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Education Lab Blog

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

November 30, 2014 at 11:00 PM

Guest: Why diversity matters in tech and engineering

Susannah Malarkey

Susannah Malarkey

Diversity in our technology and engineering workforce is a hot topic, and with good reason. Washington has the highest concentration of science, tech, engineering and math (STEM)-related jobs in the country, but the lack of women and people of color in this sector is glaringly obvious.

It isn’t enough to simply complain. We must tackle the root causes of this issue, not only for the good of individuals who will find livelihoods in this sector, but for our innovation-based industries as well.

Pursuing a career in STEM is a smart move for many students. These professions offer above-average pay and a range of fulfilling job opportunities. So why isn’t there more diversity? According to a study by the U.S. Census Department last year, African Americans hold only 6 percent of the jobs in these fields, and Hispanics only 7 percent — numbers far below their representation in the overall workforce. Women hold only 26 percent of these jobs.

In order to grow our technical workforce, the talent pool from which STEM companies find their employees must grow much more diverse. As someone who works with leaders in the tech industry, I can report that CEOs believe that diversifying their workforces is not only the right thing to do, it is also seen as a business imperative.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion, Your voices | Topics: higher ed, STEM, Technology Alliance

November 30, 2014 at 9:01 PM

Rewind: Watch a replay of video chat on diversity in STEM education

On Tuesday, the Education Lab team hosted a Google+ Hangout about diversity in STEM and what some universities are doing to help more people of color and first-generation students earn degrees in fields like computer science and engineering.

The video chat was tied to a Monday story by Katherine Long about programs at the University of Washington and Washington State University that give disadvantaged engineering students a fifth year to complete academic prep work to put them on equal footing with those students from more privileged backgrounds.


Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: higher education, STEM, University of Washington

November 28, 2014 at 9:30 PM

Seattle schools to consider delay on new graduation requirements

Seattle school leaders might soon delay new graduation requirements that would increase the number of credits a student needs to finish high school.

The Seattle school board plans to vote Wednesday on whether to tell the state they need two more years to meet the new requirements, passed by Washington lawmakers earlier this year.  Those requirements are supposed to go into effect starting with next fall’s incoming freshman class, and require students to earn 24 credits to graduate instead of 20.

Seattle can’t meet that mark by then, school board President Sharon Peaslee said in an interview Friday.

Many Seattle high schools operate on a six-period class schedule, she said, making 24 credits roughly the maximum amount a Seattle student can earn in his or her high school career. That means failing or dropping out of even one class would cause a student to not graduate on time, she said.


Comments | Topics: graduation, graduation requirements, high school

November 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Round-up: Nyland considered for permanent job, pension policy could be behind sub shortage

Seattle school board considers Nyland for permanent job: The Seattle school board is planning to vote early next year on a proposal to give interim superintendent Larry Nyland an offer to remain in his job through June 2017. Nyland, who previously served as superintendent in Marysville, came out of retirement four months ago to take the place of José Banda.

Substitute shortage could be a result of state pension policy: State lawmakers are considering changing a controversial 2007 law that makes hefty cuts to the pensions of certain retired teachers who work for a public employer. Currently, 1,003 retired teachers statewide cannot substitute for a single day without losing their pension for an entire month.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

November 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Seattle’s Mercer Middle named School of Distinction for sixth year running

Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times 2011.

Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times 2011.

Corrected version

For the sixth year in a row, Asa Mercer International Middle School in Seattle has earned a spot on a statewide list that applauds schools for sustaining improvements in reading and math.

The highly diverse, high-poverty school has won the School of Distinction award more times than any other school in the state. This year’s list includes 101 schools.

Mercer emerged from declining enrollment and slumping test results to surpass Seattle Public Schools’ average passing rates in math and reading in 2011. At the time, school leaders cited a strong principal, hardworking teachers and the constant use of data to tweak instruction as reasons for the stark improvement. School board leaders hailed the school and said other schools should learn from what Mercer was doing.

Today, that approach is maintaining Mercer’s legacy. Students there passed state tests at rates greater than the district average in all but one area. In sixth-grade reading, 75 percent of students passed, slightly below the district’s average of 80 percent.


