Youth & Education

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

Wes Chapman / Flickr

Someone altered test responses at Seattle's Beacon Hill International School in a way that significantly increased the elementary school's test scores. State education officials have now thrown out the entire school's results after noting "heavy erasure" marks on the test forms.

Whatever the reason for the alterations — both Seattle Public Schools and the state aren't using the word "cheating" — the changes produced some pretty startling test results, as a state analysis shows:

Carol VanHook / Flickr

Washington state education officials have thrown out all standardized test scores at Seattle's Beacon Hill International School after a review found "heavy erasures" in the test booklets, district officials said in a letter to the school's parents and staff Tuesday.

State officials think "the test responses were altered in such a way as to significantly increase total scores," Interim Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland wrote in his letter.

High numbers of the erasure marks made from students changing wrong answers to right ones could indicate cheating, according to education experts. That said, there can also be legitimate, innocent explanations for these stray marks.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Tacoma Public Schools officials recently filed suit against a teacher and two guidance counselors at Lincoln High School, alleging the staff members violated privacy laws designed to keep student records confidential.

An attorney for the educators says her clients have broken no privacy laws. She says the district's lawsuit is retaliation for the staffers going public with concerns the school's scheduling practices are pushing too many students out of Lincoln and into alternative school settings.

But district officials say the practice, which attorney Joan Mell and her clients disparagingly call "cherry-picking," is part of a coordinated effort to ensure the district's most vulnerable students can graduate from high school.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools officials have reached a settlement agreement with the family of a Garfield High School student who alleged she was sexually assaulted during an overnight school trip in 2012, the district announced Wednesday.

As part of a $700,000 settlement agreement, the parents have agreed to dismiss complaints they'd filed with state and federal officials, and to not pursue "monetary claims" against the district and to stop filing public records requests with the district, according to a Seattle Public Schools statement.

"Our goal was to not have this happen again to another family that would have to live through this trauma," said the Garfield student's father in an interview. (KPLU is withholding the family's name to protect the privacy of the student, who's still a minor.)

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Supporters of a campaign to raise wages and create a training program for Seattle's childcare workers are hitting the airwaves, unveiling a commercial that will air during one of the city's most-watched television events: Monday night's Seahawks game.

Courtesy of Seattle Public Schools

Seattle Public Schools officials will hold a series of public meetings this week to inform parents of another shift in attendance boundaries set to take place next school year, potentially impacting more than 1,100 students at 25 district elementary schools.

The changes are part of a bigger plan. A package approved by Seattle School Board members last year calls for annual, incremental shifts in the attendance boundaries until 2020, all with the aim of finding enough space for a burgeoning student population in new or recently-expanded schools.

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."

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