Youth & Education

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

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.

Martha Kang / KPLU

Fall classes began at many of Washington's public universities Wednesday, beginning the first term undocumented immigrant students can receive state-backed financial aid under a new state law.

But while more than 2,000 students applied to receive state need grants under provisions of the newly-enacted Washington "Dream Act," state higher education officials say it's possible as many as 700 of these undocumented students won't receive an aid award at all — even if they're eligible.

It's not just undocumented students who will miss out. Though state expenditures on the program have ballooned as tuition costs get higher, there isn't enough funding for the state need grant program to offer aid to every eligible Washington student.

Martha Kang / KPLU

Move-in day at the University of Washington is a jumble of boxes and emotions for incoming freshman Carlos Escutia.

"I'm so happy I get to move in first. I get to pick the bed," he says, grinning and carrying a bedspread into his new dorm room. 

For the past 15 years, Escutia's family has worked hard in hopes of celebrating days like this. His parents left Mexico when Escutia was 3, dreaming of better lives and better education for their children. Going to a four-year college has always been Escutia's goal.

A year ago, it wasn't even clear the Lynnwood High School grad would make it to this day. As an undocumented immigrant, Escutia didn't qualify for government loans to cover his college costs. He'd have to apply for competitive private scholarships and hope for the best.

Then the state legislature passed the "Dream Act," granting many undocumented high school graduates access to state-funded college grants. Escutia was among the first to apply, and he is now part of the state's first wave of so-called "dreamers" to start classes.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

This summer's events in Ferguson, Missouri aren't the only things that make Jaedyn Colly, who is black, wonder what makes him different from the police. 

"I have family members — they've been arrested," said Colly, a sophomore at Rainier Beach High School. "You just question, 'What is the difference? What makes [a police officer] so better than me? What gives you the power to have control over me?'"

It's the kind of frustration Rainier Beach High teachers want to bring out into the open. Just ten days into their young school year, they've already carved out half-hour blocks over three days to discuss the police shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and the racially-charged demonstrations that followed.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Like in many cities around the country, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he isn't interested in running the local public school district, but he is interested in how well the city's children do in school.

It's why Murray will propose to roll several youth-focused programs into one new city-level education department when he submits his budget proposal to the Seattle City Council next week.

But unlike other cities where the mayor's office doesn't control the local school district, Murray directs the spending of millions of city dollars on Seattle Public Schools. That's a unique niche for a mayor, policy experts say, and Murray's proposed Department of Education and Early Learning only deepens it.

Washington State University's Board of Regents unanimously approved a plan Friday to establish a medical school in Spokane. It has the potential to generate 120 new doctors every year in the Northwest. But the move also tees up a fight between Washington's two largest public universities.

Austin Jenkins

In an unprecedented move, the Washington Supreme Court has ruled the state in contempt of court in the McCleary school funding case. However, the justices will wait to impose sanctions until after the 2015 legislative session to give the legislature time to "purge the contempt."

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle school leaders will convene a task force to review the district's handling of sexual assault cases, acknowledging in a statement late Wednesday that "substantial work is required to bring the district into compliance" with federal laws designed to protect victims of sexual violence in schools.

The move is Seattle Public Schools' latest response to criticism of how district employees handled the case of a Garfield High School student who alleged a classmate raped her during a school field trip in 2012.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Rainier Beach High School teacher Colin Pierce projected an image of a mortarboard — the flat, black graduation cap — onto the screen in front of his English class.

This week, many high school seniors across western Washington are beginning their final year of pursuit of this "silly little hat," as Pierce called it. He asked his class full of upperclassmen to describe what the mortarboard symbolized to them. Senior Danny Segi was the first to raise his hand.

"The first thing that comes to my head is 'success,'" Segi said.

"Adulthood," another student added. "College." "Goals." "Improvement." "Work hard, play hard."

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A longtime Seattle private school will re-open its doors Wednesday as a charter school, the first to do so under a new state law that lets nonprofit organizations use state dollars to run public schools.

The conversion of First Place Scholars School is just the beginning of Washington's experiment with charter schools, which voters set in motion by passing a closely-contested initiative allowing for up to 40 charters to open statewide before 2019.

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

An appeals court has affirmed that a pair of early education ballot measures will appear on the ballot not as two yes-or-no votes, but as a multiple-choice question.

The ruling upholds an earlier decision, which established that Seattle voters who support expanding preschool can’t vote “yes” on both the measures before them in November. Instead, they’ll have to pick which one they like best.

It’s a victory for the city, which has proposed a small preschool program as a step toward universal pre-K. That plan will now go head-to-head with a union-backed measure to create a training institute for educators and hike their pay.

AP Photo
S.C. Johnson Wax

Childcare costs in King County are among the highest in the nation, according to a recently-released analysis.

The report shows King County's costs are high even by the standards of Washington state, one of the ten least-affordable states for childcare. Someone earning the median income for single mothers in King County could sink more than half of her salary into the $17,300 average annual cost for infant childcare — a cost already $5,000 higher than the state average.

David Goldman / AP Photo

The impact of Washington's loss of a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act came into sharper focus Wednesday as nearly nine in 10 of the state's schools officially received failing labels despite little change in students' performance on statewide standardized tests.

Just 260 of the state's nearly 2,200 schools met their required yearly progress goals under the outdated federal law, state officials said as they denounced the impractical standard they say Washington schools must now meet.

Matthias Rietschel / AP Photo

Toddlers use intuition for probability to their advantage, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Washington.

The researchers don't contend children as young as age 2 understand statistics, but they do wonder about potentially tapping into the intuition to help prepare children for concepts older students often struggle with, like fractions.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Three-year-old Kai Semke has all the trappings of a future soccer star: speed, stamina, awesome shorts — and as if that weren't enough, he boasts, "My feet are super-hard, and I kick it super-hard." (Competitors, take note.)

With not much yard at his family's Wallingford home, though, Kai normally lacks a regular space to have a kick. But that's not the case this summer.

Neighbors shut down a residential street a short distance from Kai's home as part of a new city initiative, turning a block of North 39th Street into a temporary soccer pitch — or basketball court, or scooter racetrack, or general public play space — one evening every week this summer.

Pages