Youth & Education

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

The way Daphne Patton remembers it, it was more money than she'd ever seen.

It was 1990, and the Kentucky Supreme Court had declared the state's school funding system unconstitutional. Within a year, a lot more money started flowing to the poorest school districts, a 50 to 60 percent increase in their budgets.

Patton, an elementary school teacher from Wolfe County in eastern Kentucky, says schools had an abundance of resources, "everything we needed."

Rich Pedroncell / AP Photo

Drinking fountains are now off limits at two elementary schools in Tacoma after tests revealed high levels of lead in the water. District officials had this information available to them for almost a year, but only looked at it for the first time late last week.

The schools are Mann Elementary and Reed Elementary.The district sent out an email and a phone message to all affected families.

In public radio's mythical Lake Wobegon, "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

The first two conditions are merely unlikely. The third one is a mathematical absurdity. However, a new survey suggests that almost all parents believe it to be true.

In a recent survey of public school parents, 90 percent stated that their children were performing on or above grade level in both math and reading. Parents held fast to this sunny belief no matter their own income, education level, race or ethnicity.

Tiffany Anderson heads the Jennings School District close to Ferguson on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. She's a budget hawk, and she has to be to save money in her low-income district.

She stretches money in the most creative ways, including serving as one of the district's morning crossing guards.

For more about Tiffany Anderson's story and Missouri school funding, click here.

In 1973, in a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that there was no federal right to equal school funding in the Constitution.

That was more than 40 years ago, and today Patty Rodriguez, a teacher in the same school district in San Antonio where that fight started, says nothing has changed.

Her father, Demetrio Rodriguez, filed the suit. It became a landmark case, a turning point when the focus around school funding shifted from the federal government to the states.

Think about our planet for a second. Earth has an elliptical — oval-shaped — orbit. That means we're closer to the sun for one part of the year and farther away another part of the year.

Does that fact explain why it's hotter in the summer and colder in the winter?

Lots of kids think it does. Lots of adults think so too. And they're wrong.*

Philip Sadler is both a professor of astronomy and the director of the science education department at Harvard University, and he is obsessed with wrong answers like these.

Bloodletting to keep the "humors" in balance was a leading medical treatment from ancient Greece to the late 19th century. That's hard to believe now, in the age of robot-assisted surgery, but "doctors" trusted lancets and leeches for centuries.

To Nobel laureate Carl Wieman, the college lecture is the educational equivalent of bloodletting, one long overdue for revision.

Imagine you're back in school, bored to death, with limited academic options. Because you're learning English, everybody assumes you're not ready for more challenging work. What they don't realize is that you're gifted.

Researchers say this happens to lots of gifted children who arrive at school speaking little or no English. These students go unnoticed, until someone taps into their remarkable talent and potential. Vanessa Minero Leon was lucky. She was one of those students who got noticed.

Merriam-Webster defines jargon as "the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity, group, profession, or field of study."

When Andrea Diaz was applying to colleges, she got good news and bad news. The good news was that American University, a private four-year university in Washington, D.C., wanted her. The bad news was that it required her to come to campus early to take two summer developmental-level courses in math and English.

"I was traumatized by it," Diaz says, "because I felt that they didn't see in me the potential to do well in college."

Chris Joseph Kalinko / Seattle University

Adults who are thinking about going back to college have more to ponder than whether the time and money they’ve already invested will count toward a degree today.  They also need to get ready for the 21st-century workplace.

One thing that holds people back from completing their degrees is wondering whether their liberal arts credits are relevant in today’s job market — where the higher paid positions are in high-tech.

Monica Spain / KPLU

It can be hard to know when to call 9-1-1. And once you're on the line, it can be even harder to stay calm, cool and collected. Eight-year-old Austin Holdt did just that -- and helped save his grandmother's life. 

More than half of public school students are members of minority groups, but 83 percent of their teachers are white. Half of students are boys, while three-quarters of teachers are women.

Students can benefit in many ways from having teachers who look like them, but in many schools around the country the math doesn't add up.

Set back from the main road, surrounded by trees along the Winooski River, is Vermont's only facility for youths in trouble. The building hardly looks like a jail, but young people come here from all over the state for offenses ranging from shoplifting or selling drugs to felony charges like sexual assault or murder.

When I first visited Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, I was given a tour by a young man named Tyler. To protect their privacy, we've agreed not to use the students' last names or tell you why they're here.

Kids Co.

 

Space is tight and you will probably have to find a new home. This is the message the Seattle School District is sending to the before- and after-school childcare programs that are housed in elementary school buildings.

