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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: Education

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June 23, 2014 at 6:22 AM

Frank Blethen: When we fail to educate our children we are destined for failure

Editor’s note: Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen gave a commencement speech to City University of Seattle on Saturday about the importance of education. His prepared remarks are below the video.

Head shot Frank Blethen, publisher, S

Congratulations on your degree!

What a wonderful accomplishment.

This will be one of the major determinants of your future.

This seminal step in your life is an important beginning. The beginning of the lifelong learning essential to maintain your economic and intellectual health in today’s uncertain and ever-changing world.

One hundred years ago, a high school education was our country’s primary path to a better life.

Fifty years ago, that path began to also require post-secondary education or technical training.

Today, a baccalaureate degree and life-long learning are essential.

In the future, two-thirds of new jobs will require a college degree.

How ironic that our state’s shameful disinvestment in higher education has resulted in 20,000 well-paid, high-skilled jobs going unfilled at this very moment, while our state’s wealth and opportunity gaps grow.

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Comments | Topics: Education, Frank Blethen

November 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Saving the children at Childhaven

Cheryl Mason and her husband John (older couple on bottom row)  adopted seven children who came to them as foster children receiving services at Childhaven. Their children are now successful adults starting their own families, underscoring Childhaven's powerful role helping abused or neglected children grow into healthy adults. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Cheryl Mason and her husband John (older couple on bottom row) adopted seven children who came to them as foster children receiving services at Childhaven. Their children are now successful adults starting their own families, underscoring Childhaven’s powerful role helping abused or neglected children grow into healthy adults.
(Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

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.

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Comments | Topics: child abuse, children, Education

November 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Lesson from the Horace Mann school building

Photo: Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

Photo: Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

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.

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Comments | Topics: children, Education, k12

November 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Building steam under science, technology, engineering, math and the arts

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.

Robotic vehicles designed by girls in the BUILDING STEAM program by the Greater Seattle Chapter of the Links, Inc.

Robotic vehicles designed by girls in the BUILDING STEAM program by the Greater Seattle Chapter of the Links, Inc.

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.

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Comments | Topics: children, Education, race

November 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM

South King County’s Road Map Project is a national anti-poverty model

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…

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Comments | Topics: children, Education, health care

November 12, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Social Venture Partner’s Fast Pitch is a novel approach to grantmaking

On the ABC show “Shark Tank,” entrepreneurs have mere minutes to persuade investors to line up behind their proposal. And on the FOX show “American Idol,” the audience weighs in on contestants, helping to select winners. A blend of the two television shows offers a sense of what’s in store at Social Venture Partners Seattle’s Fast Pitch, where non-profit and for-profit innovators will compete Wednesday evening for a slice of $250,000 in grants and investments.

Since 2011, SVP has put on the series of competitive rounds, winnowing the field from 90 applications to 44 quarter-finalists, 23 semifinalists and 13 finalists. Among this year’s finalists is Teachers United,  a two-year-old organization of about 250 public school teachers.

This video gives a sense of what’s in store on Wednesday evening.

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Comments | Topics: Education, philanthropy, Seattle Public Schools

November 1, 2013 at 6:12 AM

Seattle Schools Superintendent José Banda’s biggest test

K. Wyking Garrett, founding director of one of the program's at the Africatown Center. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times)

K. Wyking Garrett, founding director of an Africatown program at the Horace Mann school building.
(Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times)

One of the best qualities in a leader is the ability to empathize. Seattle Schools Superintendent José Banda has this quality in spades and it is much appreciated. But as I noted in my column Friday, Banda takes empathy too far when he fails to forcefully convey the district’s mission and priorities. I’m referring to the tug-of-war Banda has been in much of the summer and fall with Africatown Central District, an umbrella group for about 18 organizations that have been operating out of the Horace Mann school building sans a lease agreement and steady rent payments.

To his credit, Banda went out to Horace Mann last spring and listened as community leaders, parents and advocates offered emotional, compelling reasons for turning the school into a hub for small businesses, job training efforts and educational enrichment programs.  People spoke their truth about the ways racism in Seattle has kept the Central District from being all it can be.

Banda listened. That’s good, but he did not ask detailed questions about Africatown’s vision and how  it would improve academic performance, the district’s top priority. Honestly, I like the idea of Africatown. My cynical spirit is  buoyed by the innovation efforts behind the plan. I also agree with the speaker in the room who said, “Anything that is about us but does not include us is not for us.” We know what it takes for our children to succeed and we have to be more involved and vocal about it.

But good intentions doesn’t eliminate the need for a solid education and business plan built on proven principles. Africatown sublet space in Horace Mann from a private school and stayed long after the school moved out and the district asked Africatown to move. Some of the group’s leaders, for example Omari Tahir-Garrett, infamous for breaking bones in the face of a former Seattle mayor, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. But district leaders, afraid of being called racist — again — have scrambled to find new digs for Africatown. So the groups’ real estate problems become Banda’s. Here’s what I think the superintendent should have told the group:

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Comments | Topics: africatown, Education, jose banda

October 24, 2013 at 7:30 AM

The origins of charter schools offer insight for Washington state

photo (7)UPDATED:

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.

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Comments | Topics: 3to23, charter schools, children

October 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Another school shooting shifts the conversation to gun control, but for how long?

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…

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Comments | Topics: barack obama, children, democrats

October 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Catch mental health problems early

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…

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Comments | Topics: barack obama, children, congress

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