Youth & Education

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

Lower Columbia Ciollege / Flickr

Many of the efforts to improve schools in Washington are focusing on science and technology, and some leading educators are concerned that’s coming at the expense of a well-rounded education. They’re forming a group to advocate for liberal arts learning.

Jesse Michener

A couple of bad sunburns have left Tacoma’s school district smarting, and could help spur policy changes about students and sunscreen. Tacoma school officials say they’ll revisit a policy banning the use of sunscreen by students, except with a doctor’s note.

The district is getting national attention after a Tacoma mom’s story went viral in late June. Jesse Michener says it never occurred to her to jump through the hoops it would take to get her daughters sunscreen when they left for a field trip on a rainy morning, but they came home burned badly enough that Michener took them to the hospital.

Many students in American classrooms don't feel challenged enough. That's according to new analysis of federal data (pdf) conducted by the Washington think tank American Progress.

The organization, which promotes "progressive ideas and action," came to that conclusion when it analyzed surveys given to students by the Department of Education for its National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

At the core of Washington’s agriculture industry is science – you can’t grow a potato or cherry without knowing about soil chemistry, hydrology and photosynthesis. But the people who get their hands dirty in the business of growing and picking don’t always think of it that way.

In fact, the children of that workforce tend to struggle in math and science. Just one in four children of migrant workers meets state science standards in eighth grade, far below the population as a whole. The gap in math is nearly as wide.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Two aerospace companies plan to expand their operations in Washington. Governor Chris Gregoire made that announcement Monday from the Farnborough Air Show in London. But the news highlights a gap between the legions of unemployed and the skills they need for many new jobs.

Everett, Washington is a good microcosm for the so-called skills gap. The industrial city north of Seattle is home to Boeing and hundreds of key aerospace suppliers.

Washington schools will be able to sidestep some of the toughest standards and punishments in the federal No Child Left Behind law. The federal government announced Friday it will give waivers to Washington and Wisconsin.

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has said under the current law, nearly every school in the state would get socked with penalties. Schools are supposed to have all of their students meeting learning standards by 2014, or else lose control over big chunks of federal money.

Backers of a measure to allow charter schools in Washington are scheduled to turn in their petition signatures Friday. Meanwhile, a pilot project designed in part to short-circuit the argument for charter schools was blocked Thursday in court.

Gov. Chris Gregoire isn't happy about Western Washington University's new faculty contract.

She wrote a letter last week to Western President Bruce Shepard expressing "grave concerns" about the raises faculty members are getting.

It came down to the wire, but finally, Republicans and Democrats agreed on a deal that keeps the interest rate on government-backed student loans from doubling. It will save the average borrower about $1,000 a year, but the compromise is likely to cost students a lot more than that over the long term.

The agreement that lawmakers passed Friday will keep interest rates at 3.4 percent for another year. Anthony DeLaRosa, a 23-year-old University of Colorado graduate, says it's a big victory.

Growing up near Philadelphia, Michelle Holshue's dream was to serve those in need. Applying to nursing school at the University of Pennsylvania seemed like a smart move — in 2007.

Nursing jobs were plentiful. The students' running joke was that hospital executives would soon be stopping them in the street, begging them to come to work.

Then the economy tanked. For a time, Holshue was an Ivy League grad on unemployment and food stamps.

Congressional leaders on Tuesday said they were close to a deal to solve two big issues facing lawmakers — student loan interest rates and federal highway funding.

Both issues with looming deadlines have high stakes for middle-income Americans: If Congress fails to reach agreements by this weekend, the federal highway program would come to a halt, and student loan interest rates would double, to 6.8 percent.

Student Loans

President Obama has been hammering on the issue of student loans for days.

An increase in the number of people protesting with the student group #MicCheckWallStreet last night on Capital Hill brought an increase in police presence with it.

And, not long after more than 80 people took to the streets to “peacefully” protest the rising costs of a college education, according to one organizer, the gathering turned hostile when a single arrest was made.

The Seattle School Board voted Wednesday night to allow some commercial advertising on school grounds.

The vote reverses a ban that was imposed in 2004.

Photo courtesy of Alex Garland

Fed up with the rising costs of college education and the prospect of interest on student loans doubling on July 1, a new student coalition in Seattle has started making some noise – with pots and pans and whatever else they can take to the streets with.

As Seattle Public Schools begin their final week of classes, the district is turning to technology to rescue some summer school programs it cut last year. SPS will offer online courses at Franklin and possibly another high school, and three others plan to extend their school-year virtual learning into the summer. Cleveland and Rainier Beach high schools will have limited classroom programming.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

You might say the Dalai Lama was his guidance counselor.

