Youth & Education

Stories about education focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Youth & Education reporter, Kyle Stokes.

"My goal for this special session is to keep the schools open," said Sam Brownback, Republican governor of Kansas, talking about a high-stakes gathering today in Topeka.

He called lawmakers back from their vacations for a special session after the state's Supreme Court doubled-down on its demand that they make school funding more equitable across districts or risk a calamitous funding freeze.

"We cannot allow our children to be caught in a constitutional struggle between branches of government," Brownback said. But that's exactly what's happened.

The Problem With Teaching Preschool Teachers

Jun 22, 2016

The U.S. spends a lot of money on preschool — billions of dollars each year. When invested wisely, research suggests the costs are justified by significant returns to society, including savings from crimes not committed, welfare dollars not distributed, and taxes on higher earnings.

But a new report suggests many preschool programs aren't as good as they could (or should) be — because their teachers arrived on the job poorly trained.

This summer, millions of excited 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds will be getting ready for their first real year of school. But some of them may be in for a wake-up call when that first bell rings.

If you have young kids in school, or talk with teachers of young children, you've likely heard the refrain — that something's changed in the early grades. Schools seem to be expecting more of their youngest students academically, while giving them less time to spend in self-directed and creative play.

Something's wrong in America's classrooms.

According to new data from the Education Department, black students — from kindergarten through high school — are 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than white students.

Now the really bad news.

This trend begins in preschool, where black children are already 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than white students.

Having Other Teachers' Eyes Means Also Having Their Ideas

Jun 18, 2016

A lot of what's going on today in Marna Wolak's fifth-grade math class is pretty familiar. She's got her students gathered on the rug for a number talk, something she does often, trying to get them thinking about fractions.

But a lot of it is unfamiliar, too. The topic is new — dividing whole numbers by fractions. Also, today there are five more adults in the room, including two other teachers from Sanchez Elementary School here in San Francisco.

Tacoma Public Schools

 

The man accused of neglecting to properly monitor lead levels in Tacoma Public Schools says he wants his job back and his name cleared.

 

Ken Wilson was Tacoma Public School’s safety and environmental health manager. He was fired last month after he brought to the district’s attention test results that showed high levels of lead at more than a dozen locations.

 

Lead levels at Reed Elementary were 150 times over federal limits. So far, the district has replaced more than 300 fixtures.

When Caitlin Cheney was living at a campground in Washington state with her mother and younger sister, she would do her homework by the light of the portable toilets, sitting on the concrete.

She maintained nearly straight A's even though she had to hitchhike to school, making it there an average of three days a week. "I really liked doing homework," says Cheney, 22, who is now an undergraduate zoology student at Washington State University. "It kept my mind off reality a little bit."

It's one of the oldest issues in school improvement: Getting kids to show up. If students miss 10 percent of the school year — that's just two days a month --research shows they are way more likely to fall behind — even drop out.

Today, the U.S. Education Department is releasing a report on the first national data set on chronic absence — defined as missing 15 or more days of school a year. The numbers come from the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection survey — an on-the-ground look from 95,000 schools.

It's a rare and remarkable view into America's public schools and the challenges that continue some 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education:

The Civil Rights Data Collection survey.

Since 1968, the federal government has been sending it to the nation's schools to gauge educational access and enforce civil rights law.

Today, the U.S. Education Department released its 2013-2014 CRDC results, covering more than 95,000 schools and 50 million students.

When students get suspended from school for a few days, they may not be the only ones who miss out.

A report released today by UCLA's Civil Rights Project tries for the first time to quantify the full social cost of so-called "exclusionary discipline."

Kenneth Starr, known for leading an investigation of President Bill Clinton, says he has resigned as Baylor University's chancellor.

The private Texas university has been rocked by an independent report that found the university mishandled allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Last week, the university stripped Starr of the presidency and suspended head football coach Art Briles.

What made Mozart great? Or Bobby Fischer? Or Serena Williams?

The answer sits somewhere on the scales of human achievement. On one side: natural talent. On the other: hard work. Many would argue that success hangs in some delicate balance between them. But not Anders Ericsson.

Just across the train tracks from U.S. Route 321, in the town of North, S.C., nestled among mobile homes covered with red roses, sits the one-story brick campus of North Middle/High School.

Robert Gordon strides forward in the school's entryway to shake my hand. He's slim, dressed neatly in khakis, loafers and a striped polo shirt, with a pleather portfolio under one arm.

"It's been a stressful morning," he says, explaining that one middle school boy stabbed another with a pencil.

On San Jose State University's lush inner-city campus, students in their graduation gowns pose with their families in front of ivy-covered buildings.

They're the lucky ones.

Just 10 percent of students graduate from this public university in four years. After six years, it's only a bit more than half.

Think about that — of 100 students who enrolled four years ago, only 10 will walk across the stage this year.

