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Education Lab Blog

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

May 30, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Tough talk (from the left) on race and Seattle schools


Our city’s history of racial segregation via redlining is well-documented. But Seattle’s present-day race divide, most visible in its schools, goes less discussed.

Not so during a discussion on “Race, Class and Education” that I took part in on Wednesday night. In politically correct Seattle, the gloves came off.

Sponsored by Humanities Washington, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering conversation about culture and community, the talk took place at the Royal Room in Columbia City, the heart of rapidly gentrifying South Seattle.

I anticipated an audience full of parents wanting to discuss South End schools. But it was mostly teachers. And they had plenty to say.

For instance: Affluent parents who talk about equity in public education don’t really want it. They may like the way it sounds, but won’t embrace the hard fact of what it means to treat all students equally.

“It’s easy enough for everyone to say I’m down for equality,” observed my co-panelist Wayne Au, a former school teacher and now professor of education at the University of Washington, Bothell. “But when it comes to, say, de-tracking ninth-grade English, they go, ‘Wait a minute, you’re going to take away the honors program? Is that going to mess up my kid’s chance to get into Brown?’”


Comments | More in News | Topics: race, Seattle Public Schools

May 29, 2014 at 3:16 PM

Guest: Waiver loss shines light on absurdity of No Child Left Behind

Dan Magill

Dan Magill

I am not bothered about losing our state’s No Child Left Behind waiver. In fact, this may be one of the best things to happen to education in Washington since standardized testing wrapped its shackles around us last decade.

Losing this waiver is good because it finally exposes No Child Left Behind for the utter foolishness that it is.

Here’s the letter I would send to parents if I worked in the state superintendent’s office:

Dear Mr. And Mrs. Colbert:

We must inform you that your child currently attends a school that has been labeled “failing” or “needs improvement” according to the No Child Left Behind Act.

According to the law, you now have the option of switching your child into a school that is not failing. Unfortunately, because 99 percent of schools in the state have received this label, you’ll have to move out of state to find one.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Dan Magill, No Child Left Behind, waiver

May 29, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Round-up: Monroe students caught changing grades, New Orleans goes all-charter

Monroe students caught changing grades (AP): Four Monroe High School students are in hot water after administrators discovered they accessed an electronic grade book to change their science grades from failing to passing. Two of the students installed a keylogger to capture the teacher’s password and give them access to the grades.

New Orleans completes full switch to charter schools (The Washington Post): New Orleans’ Recovery School District has become the first all-charter school system in the country following the closure of Benjamin Banneker Elementary on Wednesday. All 33,000 of the district’s students must apply for a seat at one of 58 charter schools this fall.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

May 29, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Parents at school: Studies probe what helps and what doesn’t

Parent mentor Pedro Rodriguez works with a group of students in Jessica Dye's first-grade classroom at Avondale Elementary School in Chicago. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2013.

Parent mentor Pedro Rodriguez works with a group of students in Jessica Dye’s first-grade classroom at Avondale Elementary School in Chicago. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2013.

Two new studies of parent involvement dig deeper than many earlier ones into when  and how  parent involvement at school helps raise student achievement.

As we reported in an Education Lab story about a parent mentor program in Chicago, there is a lot of research backing the notion that parents can help their students academically. But many studies use different, and sometimes very broad, definitions of what parent involvement means, making it hard to determine exactly what works best.

These two studies tackled that question in different ways  and came to different conclusions.

The latest, released earlier this month, made headlines by concluding that most parent involvement doesn’t work  even helping with homework.

The two authors said their results, gleaned from decades of parent surveys, made them question whether schools should court parent involvement as a way to reduce the achievement gap.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Logan Square, parent engagement, parent involvement

May 28, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Report: Lifetime cost of college degree is negative $500,000

Some reassuring news this week for members of the Class of 2014 who are already worried about paying back student loans or finding steady work: Despite the rising costs of tuition, a new paper from M.I.T. economist David Autor finds earning a college degree is still very much worth the expense.

As The New York Times reported, Autor’s research concludes that the net cost of attending college is now negative half a million dollars  a figure that has roughly doubled over the past 30 years.

