Youth & Education

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

Gregory Crowther

Remember that biology chapter on how muscles contract? Probably not. But what if your professor had rapped it to you, or belted out the lesson to the tune of a popular song? 

Central Washington University

Code language is probably as old as language itself. Now, two Northwest professors have launched a competition to test students’ code-breaking skills.

Called Kryptos, the competition is geared toward undergraduate students all around the Northwest. But the region’s high school students are also encouraged to try and break the codes.

A PLUS Youth Program / Facebook

The space where billionaire investor Chris Hansen hoped to house Seattle's next NBA team will go to the kids, for now. 

Hansen will temporarily hand over the Sodo warehouse space to the A PLUS Youth Program, a nonprofit organization that offers athletic programming and after-school mentorship. 

The move couldn't come at a better time for the nonprofit, says its founder and executive director Tavio Hobson.

kyle~ / Flickr

The University of Washington is launching a new online degree in integrated social sciences aimed at people who want to complete their education.

The move is the university’s latest push into the competitive world of online education.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Students in more than 600 Washington state schools are beginning to take a new, potentially-tougher standardized test this week that will soon completely replace the state's current standardized tests.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Following a cash infusion from the state and agitation from building-level staff, Seattle Public Schools administrators announced this week they won't be cutting staff members at schools after all.

Superintendent José Banda said the district will use the $8.3 million from the state Legislature's newly-passed budget to restore the equivalent of 50 assistant principals, counselors and clerical staff positions they had intended to eliminate next year.

"We intend to fully restore what was cut," Banda wrote in a district-wide email.


  Roosevelt High School has invited an expert on teen substance abuse to address concerned parents after the the school's principal sent a letter to parents about an increase in drug and alcohol use at the school. 

The letter by principal Brian Vance said the school's number of disciplinary incidents involving marijuana and alcohol use had "doubled" since last year, from 12 incidents to 24.

Seattle Public Schools officials say they've observed a similar trend district-wide.

AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

Washington state is at risk of losing nearly $40 million in federal funding after lawmakers left Olympia without passing a teacher evaluation bill.

Without the bill, the state failed to secure a waiver for an onerous requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, the fate of federal funding for local preschool programs and extended day services now hinges on what federal education officials decide in coming months.

Here's an explanation of why the lawmakers didn't pass the bill, and where the complex issue now stands. 

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Teachers in 25 Seattle Public Schools have voted to reject their buildings' budgets for the next school year, and more may follow suit in the coming week.

Local teachers and union leaders coordinated the vote in hopes of forcing district officials to avoid cutting the equivalent of more than 50 full-time staff positions — clerical staff, assistant principals and school counselors — across the district's 95 schools. 

Nadine Fabbi

Curiosity about what’s happening in some of the coldest places on Earth has prompted the University of Washington to launch its first Arctic Studies minor.

The program is the first of its kind offered by a university in the lower 48. 

They supported his campaign, but now some unionized teachers in Washington have stern words for Governor Jay Inslee.

Optional Essay And Other Changes Coming To The SAT

Mar 5, 2014

The essay is optional. Scores will return to 1,600. And there will be no penalties if you answer something incorrectly. Those are the big takeaways from the SAT changes announced Wednesday.

The College Board said the revisions, the first updates to the college entrance exam since 2005, will take effect in 2016.

Other changes announced: Certain vocabulary words will be dropped in favor of those more commonly used in school and at work, and test-takers will have the option to take the SAT on a computer.

Florangela Davila

Each March, scientists around the world host open houses to get people thinking about the brain.

The events are all part of Brain Awareness Week.

At the University of Washington, that means the mother of all science fairs in a room decked out with human brains, spinal cords, finch chirping and flying fruit flies.

Take an audio tour of an event that drew more than 650 elementary and high school students.

Hamish Gunn

University of Washington professor Matt McGarrity teaches a wildly-popular MOOC, or a free massive open online course open to virtual students everywhere.

McGarrity’s course on public speaking is one of more than a dozen MOOCs offered by UW. The communications professor likens the MOOC approach to a yoga class that might air at 6 in the morning on TV.


The number of homeless students in Washington state has risen for the sixth straight year, this time topping 30,000.

