Youth & Education

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

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Seattle public schools kicks off the new school year on Sept. 4 with a projected enrollment of 52,000 students—an increase of 4,600 students in the past five years.

But how best to accommodate all those students in the future has Seattle schools and the teacher’s union at odds.

Howard County Library System

More public school students in Washington state will be attending full-day kindergarten when the school year begins in a few weeks. State lawmakers approved the $50 million in extra funding during the last legislative session.

Kristen Jauden, a spokeswoman for the state office of public instruction, says the money is going to schools with high populations of low-income students.

Seattle Public Scools

A group of local and national experts is calling on the Seattle School Board to get its act together.

Specialists in school district governance say the research is clear: School board dysfunction matters. Seattle Pacific University professor Thomas Alsbury said drama in the board room can poison the whole organization, which affects students.

“When boards and central office leaders are viewed as unstable or chaotic, excellent principals and teachers choose to go elsewhere,” he said.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle’s superintendent of schools was hired in hopes that he could avoid some of the turmoil and scandal of recent years. Jose Banda just wrapped up his first year in charge, and can claim some high-profile accomplishments. But some of the melodrama still lingers, with the school board sharply divided over its own role, and that of the superintendent.

Taking stock of his first year at the helm of Seattle Public Schools, Banda told KPLU a divided board has a definite effect on how he does his job.

biologycorner / Flickr

Seattle families should expect steep drops in student test scores as public schools adopt new national learning standards, according to a report to be presented Wednesday evening to the Seattle School Board.

Starting next year, students in Washington, 44 other states, and the District of Columbia will be held to new, tougher standards known as Common Core. That could cause some sticker shock once test scores start rolling in a year later.

Alex Ragone

This week is the start of summer vacation for a lot of students in the Puget Sound area. It's a time to relax, go to camps and have fun. 

But for children who come from families that don't have a lot of money these next few months are when they often fall behind in their reading skills.

Gexydaf / Flickr

Disclosure: Pacific Lutheran University holds the license for KPLU. The station’s on-air staffers form the university’s only unionized unit.

In a decision with national implications, labor relations officials have ruled that certain faculty at Pacific Lutheran University should be allowed to form a union. This case is a test of some new provisions in labor law, and is being followed by other universities around the country.

Last fall, sixth-graders in Spanaway, Wash. were forced to confront a tragedy no student should have to go through when their beloved teacher Rob Meline died. To make matters worse, Meline's death was the kind that makes the evening news.

pastorbuhro / Flickr

Summer vacation may be fun, but research shows it wipes out about a month’s worth of learning. This weekend, Seattle schools officials will offer strategies to reduce summer learning loss.

Since kids are understandably wary of anything that makes summer break feel like school, the key is to make it fun, said Seattle Public Schools’ Bernardo Ruiz.

Gabriel Spitzer

Seattle public high schools will be able to opt out of the controversial Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP tests, starting next year.

The policy change comes after teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School staged a boycott of the MAP tests in January, blasting the tests for giving unreliable data and for sucking up classroom resources. A half-dozen more Seattle schools have since signed on, and the protest has drawn national and international attention.  

Curtis Cronn / Flickr

Some freshmen engineering students at Washington’s largest universities will get an extra year to find their footing, thanks to a new “academic redshirting” program.  

The idea of redshirting comes from college sports, and here’s how it works: When Huskies quarterback Keith Price joined up as a freshman in 2009, he didn’t take the field. Instead he got a year of practice and workouts to acclimate before starting his four years of eligibility.

Now the University of Washington, along with Washington State University, want to apply that to academics.

For most kids, the weekends are prime time to play and catch up on cartoons. But for thousands of children across the country and here in the Northwest, Saturdays mean waking up early to head to another school where they sharpen their academic teeth and learn a language that ties them to their cultural heritage. 

Disclosure: Pacific Lutheran University holds the license for KPLU. KPLU’s programming staffers are the university’s only unionized employees.

Pacific Lutheran University is trying to fend off attempts by members of its faculty to unionize, and the outcome could have national implications.

The push is coming from “contingent faculty,” the non-tenure track professors, lecturers and instructors who teach about a third of PLU’s course credits. Those people get paid significantly less than regular faculty, and their employment status is much shakier.

Students heading off to college in Washington state next fall will have to wait awhile to find out how much tuition they'll be paying.

