Youth & Education

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

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools officials will enter an auction for a vacant building downtown, the first significant step the board has taken toward opening what would be the first public school in the neighborhood since 1949.

School board members voted unanimously Wednesday night to authorize the district to enter a bid for the former Federal Reserve Bank building.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran as part of our new show, “Sound Effect,” which airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m.

As a seventh grader, "Jennifer" lost count of the number of times she was suspended from school. Back then, she had an attitude and a big mouth and she wasn't going to mince words — even with her teachers.

"'Don't talk back to me,'" Jennifer remembered them saying. "And I'm like, 'I'm just being honest.'"

Over and over, different versions of this drama would play out in her classes. Sometimes teachers would kick her out for talking back. Sometimes Jennifer would get angry over some small thing and kick herself out of class.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools leaders are once again actively pursuing a vacant downtown building as the future site of a new public school. 

School board members will vote Wednesday on whether to authorize a district bid for the building, once home to Seattle's Federal Reserve Bank branch, in a public auction set to close on Jan. 28. The discussion comes just months after the district passed on the chance to take over the property.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

After years of false starts, an effort to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act appears to be picking up steam in Congress, and Washington state's senior U.S. Senator could play a key role in the debate.

Sen. Patty Murray is the top Democrat on the Senate committee that will oversee the overhaul of the outdated 2001 law that mandated schools to, among other things, ensure every single kid nationwide could pass a standardized test by last year. (That, of course, didn't happen.) 

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Washington state's publicly-funded preschool programs may be high-quality, but too few students have access to it.

That's the takeaway from newly-released ratings of state preschool programs from the magazine Education Week. Washington received a D grade and the third-worst rating of any state in the publication's Early Education Index.

Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

Plans to open an emergency shelter and crisis center in Tacoma to serve homeless teens and young adults are slowly moving forward.

City and Pierce County officials have jointly selected Olympia-based Community Youth Services as the operator of a proposed shelter with 20 or more beds for homeless 18- to 24-year-olds at night. The shelter would also offer access to services like mental health care, job training and education during the day.

Provided by Seattle Public Schools.

Seattle School Board members approved a contract through the 2016-2017 school year for new superintendent Larry Nyland

The terms board members approved during Wednesday's meeting set Nyland's base salary at a little more than $276,000 annually, roughly $6,000 higher than former superintendent José Banda's base salary.

"Our strategy in our discussions was to continue with the contract we had previously used [with Banda]," board president Sherry Carr said.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Supporters of a sweeping plan to reduce K-12 class sizes in Washington public schools cheered its passage in November, hailing it as not only an opportunity for schools to hire badly-needed staff but also as a chance for the state to fix a broken revenue system.

Yet Initiative 1351 has landed with a thud in Olympia. The Senate's GOP leadership will attempt to garner the votes to suspend the class-size initiative. Top House Democrats say they can't cover its massive $2 billion price tag. And the budget Gov. Jay Inslee released Thursday only covers a portion of it.

But Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn warned last week this chilly reception won't satisfy Washington state Supreme Court justices, who've already held lawmakers in contempt over school funding.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Garfield High School's administration submitted a staffing plan to Seattle Public Schools Thursday that's strategically designed to prevent a teacher from moving out of the building for the second half of the school year, according to a leader of the school's PTSA.

District officials had asked the school's administrators to identify the equivalent of one full-time teacher who would move to another school at the end of the first semester. They said Garfield High School's final enrollment numbers came in well short of predicted levels and the teacher is needed elsewhere.

But instead of identifying one teacher, Garfield High School PTSA co-president Kirk Wohlers said the school named five teachers who could each leave the school for one class period each.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday proposed pumping an additional $1.3 billion into Washington's K-12 schools in the next two-year budget, which he says would allow the state to meet a high court mandate to fully-fund basic education a year early.

Seattle Public Schools

Seattle School Board members offered the district's open superintendent job to the current interim, Larry Nyland, at a special meeting Wednesday night, aiming to slow years of staff turnover in top administrative positions.

Seattle Public Schools

  If it's possible to not seek and yet still find, Seattle school leaders hope they have their man in interim superintendent Larry Nyland.

School board members appear poised to strip the "interim" tag from Nyland's title with a vote at a special meeting Wednesday night that would open up talks to keep him at the district's helm for two and a half more years.

Wes Chapman / Flickr

The issues of race and class currently fueling protests around the U.S. manifest in a different way in the classroom, says Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian.