Screen shot of a graph from Autor's report

Screen shot of a graph from Autor’s report


Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed

May 28, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Hot topics on Thursday’s agenda: pre-K education, school funding

Two events on Thursday will focus on big issues for public education:

At 5:30 p.m., a Seattle City Council committee will hold a public hearing on a proposal to phase in a universal pre-K program in the city. The council is considering asking Seattle voters to pay for a voluntary pre-K program that would be available for all residents on a sliding fee scale, based on their income.

Public comment sign-up sheets will be available at 5 p.m., with each speaker  allotted up to two minutes.  The hearing will be held at the Jefferson Community Center gym at 3801 Beacon Ave. S.

At 7 p.m., groups led by the Washington State Budget & Policy Center are sponsoring a conversation about the landmark McCleary school funding case, in which the State Supreme Court ruled that legislators are failing their constitutional duty to fund a basic education for all the state’s children.


Comments | More in News | Topics: early learning, McCleary, pre-K

May 28, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Round-up: Black graduates twice as likely to be unemployed, more speed cameras at Seattle schools

Report: Black college graduates twice as likely to be unemployed (The Atlantic): A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds 12.4 percent of black college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 were unemployed in 2013, compared with 5.6 percent of all college graduates in the same age range. As graduates age, the employment gap narrows but never completely disappears, researchers found.

Bellingham schools outfitted with panic buttons (The Bellingham Herald): Every school in the Bellingham School District will soon have a panic button that directly connects to local law-enforcement. The system is being paid for through a $440,000 state grant.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

May 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

More students expected in Seattle and other area school districts

Seattle school officials expect nearly 1,400 more students next fall which, if they are right, would mean the seventh straight year of growth for the state’s largest school district.

On Tuesday, the officials announced that they are projecting a total enrollment of 52,379 students in 2014-15, up from 51,101 this school year.  That’s about 7,000 more than in 2007-08, when enrollment first started to increase after a decade of decline.

That growth is why many Seattle schools are full and overflowing, and a major reason the district asked voters to approve a $695 million levy in 2013, which it is using for major renovations of nine schools and to build or rebuild another eight.

Other area districts are growing fast, too. The Lake Washington School District, for example, recently reported that it has grown by 1,600 students over the past two years, and expects another 4,000 over the next eight. Other Puget Sound districts with rapid growth include Issaquah, Renton and Tahoma.

Among the 50 largest districts in the state, Seattle ranked 8th in terms of growth from 2011-13, according to the latest data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. An analysis based on earlier data, done by the Associated Press, placed Seattle in the top 20. Lake Washington, with the later numbers, ranked third, Issaquah fourth, and Northshore seventh.


Comments | More in News | Topics: enrollment, Seattle Public Schools

May 27, 2014 at 1:37 PM

Round-up: All aboard the ‘walking school bus,’ UW students restore historic swamp

Students and parents use ‘walking school buses’ to get to class (AP): School communities around the country are forming groups to promote walking to class. Called “walking school buses,” the informal system is seen as a way to fight childhood obesity, improve attendance rates, and ensure students get to school safely.

UW students help restore lake swamp to historic state: Student volunteers from the University of Washington have spent more than 10 years removing nonnative species and planting western red cedar and willows in an effort to restore a small swamp on Lake Washington to its natural state. The Yesler Swamp was a gathering place for Native Americans before the arrival of white settlers.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

May 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

In both Washingtons, good news for nontraditional students

Two months ago, the future looked bleak for students hoping for a hand up at YouthBuild. The program that has trained hundreds of high school dropouts in construction trades while simultaneously preparing them for a GED faced an end to its funding after 20 years in Seattle.

But last week, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers announced a deal that would fund YouthBuild through 2020, along with a host of other programs promoting workforce training for dislocated workers, the disabled, migrants, Native Americans, adults seeking literacy education and high school dropouts.

Sen. Patty Murray. Photo by Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

Sen. Patty Murray. Photo by Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

“Millions of Americans rely on federal workforce programs to get the skills they need to compete,” said Senator Patty Murray, announcing the $10 billion Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which has support in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Workforce development has not been successfully addressed at the federal level since 1998.



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