Youth & Education

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

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

Seattle Public Schools students don’t get enough time to eat lunch, according to a group of parents. Dozens in a group calling itself “Lunch and Recess Matter” rallied at the Seattle School Board meeting Wednesday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools leaders have dropped a bid for a property that could've been the site of the district's first downtown elementary school in more than six decades.

School board members balked at the estimated $53 million cost of renovating the vacant Federal Reserve Bank building, noting the district would have to take on debt it might have trouble paying back.

In voting 5 to 0 to drop its application, the board passed up a golden opportunity for effectively free land in a pricey real estate market, the school's supporters say; the U.S. Department of Education could have deeded the property to the district for practically nothing.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A statewide ballot initiative aimed at limiting class size in Washington appeared too close to call, according to early election results Tuesday.

Initiative 1351, which calls for hiring more than 7,000 teachers over the next four years in hopes of reducing class sizes in Washington's public schools, was failing by less than 1 percent.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

As voters, teens and young adults don't have the best track records, especially in off-year or midterm elections.

In 2010, less than one-third of 18- to 29-year-olds in Washington state voted, and that's the age group's best turnout rate in more than two decades. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of older voters cast ballots.

But consider how election season can sound from a teen's point of view.

"There's things that I want to be engaged in. I try to listen, I try to be engaged, but it’s like all these old men droning on and on, and on," said Halley Norman, 18. "It’s not very engaging. It’s not something that makes me feel passionate about the issue."

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

If a recent poll is any indication, Washington voters appear poised to again pass a ballot initiative that calls for steeply reducing public school class sizes, this time by hiring more than 7,000 teachers over the next four years.

Voters passed a similar measure in 2000 that had little effect. Lawmakers repealed it two years ago and the state's student-to-teacher ratio remains one of the nation's largest.

But the group behind that 2000 class-size initiative has urged voters to reject this year's version, Initiative 1351. The group joins skeptical lawmakers and newspaper editorial boards who fear a class size-reduction measure would complicate their task of meeting a state Supreme Court order to pump another $2 billion into the state's K-12 budget. 

Mark Humphrey / AP Photo

Seventeen years ago, Bill Bond was the principal at a small high school in western Kentucky that was rocked by a school shooting. It happened before the term "school shooting" had even entered the national conscience.

The Columbine massacre was still a year and a half away when a 14-year-old freshman at Heath High School entered the lobby in Dec. 1997 and opened fire, killing three fellow students and wounding five more. The shooter eventually surrendered to Bond, who says it all happened "right in front of him."

"People are going to want a solution" to prevent shootings like at Heath or Marysville-Pilchuck High School last week, Bond said. "But there's not a perfect, simple solution there. The solutions are hard."

Mark Stahl / AP Photo

Where should a transgender student in a public school use the restroom? In which locker room should the student shower or change clothes? And how should a teacher refer to a student: as a he, a she, or neither?

The Highline Public Schools Board will vote Wednesday night on a new, formal set of guidelines to help staff answer these questions.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle's elected leaders can hardly describe the proposed preschool pilot program at the heart of Proposition 1B without using the phrase "high-quality."

City education officials frequently invoke these words when speaking about their desire to pass a four-year, $58 million property tax hike to not only cover preschool tuition for as many as 2,000 low-income kids, but to ensure these children receive the greatest possible benefit from the program.

But amid a broader debate over whether voters ought to choose the city's plan over a competing childcare initiative, Proposition 1A, a smaller debate has roiled among early educators: What exactly constitutes "high-quality" preschool?

Wes Chapman / Flickr

Someone altered test responses at Seattle's Beacon Hill International School in a way that significantly increased the elementary school's test scores. State education officials have now thrown out the entire school's results after noting "heavy erasure" marks on the test forms.

Whatever the reason for the alterations — both Seattle Public Schools and the state aren't using the word "cheating" — the changes produced some pretty startling test results, as a state analysis shows:

Carol VanHook / Flickr

Washington state education officials have thrown out all standardized test scores at Seattle's Beacon Hill International School after a review found "heavy erasures" in the test booklets, district officials said in a letter to the school's parents and staff Tuesday.

State officials think "the test responses were altered in such a way as to significantly increase total scores," Interim Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland wrote in his letter.

High numbers of the erasure marks made from students changing wrong answers to right ones could indicate cheating, according to education experts. That said, there can also be legitimate, innocent explanations for these stray marks.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Tacoma Public Schools officials recently filed suit against a teacher and two guidance counselors at Lincoln High School, alleging the staff members violated privacy laws designed to keep student records confidential.

An attorney for the educators says her clients have broken no privacy laws. She says the district's lawsuit is retaliation for the staffers going public with concerns the school's scheduling practices are pushing too many students out of Lincoln and into alternative school settings.

But district officials say the practice, which attorney Joan Mell and her clients disparagingly call "cherry-picking," is part of a coordinated effort to ensure the district's most vulnerable students can graduate from high school.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools officials have reached a settlement agreement with the family of a Garfield High School student who alleged she was sexually assaulted during an overnight school trip in 2012, the district announced Wednesday.

As part of a $700,000 settlement agreement, the parents have agreed to dismiss complaints they'd filed with state and federal officials, and to not pursue "monetary claims" against the district and to stop filing public records requests with the district, according to a Seattle Public Schools statement.

"Our goal was to not have this happen again to another family that would have to live through this trauma," said the Garfield student's father in an interview. (KPLU is withholding the family's name to protect the privacy of the student, who's still a minor.)

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Supporters of a campaign to raise wages and create a training program for Seattle's childcare workers are hitting the airwaves, unveiling a commercial that will air during one of the city's most-watched television events: Monday night's Seahawks game.

Courtesy of Seattle Public Schools

Seattle Public Schools officials will hold a series of public meetings this week to inform parents of another shift in attendance boundaries set to take place next school year, potentially impacting more than 1,100 students at 25 district elementary schools.

The changes are part of a bigger plan. A package approved by Seattle School Board members last year calls for annual, incremental shifts in the attendance boundaries until 2020, all with the aim of finding enough space for a burgeoning student population in new or recently-expanded schools.

Lynne Sladky / AP Photo

State education officials have raised the stakes in Seattle Public Schools' efforts to improve services for the district's most vulnerable students, recently announcing they will hold back $3 million in federal funding until the district can get its troubled special education department back on track.

On Wednesday night, the Seattle School Board members took a step toward potentially getting that funding back, hiring an outside firm to help district officials implement a plan to fix its special education offerings.

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