Youth & Education

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

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Lauding recent increases in state education funding, but ultimately admitting they still have more work to do, state lawmakers have filed an update with the state Supreme Court on their progress toward fulfilling the McCleary school funding mandate.

Now, everyone's wondering what the court will do next.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

A proposal to completely re-write the No Child Left Behind education law, entrusting state officials and not the feds with more of the responsibility to hold schools accountable, has passed the U.S. Senate by a wide margin Thursday afternoon, 81-17.

In the plodding history of attempts to overhaul the unpopular law, it's a huge step forward — it's the first time the Senate has passed a proposal to reauthorize NCLB since it originally expired in 2007.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU News

Green River College administrators will move ahead with plans to cut two small trade programs — including one led by the president of the faculty union — in an effort, they say, to narrow a budget gap.

But in announcing the closure of the school's auto body and geographic information systems programs late Wednesday, administrators of the Auburn community college also said they would spare the school's carpentry program from cuts.

In a statement, Green River administrators said closing the programs, which were targeted for their high operating costs, will generate roughly one-third of the savings needed to close a budget shortfall originally estimated at $841,000.

Vicki Wagner

Feelings of depression and hopelessness are increasing among Washington State’s teenagers, according to results from the Healthy Youth Survey.

Thirty five percent of 10th graders and 34 percent of 12th graders, the survey found, said they experienced these feelings in the past year. These figures are up slightly from 2012.

Mental health officials say they don't know why this is happening.

Additionally, 10 percent of 10th graders said they attempted suicide is the last year, up from eight percent a few years earlier. Vicki Wagner, the director of the Youth Suicide Prevention Project said most teen suicide attempts happen in the spring and the fall.

Wagner said parents and peers need to act if they notice someone becoming withdrawn.

 

“Somebody who has been outgoing, who has had a lot of friends, if they start isolating, if they start giving way things, that’s really symptomatic in adolescence," she said. "There’s an awful lot of suicide attempts that can follow a break-up in adolescence, you know, a significant person they were involved with.”

 

Last year, the Youth Suicide Prevention Project trained more than seven-thousand parents, teachers and students across the state. The trainings focus on the importance of speaking up when someone becomes aware of a teen who might be thinking of taking his or her own life.

OSPI

More than half of all high school juniors did not take Washington's benchmark standardized tests this spring, according to preliminary data state officials released Thursday.

In fact, so many eleventh graders skipped the Smarter Balanced exams — more than 42,000 in total — that the state’s overall participation rate on the required tests dipped below a minimum level required by federal law.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A proposal to re-write No Child Left Behind — an unpopular federal education law that now labels practically all schools in Washington state as "failing" — began its tightrope-walk through the full U.S. Senate Tuesday.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who helped shepherd the bipartisan proposal through committee, opened debate on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon by calling on her colleagues to "fix this broken law."

AP Images

Fewer Washington students passed a new, harder statewide standardized test this year — but the exam didn't trip up as many kids as some had feared.

For instance, roughly 58 percent of fifth graders earned "proficient" English scores in their first year taking the new Smarter Balanced tests, according to early results state officials released Thursday. Compare that with 72 percent of last year's fifth graders who passed the state's old benchmark reading exam, the MSP.

John Froschauer / AP Photo

Though it includes new funding for schools, state superintendent Randy Dorn says the budget Washington lawmakers passed falls short of meeting a Supreme Court mandate to increase K-12 spending.

In a statement, Dorn called on the state's high court to "take whatever steps necessary to bring the Legislature back into session as soon as possible" to work out solutions to problems justices ordered them to solve in their 2012 McCleary ruling.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

It's looking less and less likely state lawmakers will drop a graduation requirement currently standing between hundreds of Washington high school seniors and their diplomas.

This year, roughly 2,000 high schoolers passed all the tests they needed to graduate except one: biology. But with time running out in their session, legislators remain deadlocked over a proposal to drop biology as a graduation requirement.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Federal education officials have opened an inquiry into whether the University of Washington properly handled the case of a student who reported an instance of sexual violence, according to a statement from the school.

The investigation adds UW to a list of more than 100 colleges nationally — including Washington State University and Whitman College — where the U.S. Department of Education is investigating compliance with federal laws protecting victims of sexual assault or harassment.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle school district officials did not warn Garfield High School that a student — now suspended for inappropriately touching two female classmates in their hotel room on a choir trip to New Orleans — had been expelled from a private school for similar misconduct in the past.

But a report the district released Monday also laid some blame for the groping incident with Garfield's choir teacher, saying her disregard for district policy preventing male and female students from entering each others' hotel rooms created "much greater opportunity" for something to go wrong on the trip last March.

Many Garfield choir students and parents have rallied to the defense of the veteran teacher, Carol Burton, who is now on administrative leave as Seattle Public Schools officials review her handling of the trip.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Washington state's first charter school is getting another second chance.

State charter commission members voted 4-3 against ending public funding for Seattle's First Place Scholars school Thursday afternoon, saying new leadership had made great strides to stabilize the school after its first chaotic months in operation.

They did so despite lingering doubts about whether the school would have enough cash to remain open into next school year — concerns commissioners had ordered school leaders to address in an ultimatum two weeks ago.

Creative Commons

A Garfield High School student might have groped two classmates while on a school choir trip to New Orleans in March, a Seattle Public Schools investigation has found.

The district also says the school's choir teacher and chaperones were drinking during the trip, and that one chaperone had "inappropriate contact with the student while under the influence of alcohol," according to a district statement.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A state commission has decided it will wade into the labor drama that's pitted many Green River College faculty members against the school's administration.