Ken Yeh is the director of technology at Ontario Christian Schools, a private K-12 school near Los Angeles with about 100 children per grade. Three years ago, the school began buying Google Chromebook laptops for every student in middle and high school.

The students would be allowed to take them home. Yeh says parents "were concerned" about what they might be used for, especially outside of school.

Kelly Henderson loves her job, teaching at Newton South High School in a suburb west of Boston. But she's frustrated she can't afford to live in the community where she teaches: It's part of the 10th most expensive housing market in the nation.

"For people in the private sector, they're probably saying 'Oh poor you, you can't live in the community where you work, what's the big deal?' " says Henderson, 35. "And I guess part of the nature of public education and why it's a different kind of job, is that it's all-consuming — as it should be."

On any given weekend, the Washington, D.C., public library system offers nearly a dozen classes. You can try Matt McEntee's class, where he'll teach you how to fix anything from a clock to a broken heart. Maybe you're interested in creating a photo book, or you'd like to get better at Microsoft Word?

When we're reporting on special education, we inevitably run up against questions of how we should refer to students with disabilities and to the disabilities themselves.

It's a minefield, comparable to the tensions and complexity of writing about race and ethnicity.

It's important to get it right. As journalists, of course, we want to be accurate. And clear. And we want to avoid perpetuating stereotypes or giving offense.

An artificially intelligent computer system built by Google has just beaten the world's best human, Lee Sedol of South Korea, at an ancient strategy game called Go. Go originated in Asia about 2,500 years ago and is considered many, many times more complex than chess, which fell to AI back in 1997.

Few public high schools in the country have attracted as much shine as Pathways in Technology Early College High School — P-TECH — in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

A large classroom at the school is hung with blown-up color posters of President Obama, smiling with students on a visit to the school in 2013. That year, just two years after its founding, Obama mentioned the school by name in his State of the Union Address:

Before I became a reporter, I was a teacher. After 27 years on the education beat, I've met a few fantastic teachers and a few bad ones. So I've wondered, where would I have fit in? Was I a good teacher?

Recently I went back to the site of the school where I taught so many years ago, just outside Tucson, Ariz. Treehaven was both a day school and a boarding school for so-called "troubled kids."

When I first read Originals I couldn't help but take notes. What I jotted down was essentially a to-do list for how I could be more creative, how I could think up and then communicate new ideas.

But the book — written by Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania — is not just a guide for adults.

Its pages are littered with interesting advice on how teachers and parents can encourage and cultivate their kids to be original, too.

We all know that American college education isn't cheap. But it turns out that it's even less cheap if you look at the numbers more closely.

That's what the Wisconsin HOPE Lab did. The lab, part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted four studies to figure out the true price of college.

To get a sense of student realities, researchers interviewed students on college campuses across the state of Wisconsin. But they also examined 6,604 colleges nationally and compared their costs with regional cost-of-living data from the government.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled voter-approved charter schools unconstitutional last fall. Now it appears they will get a second chance after the Washington House voted Wednesday night to fund charters with lottery proceeds, not general funds.

Yes, You Can Still Teach Kids To Love Books

Mar 8, 2016

The Internet has not killed the book.

For film critic David Denby, this wasn't immediately obvious. He would watch young people hunched over their phones — on the subway, in coffee shops, walking down the street — and wonder: Are kids still learning to read books?

Denby, who is best known for his work in The New Yorker, went back to high school to find out. He describes his experience in Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives.

Has American education research mostly languished in an echo chamber for much of the last half century?

Harvard's Thomas Kane thinks so.

Why have the medical and pharmaceutical industries and Silicon Valley all created clear paths to turn top research into game-changing innovations, he asks, while education research mostly remains trapped in glossy journals?

Ready your pencils.

This morning, across America, the redesigned version of the SAT — the standardized entrance exam widely used in college admissions — is being administered for the first time.

(The correct answer to our headline, therefore, is A ... but under the redesigned test, there's no penalty for guessing, so no worries if you got it wrong.)

The billing office is one of the friendliest places on campus, says Aja Beckham, a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. What wasn't friendly: her bill, and the big number on it.

Ever since her freshman year, she says, her biggest struggle in college has been figuring out how to pay for it.

In just a few short weeks, students in California will be taking high-stakes tests. But the tests won't just cover math, reading and science. Students will also be responding to survey statements like "I usually finish what I start," or "I can do anything if I try."

A group of big-city districts there is among the first to try to measure students' self-control, empathy and other social and emotional skills — and to hold schools accountable for the answers.

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