When Choega Thundrup dons his cap and gown Friday, it will be thanks to the spiritual leader who set him on his path, and people who risked their lives to help him get there.

With report cards mailed out and lockers scrubbed clean, it's time to say goodbye to school and hello to summer camps. Many working parents have spent months scrambling to fill their kids' idle time this summer. Seattle writer Tim Haywood can relate to this and all the complications that go with it.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

It wasn’t on the school board agenda, but members of Susan Enfield’s cabinet paid her a surprise tribute during her final school board meeting Wednesday. Enfield is leaving Seattle Public Schools this month after 16 months as interim superintendent.

Enfield wiped away tears as a string of her deputies praised her, beginning with Enfield’s number-two, Interim Deputy Superintendent Bob Boesche.

“So my word is motivator. There wasn’t a meeting ever, an encounter ever with you, where I didn’t walk out [feeling] motivated to do my best,” Boesche said.

The University of Washington Board of Regents has approved a 16 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students. With the increase, tuition and mandatory fees for the 2012-13 academic year will total $12,401. That's a $1,564 increase. The regents also voted Thursday to allocate 30 percent of the increased tuition dollars to financial aid. The tuition increase is equal to the amount allocated in the state budget for the current biennium. Lawmakers OK'd double-digit tuition increases to make up for similar cuts in state dollars going to the university.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle school counselors say they’re getting hit harder than ever by budget cuts, and a pack of them turned out at Wednesday’s school board meeting to protest the latest round of layoffs.

It all stems from a change three years ago to how Seattle Public Schools funds counselors in elementary schools. The district stopped paying for them as regular employees, and instead gave schools a choice: use your discretionary money, or let them go. Now, almost two thirds of elementary schools don’t have a counselor, and the district has sent pink slips to a dozen counselors at middle-and high schools.

Courtesy of David Hunter and Etsy

So, when the zombie apocalypse comes, where will you flee? Should you hunker down on a remote island or blend into the urban landscape? Will the undead funnel onto bridges and viaducts?  Do they like low ground or high ground?

So many questions … now don’t you wish you’d paid more attention in geography class?

"Zombies" in the news

Washington’s new teacher evaluation law may be too weak to satisfy the federal government. The U. S. Department of Education did not free the state from the strictures of No Child Left Behind today, leaving Washington schools open to harsh sanctions in two years.

Courtesy of Seattle Central Community College

Seattle Central Community College may be well known for Occupy Seattle protests and antiwar activism. But school officials are trying to make the campus more friendly to returning members of the military.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington teachers are woefully underpaid. That’s the conclusion of a draft legislative task force report. Now a key Washington state lawmaker says teachers and other school employees deserve at least a cost-of-living pay raise next year.

Twelve years ago, Washington voters approved Initiative 732. It requires annual pay increases for K-12 employees. The initiative didn’t come with any funding.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

 It used to be if you can't go to a four year school, go to community college.  Now, it's like what are you supposed to do if you can't go to community college?   

  Daniel Jean Baptiste, South Seattle Community College student 

Tuition will go up at the state's public two-year colleges by an average of 12 percent this fall.  For a full-time student, tuition will go from $3,542 to $4,000--a 13 percent increase.

The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges voted on the increase to help offset $110 million in state cuts to the community and technical colleges. 

Many students, already struggling to afford school, say it threatens to put higher education out of reach.

The nuclear industry faces a generation gap. A lot of the people who run nuclear power plants are nearing retirement. Now the Obama Administration has awarded $6.3 million to Northwest universities to help train the next generation of nuclear leaders.

Donald Wall directs Washington State University’s Nuclear Radiation Center in Pullman. The reactor is surrounded by the university’s golf course.

“I like to joke that WSU features probably the only golf course in the world that has a nuclear hazard.”

The dark clouds looming over higher education in the nation and Washington may have a silver lining, but so far it’s been hard to find and the recent spate of news has been pretty bad for college students.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on building in a silver lining, but first the details.

Award-winning children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak has died at 83. He shot to fame in 1963 with his picture book 'Where The Wild Things Are'. He published several more books, including 'In The Night Kitchen', 'Outside Over There' and most recently, 'Bumble-Ardy'.

Family friend Lynn Ceprio confirmed his death. The New York Times reports his cause of death was complications from a stroke he'd recently suffered.


The Seattle School Board is asking Anaheim School Superintendent Jose Banda to lead the Seattle school district.

The district says Board President Michael DeBell contacted Banda Sunday night, and he expressed his willingness to take the job.

SALEM, Ore. - Rare, once-lost historic records about pioneer Chinese immigrants to the Northwest have found a new life online. The digital archive is hosted by Oregon State University. A Chinese-American civic group hopes the document trove can help families locate ancestors gone missing early in the last century.