"Many of our students feel they're being set up," said the educator-activist and advisor of Garfield's Black Student Union who led the school's testing boycott in 2013.

Hagopian says the setup exists in the standardized tests policymakers across the nation have increasingly used to measure the gap in academic performance. The gap, he says, too often separates students of color from their white peers, and hold teachers and school leaders accountable for closing it.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Hawi Ali wonders what went on behind closed doors as a grand jury deliberated the case of a Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager last summer.

Then again, Ali suspects she doesn't have to wonder at all.

"Since it's such a repetitive pattern, I don't think it's about the discussions they have," said Ali, a junior at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School. "I really think it's blatant racism."

Seattle Public Schools

One item on Wednesday night's Seattle School Board agenda drew a lot of attention when it was posted on the night before Thanksgiving: a proposal to open up talks to hire interim superintendent Larry Nyland on a permanent basis.

Ahead of Wednesday night's meeting, two board members floated another plan: extend Nyland's temporary contract into 2016, keeping Nyland at the district's helm on an interim basis for another year.

Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

Nearly four out of five Tacoma high school students graduated on time in 2014 — the highest graduation rate the district has posted in the decade Washington state has officially tracked the figure, district leaders announced Tuesday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

On a day when frenzied holiday shoppers will pay a significant sum in state sales taxes, a group of teachers is organizing a protest near the Redmond campus of a corporation that they wish paid more taxes: Microsoft.

The teachers' planned the Black Friday protest to urge state lawmakers to put corporate tax breaks, not social services, on the chopping block in their effort to find at least $2.5 billion in new funding for schools.

"Many of the families of our students can't afford the Christmas gifts they want to buy unless they go to those sales on Black Friday. They are going to be paying a lot of sales tax on Black Friday," said protest organizer and Renton teacher Julianna Dauble. "We chose it to highlight [the fact] Microsoft will not be paying taxes on Black Friday."

This January, Washington State University plans to ask lawmakers for permission to open a medical school in Spokane.

The question is whether the University of Washington will oppose that effort. It currently runs the state’s only school for doctor of medicine degrees.

Seth Weinig

State child welfare workers have outlined plans to implement new training and data management practices, hoping to finally push Washington's foster care system into full compliance with a decade-old legal agreement.

But state officials also say they'll realistically need nearly $7.8 million more from lawmakers' next two-year budget to hire back the staff they need to meet all 21 benchmarks for improving foster care laid out in the 2004 settlement of the Braam v. Washington case.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

City officials and Seattle Public Schools educators "share the responsibility" for Seattle children's academic performance, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a speech to assembled municipal and school district leaders Monday night.

And, Murray added after his remarks at the State of the District event, city officials ought to "become more integrated" and "collaborative" in efforts with Seattle Public Schools leaders to close a stubborn achievement gap between white kids and students of color.

"We can collaborate together," Murray said in his speech. "We can produce game-changing, transformational results. We can do it without fears about control or governance, or turf. This is about our children. This is about closing an opportunity gap. This isn’t about turf."

Colin Archer / AP Photo

Students receiving special education services in Washington public schools are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and more likely to end up suspended or expelled, and in many cases, their disabilities are not to blame, according to a new state report.

In the report, the independent state office that handles disputes between parents and public schools calls on state lawmakers to empower a blue ribbon commission to determine how best to remove "unnecessary divisions between 'special education' and 'general education.'"

Hope for Gorilla/Flickr

Should Seattle schools adjust their start times to let middle- and high school students get more sleep?

It's a riddle that's vexed Seattle Public Schools for the last six years, and a 30-member district task force kicked off a months-long process Thursday night of solving it.

Some parents and sleep experts have lobbied district leaders to let the district's schools, most of which currently start classes at 7:50 a.m., begin their school days at a later hour. One way to accommodate that change, they say, is for elementary schools, which currently begin their days at either 8:40 or 9:30 a.m., to start classes earlier.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

How often does a ballot initiative in Washington state garner 60 percent support or better in public opinion polls before Election Day, only to wind up losing?

Pollster Stuart Elway can count the times on one hand. But now, there's a real possibility he could add a statewide class-size initiative to the list. 

Two October polls showed voters supported Initiative 1351, which calls for hiring thousands of teachers in an effort to reduce public school class sizes, by wide margins. Yet the vote count as of Thursday afternoon showed the initiative trailing by 12,171 votes, or 0.86 percentage point. An automatic recount occurs if the margin is 2,000 votes and less than one-half of a percentage point.

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.

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