Since the Legislature hasn't finished the state budget, no one is sure whether lawmakers will recommend a tuition increase, or cut, or neither. All three ideas have been proposed this year.

ecastro / Flickr

Seattle Public Schools wants to add a half-hour to the school day for elementary students by as early as the next school year. But the district must first align a number of variables, including funding and union support.

Jennifer Wing / KPLU

Will providing  greater access to the arts boost academic achievement? 

Seattle Public Schools is betting it will, and is working to bring arts education into more of its elementary and middle schools.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

As spring fever sets in, teachers are struggling to keep their students focused on the classroom. That can be a challenge even on the best of days for kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Their brains work differently from the students most schools were designed for, and nearly a third end up dropping out or delaying graduation.

David Hunter

Our story begins in an ordinary suburban middle school with a group of unsuspecting students, and one smart-alecky question to the teacher: “Mr. Hunter, did you hear about the zombie that attacked some guy the other day?”

Of course, the other students dismiss it, all except for one. He’s intrigued enough to dig a little deeper.

The student and Mr. Hunter begin plotting reported attacks on a map, and trying to discern a pattern in the outbreak’s spread.

“They’re getting closer to us,” the student concludes.

sea turtle / Flickr

Two Seattle-based Head Start providers are losing their funding, as part of a wider crackdown within the federal preschool program.

Other agencies will take over the contracts, so the move won’t reduce the number of early education slots available to low-income kids in Seattle. But to the providers who are being cut off, it’s devastating.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

An elite academic program developed at a Swiss private school is coming to a beleaguered Seattle high school where officials hope it will boost enrollment and attract high-achieving students. Now they face the challenge of making the program serve the whole school instead of just a privileged few.

how3ird / Flickr

Rainier Beach High School will become the third Seattle school to offer the International Baccalaureate program, district officials announced.

IB was originally developed to educate the children of diplomats in Europe, but is gaining popularity as a way to help turn around struggling urban schools. And Rainier Beach is one of those, with chronic under-enrollment and the lowest test scores of any comprehensive high school in the district.

Casey Madison / Tacoma Public Schools

Middle school football teams hit the gridiron this week in Tacoma for the first time since the Reagan administration. It’s been 26 years since the school district transitioned from a junior high system, and canceled almost all middle school athletics.

Now some creative fundraising has allowed both boys and girls to don pads and helmets, and go knock the stuffing out of each other.

Seattle’s school district has frozen hiring and spending in anticipation of a budget shortfall next year. But since officials say the change won't affect actual classroom resources or essential personnel, you might say the district has put hiring and spending in the fridge.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Should students earning in-demand degree pay more?

That's the idea behind behind differential tuition, which would allow colleges to raise the price of earning expensive, sought-after degrees like engineering and computer science.

Some local students are rallying against the idea and urging their schools not to boost tuition to match their majors' demand. 

But the schools say differential tuition could help offset deep cutbacks in state funding.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools is reinstating a high school curriculum on race and social justice after suspending it over a student’s complaint, but the controversy is likely to continue.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A single shiny red apple sat atop each desk on the Washington Senate floor Wednesday to represent a day full of voting on education issues. Senators deliberated and passed multiple measures. One would rank schools with A through F grades. Another would make it easier for principals to get rid of ineffective teachers.

But Democrats like Sen. David Frockt point out that lawmakers have not yet responded to a state Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary decision. It requires more funding for schools.

Washington voters said yes last November to allowing a limited number of charter schools, and now we know the names of the people who will select most of them. The Washington Charter School Commission is charged with setting criteria for new charter schools, and choosing which ones to authorize (Some school districts will eventually be able to do that, too).

The Northwest's public universities pull in massive amounts of federal research dollars. It totaled $1 billion last year at the University of Washington. Oregon State University won close to $200 million in federal research funds. The University of Idaho is counting on $100 million this year. So it's no surprise that university administrators are hanging on every scrap of news about imminent automatic federal budget cuts.

inuii / Flickr

New research out of the University of Washington finds hearing-impaired kids can train their ears and brains to hear better in a noisy classroom. Students with limited hearing have an especially tough time making out what someone is saying if, say, kids in the back are whispering, or a classmate has a cough.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

In a quiet Federal Way garage, a group of students is getting the chance to do something they’d never get away with at school – build and run a thermonuclear reactor. 

The project aims to reimagine what science class might look like, and nudge dozens of kids into careers in science and technology.

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