Comments | More in News | Topics: School of Distinction, Seattle Public Schools

November 26, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Round-up: Nyland apologizes for signing off on Gates grant, Oregon charter enrollment hits 5 percent

Seattle schools chief apologizes for signing off on Gates grant: Interim Superintendent Larry Nyland apologized last week for breaking district policy and signing off on a $250,000 grant from the Gates Foundation before the school board had voted on the matter. Nyland said he did not know he was supposed to get others’ signatures before approving the contract.

Oregon charter school enrollment hits all-time high (The Oregonian): Five percent of public-school students in Oregon currently attend one of more than 100 charter schools operating there. Oregon legalized charter schools in 1999.


Comments | More in News

November 26, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Guest: How the Legislature can help empower teachers

Mike Lundin

Mike Lundin

The most volatile period of my 35-year career in education is happening now. Across the country, teachers have begun to react to downgrades in their status, credibility and authority.

According to a 2014 report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, the annual attrition rate of first-year teachers has risen by 40 percent over the last two decades, and 40 to 50 percent now leave the teaching profession within five years. Every year, 13 percent of teachers abandon the profession or migrate to more appealing schools, often leaving the disadvantaged more so.

The Washington state Legislature, charged with scrounging billions of dollars in additional funding to improve education and comply with the McCleary decision, must take the lead in funding effective training programs for our state’s teachers and give them the opportunity to collaborate and support each other.

In Washington and elsewhere, the insidious loss of professional power among American educators is eroding our quality of education. Many schools find it difficult to hire teachers in some subjects, such as mathematics, but only half the math and science teachers in disadvantaged schools have a degree and a license in their fields. Locally, we have seen teaching veterans bail, as outside meddling displaces learning. Not surprisingly, “highly qualified” means less when comparing our teachers across cultures or across nations.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: education funding, teacher training

November 26, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Skin in the Game, 5: Teacher meetings aren’t only for the kids

I don’t know what I expected — an inquisition about my parenting style? The discovery that my 5-year-old was a secret sociopath? A misfit genius? Whatever I imagined this bogeyman to be, my first parent-teacher conference was nothing close.

Instead, we adults sat on tiny-person chairs around a miniature table, looking over evidence of my son’s 12-week evolution. I saw his handwriting on the first day of kindergarten, and how it had changed three months later. (Still no “finger-spaces” between his words.) I saw what he could sight-read in September, how he’d tripled that by November, and where on the reading-assessment levels he now rates. (Pretty well, though he still stumbles when trying to read the word “read.”)

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

I pictured this veteran teacher, sitting all day in those itty-bitty chairs, doing the same show-and-tell exercise for two dozen other families, and realized how much an elementary educator’s job involves teaching parents the processes of public school.

It’s visible, the mark this bureaucracy leaves on a 5 year old. On the first day of class, all the kids looked vaguely perplexed at having to sit in fixed seats or at assigned spots on the carpet. That’s gone. You can see it in their faces. They’ve toughened a bit, figured out that they’re being funneled into a much bigger system, and that it has rules.


Comments | More in News | Topics: parenting, Skin in the game

November 25, 2014 at 1:23 PM

Round-up: Seattle students walk out of class, Georgia schools get creative with school lunches

Seattle high-school students walk out to join Ferguson protests: Seattle Public Schools says approximately 1,000 students from Garfield High School walked out of class Tuesday afternoon to join ongoing protests surrounding Monday’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo. About 250 students from Roosevelt High School also walked out Tuesday morning but were reportedly heading back to the school.

Georgia schools get creative with cafeteria lunches (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution): Across the country, fewer students are opting for cafeteria lunches following the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and an uptick in meal prices. The decline has prompted some schools in Georgia to offer more meal choices and cook more food from scratch in a effort to get more students in the cafeteria line.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

November 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Why North Dakota is increasing, not cutting, higher education

When the great recession hit in 2008, most state legislators, including those in Washington, made up for a shortfall in revenue by cutting funding to higher education. That’s why college tuition skyrocketed over the past few years, often by double-digit amounts, at public colleges and universities across the country.

But two states — North Dakota and Alaska — have taken advantage of rapidly-improving economies in their states to put money back into higher education.

A Hechinger Report story out this week tells why North Dakota pumped more than a quarter of a billion dollars into the University of North Dakota in recent years, along with $80 million into North Dakota State University and another $179 million for public colleges and universities statewide.


Comments | More in News | Topics: higher education

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