Youth & Education

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

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

This week, eleventh graders at Seattle's Garfield High School were supposed to start taking a state- and federally-required standardized test of their English skills.

But more than 200 Garfield juniors, who don't need to pass the exams to graduate, are refusing to take Smarter Balanced assessments, forcing school administrators to postpone giving the exams until they could come up with a new testing schedule.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

State legislators are considering injecting "unprecedented" amounts of funding into Washington's early childhood education system, advocates say — but not without first raising the bar for child care providers.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A bid to get back Washington state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind law — and regain for school districts the flexibility to spend $40 million in federal funding that came with that waiver — appears to have hit a dead end in Olympia.

Majority Democrats in the House Education Committee on Thursday blocked a procedural maneuver to force an up-or-down vote on a bill making changes to the state's teacher evaluation system in hopes of convincing federal education officials to give Washington its waiver back.

Joe Wolf / Flickr

Eleventh graders at Seattle's Nathan Hale High School will take a state- and federally-required standardized test after all, an apparent reversal of an earlier decision by staff, students and parents to boycott the exams this year.

"The [Smarter Balanced assessment] is required by the state. Therefore, to comply with Seattle Public Schools directives, students will be tested" in April, Nathan Hale Senate chair Melinda Greene said in an email to parents Thursday.


A Washington State House committee will hear a bill requiring student scores on statewide standardized tests to play a role in teachers' evaluations next week, a member of the committee said Tuesday.

But the proposal from Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, aimed at getting back the state's waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, has gotten a chilly reception among House lawmakers — and the bill's supporters fear they're running out of time.

An Idaho House committee introduced a revised plan for increasing teacher pay Wednesday.


A new media campaign in the Seattle metro area called Rise Above The Influence is being called the first major youth drug prevention media campaign since the passage of I-502 back 2012, legalizing recreational marijuana.

Billboards will appear in and around the city  bearing the slogan, “Most Youth Rise Above The Influence.” Young people are encouraged to participate in a contest by sending in a selfie showing how they lead a drug free life. Prizes include tickets to a Seahawks game.


Evan Vucci / AP Photo

The letter of the law is pretty clear, state schools superintendent Randy Dorn has warned.

If teachers at Seattle's Nathan Hale High School follow through on their promise not to give their eleventh graders a federally-required standardized test, Dorn's office says federal education officials could cut off funding not only for Seattle Public Schools but even for schools across Washington state.

But would the feds actually go so far? Some anti-testing advocates and policy experts doubt it.

Nationally, there’s a push to outlaw incarceration of students for skipping school and other non-criminal behavior and use alternatives.

But some judges are reluctant to give detention up.

School districts in Washington are required to file a truancy petition with juvenile court when a student is chronically absent. Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge David Edwards believes detention is one way to get a kid who’s not following court orders back on track.

'I think you need a tune-up'

Kids read at a preschool program in Seattle
Seattle Office for Education

The universal preschool program Seattle voters said yes to last November is starting to take shape. As it works out the details, the City is getting a lot of advice from Boston. That city, which is home to world renowned universities, is also considered a national leader in early childhood education since it launched its preschool program in 2005.

Jason Sachs, the Director of Early Childhood Education with Boston Public Schools, gave a presentation to Seattle City Council’s education committee.  

Skipping school is not a crime in Washington state, but it can still land a student behind bars.

Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

She may be an accomplished public speaker, but Bellevue teacher Kristin Leong says she's still "secretly super introverted." Getting comfortable with public performance, she tells her students, is about "faking it 'til you make it."

But Leong says she starts every year in her middle school humanities classes at the International School in Bellevue with the same promise to her students: 'all of them will be performers this year.'

Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Editor's note: Andrea Soroko teaches English at Seattle's Garfield High School. This post has been adapted from a story she told during a recent Seattle Times storytelling event, "Why I Teach." The Seattle Times' Education Lab project put on the event in partnership with KPLU and the UW College of Education. The names of the students Soroko mentions have been changed. A correction has also been appended (see below).

I have a student named "Johnny."

"Johnny" does well in school. "Johnny" completes his homework on time. "Johnny" is a good football player. My student, "Johnny," has a dream. It's a dream many of us share — the American Dream. He dreams of a family, a house, a car. The world is his oyster and Johnny is not afraid to dream big.

Joe Wolf / Flickr

This spring, juniors at Seattle's Nathan Hale High School will not sit for a federally-required standardized test, a leadership team of staff, students and parents at the school decided this week.

The staff's refusal to administer Smarter Balanced Assessments to eleventh-graders would make Nathan Hale the latest Seattle school to thumb its nose at a standardized test and would fly in the face of the nation's tough school accountability law, the No Child Left Behind Act.