That sounds low, but you can find these kind of numbers at lots of universities in the U.S.

Take a look at your hand, right or left, it doesn't matter. Now imagine every finger represents a word. How many sentences can you come up with?

I think therefore I am.

Don't sweat the small stuff.

All you need is love.

Ximena Martinez, from Texas, thought this one was good: "Las naranjas son muy ricas." Translation: The oranges are very delicious.

She's a native Spanish-speaker and preschooler at Kramer Elementary School in Dallas. Her teacher, Jorge Ruiz, always asks his young students to speak in complete sentences.

Grit has been on NPR several times recently, not to mention front and center on the national education agenda.

"I'm giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them."

In one of the many experiments cited in Paul Tough's new book, Helping Children Succeed, a group of middle school students received this message on a Post-it note, attached to a paper their teachers were handing back.

The message of support and high expectations had a small positive effect on white students.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Faculty members at Green River College, which has campuses in Auburn, Kent and Enumclaw, are on strike through Wednesday protesting proposed cuts to 11 programs, including criminal justice, French and occupational therapy.

In response, the college’s board of trustees said it will file a request for an injunction to halt the walkout. 

Anita Hofschneider / AP

Here’s something you might not know: President Barack Obama’s mother graduated from Mercer Island High School. Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, is in town this weekend to present a scholarship established in their mother’s memory. 

Soetoro-Ng told KPLU that she's not apolitical, necessarily, but she says when it comes to her relationship with her brother, President Obama, she prefers to focus on the family side of the equation.

A single question asked at an annual checkup — whether parents have trouble making ends meet — could help pediatricians identify children at risk for serious health problems associated with poverty and the chronic levels of stress that often accompany it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges members to ask if their patients' families are struggling financially and then commit to helping them get the resources they need to thrive. And some communities are trying to make that happen.

The U.S. Education Department said this week it will make Pell Grants available to 10,000 high school students who are enrolled in courses at 44 colleges.

It's an ambitious experiment aimed at closing the attainment gap between rich and poor students in higher education. The Obama administration wants to give students a head start on college.

The new program will allow high school students in 23 states to access up to $20 million in federal money to pay for a semester of college credit.

Career and technical education in high schools has gotten lots of attention and lip service in recent years. Business and industry see it as a long overdue focus on preparing students for the world of work. Educators say CTE — once called vocational education — is an alternative path for high school graduates who don't plan to go to college, at least not right away.

It has also come under scrutiny from researchers who say it's just not working as well as it should. It's poorly funded and often viewed as a "second rate" education.

When it comes to punishing students for campus sexual assault, some say kicking offenders out of school isn't enough. They want schools to put a permanent note on offenders' transcripts explaining that they've been punished for sexual misconduct, so other schools — or employers — can be warned.

Survivor Carmen McNeill says it's common sense. She was a college junior nearly two years ago when, she says, she passed out on someone's bed after a party, from a mix of drinks — including one she suspects was spiked.

The federal government is getting into hip-hop — well, sort of.

A case over school finance in New York has been dragging on now for more than 20 years.

Shahd Al-Swerki still lives in the place she was born: that crowded rectangle of land along the Mediterranean called the Gaza Strip. Swerki knew she wanted to raise her children differently than she had been raised in the conservative Palestinian society. Especially her first child, a girl.

"My father made me lose a chance to travel to Italy when I was 14," says Swerki, now 26. "Although my father allowed my two brothers to travel, to Turkey and Germany to continue their studies."

In the early 1990s, voters in Oregon were feeling some tax anxiety.

Property values were rising, and many worried that also meant a rise in property taxes. And so, with something called Measure 5, they capped them.

Since schools depend heavily on property taxes, Oregon did something unique. The state decided to use income tax revenue to help offset the effect of this new property-tax cap.

There's just one problem: In tough economic times, income is more volatile than property values. And so began a roller coaster for Oregon's schools.

When you enter Marissa McGee's classroom, the first thing you notice is her connection with her students. They're delighted by her enthusiasm, they pick up on her sarcasm, and they often double over with giggles when she makes a joke.

And this is kindergarten. So McGee's students — her audience — are 5-year-olds.

"They're easy to please," she says, laughing. "I'm not that funny. I wouldn't even consider myself funny at all."

This rapport is how Marissa McGee works to shape these kindergartners into thoughtful, educated adults.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

 

 

A program credited with lifting the graduation rate and boosting student enrollment at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School was going to be cut because of a lack of money.  But now, it’s being saved, thanks to a Seattle non-profit.

Thousands of children in Flint, Mich., have been exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water, creating problems that could last a lifetime.

A new effort is trying to help those most at risk.

For weeks, teachers and other volunteers from the Genesee Intermediate School District have been knocking on doors in Flint, trying to recruit kids for early childhood education programs that are critical for the youngest victims of Flint's lead-tainted tap water.

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