, The New Teacher Project.
Follow this discussion and future ones on teacher quality at this Teachers United website http://www.teachersunitedwa.org/prep_panel
In the YouTube video below, Prof. Kazemi talks about ways elementary school teachers can become better instructors of mathematics.