Eric E Castro / Flickr

As evidence mounts that harsh discipline policies in U.S. schools make students more likely to drop out or even to end up in jail, Washington state has not been able to explain why most students are getting in trouble.

More than half of the suspensions and expulsions handed down in Washington schools were not for drugs, alcohol, weapons or violence, but for "other behavior." The category has been a catch-all for a range of misbehaviors — from talking back in class to cheating on a paper, to sexual harassment.

Christos Tsoumplekas / Flickr

Seeing what's on the white board in front of the classroom doesn't mean you can read the textbook in front of your nose, so say lawmakers who are pushing a bill to have more comprehensive eye exams for students in Washington public schools.

The problem, as those supporting the bill see it, is that school eye exams are only required to measure distance vision, not near vision.

Sequim School District

After getting a drubbing at the polls in April 2014, when just 44 percent of Sequim voters supported a $154 million school construction bond issue, Kelly Shea says he got the message: "You guys are biting off more than you can chew."

Cactusbone / Flickr

A bill dividing Seattle Public Schools into two separate districts took another step forward in Olympia Thursday after House Education Committee members sent the proposal to the full chamber by a 16-to-5 vote.

Though it doesn't mention Seattle by name, the bill would bar any Washington school district from enrolling more than 35,000 students at the opening of the 2018-2019 school year. Only Seattle Public Schools currently fits that description.

The University of Washington


Why do women make up only 18 percent of the computer science majors at colleges and universities? And what can be done to increase their numbers?

These questions drove researchers at the University of Washington to look at how gender stereotypes prevent many young women from entering this male-dominated field. Over the course of two studies, researchers discovered some surprisingly simple solutions to bridging this gender gap.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The process of vetting new charter schools will look different during the next round of applications, the head of the Washington State Charter School Commission has now said.

It's one of the lessons the commission says it's learned as it raises new questions about the academic and financial health of Seattle's First Place Scholars school, the first charter to open its doors in Washington.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Even as low-income populations south King County's suburbs have surged, seven school districts in these communities have seen modest gains on key standardized test scores over the past five years, according to a new report.

But the report also highlights the stubborn achievement gap between socioeconomic groups. That gap will be very difficult to close within five years in the ethnically-diverse region, where one in five students is still learning to speak English.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

UPDATED — Seattle Public Schools has fallen short in bidding for a vacant downtown building, meaning the district’s search for a downtown school site has hit another dead end.

The district did not win the former Federal Reserve building in a government-run online auction that closed Saturday afternoon, officials confirmed.

I5design / Flickr

Idaho lawmakers are considering a proposal to make more room for Idaho students in a University of Washington med school program.

Idaho doesn’t have its own medical school, so the state instead works through a UW partnership known as WWAMI. It stands for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho — the five states that participate in the program.

Courtesy Highline Public Schools

Highline Public Schools leaders are once again pushing for a property tax hike to build several new school buildings. A similar measure fell just 215 votes short in November. 

District officials have sent a $376 million bond issue back to Highline School District voters who have until next Tuesday, Feb. 10 to return their ballots in a special election.

Courtesy of U.S. Deaprtment of Education

If you are in high school and you want to go to college, almost every school you apply to will require you to have taken at least two years of a foreign language.

A representative in Olympia says prospective college students should have the option to skip Spanish or Chinese and take two years of computer science instead.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

University of Washington President Michael Young will become the next president of Texas A&M University sometime this spring, A&M's governing board has announced.

Jessica Robinson

Starting salary for Idaho teachers is lower than in Washington, Oregon and three other surrounding states. Superintendents in Idaho border towns say that has left them with shortages.

The salary for a first-year teacher in Idaho is around $31,000. It doesn’t help that St. Maries, a school district in north Idaho, is only 30 miles from Washington, where the teacher starting salary is 15 percent higher and teachers move up the pay scale much faster.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The role of Seattle's mayor in the city's education system will be up for debate in Olympia this week.

A House Education Committee will take public testimony at its meeting Tuesday on a bill that would give Seattle Mayor Ed Murray the power to appoint two of the seven members of the school board.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Garfield High School will apparently not lose a full-time teacher to another short-staffed Seattle school when a new term starts next week, district officials confirmed Monday.

Both principal Ted Howard and a leader of the school's parent-teacher organization said Monday they do not expect district officials will force the school to send five Garfield teachers to another school for one-fifth of the day.

Joseph Rodriguez / AP Photo

Washington schools enrolled more than 32,000 homeless students during the last school year, the highest count recorded since the state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction began collecting data, according to a new report.

The OSPI report also shows students from minority groups make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population. For instance, though only one out of 20 students in Washington schools is black, one out of 10 homeless kids in the state is black.