In a time of tight budgets and tense contract negotiations at the Auburn community college, the state's Public Employee Relations Commission will appoint an examiner to handle a faculty complaint that school administrators' proposal to lay off several faculty union leaders amounts to an unfair labor practice.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle school board members agreed to become partners in the city's new preschool program under an agreement that broadly defines the district's role in the pilot project.

Indeed while board members approved the document by a 5-1 vote Wednesday night, many also expressed concerns that the deal left too many unanswered questions about the district's role and responsibility in the program.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

State officials issued an ultimatum to Seattle's First Place Scholars charter school on Wednesday: Fix a host of academic and financial problems within two weeks or lose public funding.

Specifically, First Place staff must provide a "viable expense budget"  by June 15, along with detailed evidence of how the school is serving its English language learners and students receiving special education services, outlined the warning letter issued by the Washington State Charter School Commission.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Teacher walkouts that closed schools in dozens of Washington school districts this spring might resume during the next school year if lawmakers don't approve a budget that meets teacher demands, state and local union leaders say.

Specifically, the Washington Education Association will "support local strikes throughout the state" if the new budget does not include the larger pay raises and across-the-board class size reductions the teachers union has demanded.

"The hope would be that the legislature would fulfill its obligation," WEA spokesman Rich Wood said.

David Goldman / AP Photo

More than 2,000 high school seniors in Washington state appear unlikely to graduate this year because they didn't pass a required biology test.

But while their predicament has caught Olympia's attention, a last-minute push to let those students get their diplomas anyway appears to have stalled in the State Senate as lawmakers debate what tests to link to graduation going forward.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Teachers in Tacoma have decided against joining the wave of walkouts that have closed some of Washington's biggest school districts this spring, with the union voting Tuesday to hold an alternate protest.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU News

Kyle Preston, 24, is two quarters away from completing a degree from a program Green River College has proposed to cut.

Preston is one of a handful of students taking classes in auto body technology at the Auburn community college — one of three small trade programs administrators have put on the chopping block because of what could be a $4.4 million budget shortfall.

John Froschauer / PLU

The Pacific Northwest has deep Norwegian roots and nowhere was that more evident than at Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday.

His Majesty King Harald V of Norway came for a visit to the school that was founded 125 years ago by Norwegian immigrants. The King was in the Northwest to speak at PLU's Commencement ceremony in the Tacoma Dome, but made a quick trip to the university first, where he was welcomed by hundreds of students and and  other well wishers from around the region.

LISTEN: A sound portrait of HM King Harald V's visit:


Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Teacher union protests that have rolled through Washington school districts for nearly a month now reached a climactic moment Tuesday as thousands of Seattle teachers walked off the job for a one-day strike, leaving schools in the state's largest district closed.

An estimated 4,000 teachers picketed at eight high schools in the morning before marching more than two miles through downtown Seattle in the afternoon, railing against legislative proposals they say leave them underpaid and overwhelmed in classrooms.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

After expressing doubts about the legality of ongoing teacher walkouts, state Republican lawmakers have scheduled a hearing on a bill that would block the state from paying a striking teacher's salary or benefits during the strikes.

Spokane Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner in a statement said teachers are making political points with children bearing the cost. "These strikes use our children as a political football," said Baumgartner, one of the bill's sponsors.   

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A task force is getting ready to make a formal recommendation for whether Seattle Public Schools can shuffle their bell times to let middle- and high schoolers get more sleep — and if they can, present options on how to make the change.

But some members of the task force aren't happy. Advocates who've pushed for years for earlier start times for secondary students say they're concerned district officials have taken the best plan off the table prematurely, and have instead been shopping inferior options around for public comment and review.

AP Images

For years — decades, even — problems with how local property taxes fund public schools have vexed Washington lawmakers.

Now, they may have mere weeks to solve them.

Lawmakers are still hashing out a property tax system overhaul that seeks to end school districts' reliance on local levies to pay expenses the state's supposed to cover. Coming up with a solution was a key demand of the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision.

But lawmakers from both parties didn't file bills addressing the levy issue until mid-April. Kim Justice, senior budget analyst with the left-leaning Washington Budget and Policy Center, says they've been procrastinating.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Two weeks from now, a teacher walkout will have impacted one out of every four of Washington state's 1 million public school students.

That's after Monday's confirmation teachers in Seattle Public Schools would join colleagues in 28 other districts in approving a "one-day strike" to protest state lawmakers' stances on several key education issues.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

On Wednesday, Sedro-Wooley teachers walked off the job for a day. On Thursday, Bainbridge Island and Burlington-Edison teachers plan to do the same.

After that, seven more local teachers unions have approved similar "one-day strikes" as the Washington Legislature convenes a special session to finish a two-year state budget — a pocketbook issue for educators, who say neither political party's spending plans do enough to reverse six years of stagnant wages.

 

King County Executive Dow Constantine says if we invest in young children we can prevent them from ending up in jail and, in turn, save tax dollars. This is why he wants voters to approve a six-year levy to fund an initiative called Best Starts For Kids.

 

Though the Washington Legislature closed its regular session without reaching a budget, it remains on track to fulfill the state Supreme Court's schools funding mandate, the state's top lawyer said in a legal filing Monday.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, charged with defending state lawmakers in the ongoing McCleary case, wrote a progress report to the court saying spending proposals from both the state House and Senate include "historic" increases in K-12 education funding.

Now all that's left, Ferguson argued, is to reach a deal in the special session which starts Wednesday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

For nearly three years, members of the University of Washington's top governing board regularly violated state public meetings laws by discussing official business during private dinners, a King County judge ruled Friday.

The UW Board of Regents discussed official business during 24 of these "dinner meetings," held at the home of the school's president, between January 2012 and September 2014, according to an order from Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen.

Pages