The latest count by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction shows the number of students without homes rose by 11.8 percent from the previous year to reach 30,609 last school year. The figure reflects a 47.3 percent spike from the 2008-2009 school year.

Schools should take note of how food is marketed to children on campus, according to new guidelines for school wellness policies proposed by the Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The guidelines are the latest step in a process that began four years ago under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Curtis Cronn / Flickr

The local chapter of the Service Employees International Union has filed a petition on behalf of adjunct faculty members at Seattle University.

The adjunct faculty members, which include part-time, temporary and other contingent instructors, want better teaching conditions, including higher pay.

Florangela Davila

Students at Seattle's John Muir Elementary School are trying to answer life's big questions. Along with reading and math, the school's curriculum includes philosophy. 

Why philosophy? Kids start asking all sorts of "why" questions starting in preschool, says philosopher Jana Mohr Lone: "Why is the sky blue? Why are some things in color and some things aren’t? Can you be happy and sad at the same time?"

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

A school district in Sweet Home, Oregon is considering whether to pull a book by Northwest author Sherman Alexie from junior high classrooms.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is frequently targeted for removal from school reading lists for its language and depictions of violence and sexuality.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The union that represents school bus drivers in Seattle says there’s a “serious possibility”  that the drivers could go out on strike.

Six months have passed since the drivers voted to unionize, and they’re still working without a contract, having failed to negotiate one with First Student, a company headquartered in Cincinnati.

Wenmei Hill / Courttesey of Northwest Center

Northwest Center Kids in Queen Anne has rented the same building from Seattle Public Schools for decades. But the district says it’s short on space and needs the facility back in the next six months.

The program's location is hard to spot from the street. It’s tucked in near a city park on the downhill slope of north Queen Anne. Inside, toddlers with Down syndrome and preschoolers with feeding tubes play side by side with typically developing children.

Inclusion was the goal of the program’s founders back in 1965. They had kids with special needs, and instead of institutionalizing them, they started their own school.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee is making another push for lawmakers to close tax exemptions to fund education. The Democrat made his pitch Tuesday, but there’s no indication the mostly Republican majority in the Washington Senate can be persuaded.

The money would pay for the reforms the Legislature has already approved, including a 1.3 percent salary increase for teachers and staff. The governor said the money will include sending $130 million to K-12 public schools to pay for textbooks, computers and curriculum updates.

cdsessums / Flickr

The first charter school in Washington state will open in Spokane next year. 

Pride Prep was chosen from a pool of three applicants by the board of Spokane Public Schools on Wednesday. Brenda McDonald, a former middle school principal, will run the school for sixth through 12th graders. The school will focus on math and science, and have both a longer school day — eight hours instead of six — as well as a longer school year.

Alex Garland

The president of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish has resigned in the wake of the students' protest over the school's decision to force out a gay vice principal who married his partner.

Sister Mary Tracy submitted her resignation to school trustees on Sunday, effective immediately. In an email sent to parents, staff and others on Tuesday evening, the school said a search for her replacement will begin soon.

Design in Public

What can be done to improve the school lunch experience? That’s the question behind a new ideas competition in Seattle aimed at fighting child obesity and diabetes.

The Redesigning the School Lunch Experience competition offers a range of practical and playful solutions to inspire kids to make healthier food choices.

"Children spend an hour a day every weekday in their lives in a cafeteria," said Katherine Wimble, associate director of Design in Public, a nonprofit group with the Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects. "This is about seeing what innovative ideas could transform the whole experience so they can make healthier choices."   

Those wanting to open up a charter school in the Seattle and Tacoma areas will be making public presentations over the next week and a half.

The state’s Charter School Commission is holding six public forums, which will help the commission decide which schools will open over the next two years.


The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday ordered lawmakers to submit a complete plan by the end of April to detail how the state will fully pay for basic education.

The 8-1 ruling said that while the state made progress in last year's budget to increase funding for K-12 education, it was "not on target" to hit the constitutionally required funding level by the 2017-18 school year.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

The Obama administration has issued new recommendations on classroom discipline that seek to end the apparent disparities in how students of different races are disciplined for breaking school rules.

Government civil rights data show that black students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as whites to be expelled or suspended. Critics say that creates a "school-to-prison" pipeline because many students enter the criminal justice system for violations.