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Education Lab Blog

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

November 29, 2013 at 6:00 AM

How Bellevue College aims to help more students graduate

Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times 2010

(Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times, 2010)

For many years, some of the lowest college completion rates in the country have been at community colleges, where more than half the students who start never finish their degree.

What can colleges do to improve the numbers?

There’s a renewed focus on trying to answer that question at Bellevue College, the state’s largest community college and the third-largest higher-education institution in the state.

It’s focusing on closing the gap for students who usually fare poorest — including low-income students and underrepresented minorities, said Ata Karim, vice president of student services for the college.

Of those Bellevue students who say they’re seeking an associates degree, 83 percent return to school after the first quarter, Karim said. But only 76 percent of students who enrolled in the fall return for the spring quarter. And fewer still — about 64 percent — are still in school after a year has passed.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Bellevue College, higher ed

November 28, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Kudos for Kent: Vargas named state superintendent of the year

Photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times (2009)

Photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times (2009)

This year’s state superintendent of the year is Edward Lee Vargas, honored in part for his efforts to infuse Kent schools with technology.

In announcing the honor, the Washington Association of School Administrators pointed to a number of awards the Kent School District has won since Vargas arrived in 2009, including its selection by Microsoft as an international model for how to use technology in the classroom.

The district also was selected to be part of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, a coalition of 40 school districts and 24 states committed to using technology effectively.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Edward Lee Vargas, Kent school district, superintendent of the year

November 27, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Daily round-up: Districts aim for more diversity in AP, state seeks federal waivers

Choosing the wrong college major can be a costly mistake (Reuters): A new report from ACT Inc., the Iowa-based testing company, found just one-third of students who take the ACT plan to major in a field that aligns with their interests. Opting to study engineering might not be such a lucrative choice for students who end up switching majors and taking longer to graduate — or leaving school without earning any degree at all.

Urban districts strive for more diversity in AP classes (The New York Times): School districts stretching from Cincinnati to Boston have launched initiatives to get more black and Latino high school students enrolled in AP classes, often seen as a head start for the college bound. In Washington state, lawmakers passed legislation this spring that asked districts to enroll any student in advanced courses if he or she scores above a certain threshold on standardized tests.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

November 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Teacher bonuses: A smart way to boost low test scores?

Mark Weber / Op Art

Mark Weber / Op Art

What would happen if teachers with a track record of raising test scores transferred into low-performing schools, enticed by a $20,000 bonus?

In middle school, not much, according to a new study by Mathematica Policy Research.  In elementary schools, however, the study found the transferring teachers raised test scores more than a control group.

The study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, was conducted in 10 school districts in seven different states. The districts offered the bonuses to teachers who ranked in the top 20 percent in their districts in raising student test scores, and 81 teachers participated. To get the bonus, they had to agree to stay at the low-scoring school for at least two years.


Comments | More in News | Topics: bonuses, student performance, teacher incentives

November 26, 2013 at 3:09 PM

Guest: Strong teacher or not, class size still matters

Gary Plano

Gary Plano

The simulated study on the effect strong teachers can have on students, released last week by the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, makes an excellent point about the value of excellent educators. Certainly we all agree that great teachers make great schools.

What the simulation does not do is stack up against the volumes of research showing conclusively that smaller class sizes have a dramatic impact on student performance. Research on class size has been conducted in states across the country, and from California to Wisconsin the results are the same — smaller classes mean higher student achievement.


Comments | More in Guest opinion | Topics: class size, Gary Plano, Mercer Island

November 26, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Daily round-up: A look at the state’s first charter applicants, Newtown report released

A look at Washington’s first 22 charter applicants (KUOW): The state received nearly two dozen charter school applications ahead of last Friday’s deadline. Among the first round of proposals: a special-education school, a high school focused on sports, and a military school for at-risk youth.

Report finds high level of college students switching out of STEM (The Chronicle of Higher Education): A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education shows 48 percent of students who began college during the 2003-04 academic year and elected to major in science, technology, engineering or math had left those fields by the spring of 2009. About half of those who left switched to a non-STEM major, while the remainder dropped out of college without earning a degree or certificate.


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November 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM

A school that puts sports first? Could be a slam-dunk for some kids, says charter applicant

Will Niccolls, a longtime referee and founder of Sports in Schools, talks with Evergreen High School basketball players in 2012. Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times.

Will Niccolls, a longtime referee and founder of Sports in Schools, talks with Evergreen High School basketball players in 2012. Photo by Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times.

Everyone knows kids who show up in class only so they can go to basketball or football practice later. A proposed charter school hopes to build its entire program on exactly that kind of athletic motivation.

Will Niccolls, founder of the Sports in Schools nonprofit, which raises money for sports programs and for kids who want to play but can’t afford the fees, has asked state officials to authorize a Sports in Schools Charter School for the fall of 2015.

A longtime soccer referee and former staffer in the Bush White House, Niccolls was profiled in 2012, just as Sports in Schools was getting off the ground. Since then, he says the operation has expanded dramatically, raising about $500,000 in total – all of it to support local athletic programs and Niccolls’ belief that sports provide an important way to reach some students who don’t do well in traditional programs.


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November 25, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Question of the Week: How do you define “family engagement?”


Illustration by Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

Engagement. It’s a word that frequently pops up in discussions about the role of parents and other community members in K-12 education. But what exactly does it mean?

The National PTA highlighted the need for a common definition to the term on its website today.

Sherri Wilson, the organization’s senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement, noted that engagement can apply to actions outside of volunteering in the classroom: “We now know that the things families do at home with their children have the biggest impact on how well children do in school. It’s great if families can come to school and participate, and I hope that all of them do, but they can still be engaged even if they don’t.”


Comments | More in Question of the Week | Topics: engagement, PTA, question of the week

November 25, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Daily round-up: Judge hears arguments on charter schools, Newtown report expected today

King County judge hears arguments on new charter schools law (AP): A King County Superior Court judge will decide the fate of Washington’s year-old charter schools law after hearing arguments from both sides of the issue on Friday. Opponents have legally challenged the constitutionality of charter schools, arguing they conflict with the state’s obligation to provide equal education for all.

Texas eases high-school grad requirements in favor of more job training (The Atlantic): The Texas state legislature scaled back some of its high-school graduation requirements this summer in an effort to give students more time for job training. The move comes as many other states explore ways to introduce more technical education at the high-school level.


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November 25, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Inslee, regents from UW and WSU to discuss higher education

Gov. Jay Inslee (Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times) Gov. Jay Inslee will convene with regents for both the University of Washington and Washington State University during the joint annual meeting of the two boards Nov. 29. It’s a short, one-hour meeting with a discussion of the future of higher education as the…


Comments | More in News | Topics: Gov. Jay Inslee, University of Washington, Washington State University

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