Top Story Snapshots
Seattle elementary named Blue Ribbon School, Seattle Times
Seattle's Loyal Heights Elementary has been named a national Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education - one of just 304 schools in the country to achieve the designation this year.
The award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve at high levels, or where the achievement gap is narrowing. Since 1982, more than 6,500 of America's schools have received this award, according to the Department of Education.
The school will be honored at a conference and awards ceremony Nov. 14 and 15 in Washington, D.C.
BLOG | Taxes, education and the McKenna/Inslee race, Seattle PI
A slim majority of Washington voters favors raising the state sales tax by 1 percent to create an education trust fund, according to a new poll.
That same idea was shot down by voters in 2004, who rejected Initiative 884 by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
The independent sampling, paid for by local political firm Strategies 360, also found that Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna has a lead against his Democratic rival, Rep. Jay Inslee in next year's gubernatorial race.
McKenna has a 16-point lead over Inslee among Independents, who were always going to be the key to whether the GOP can retake the governor's mansion for the first time since 1980 (Jack Patera was the coach of the Seahawks then).
Homeless students: rising fast, especially in rural areas, Crosscut
As Washington state students get back to their studies, many of the young people and their teachers face a disturbing reality created by forces outside the school doors. The numbers of students who are homeless has risen significantly in recent years.
The rate of student homelessness in Washington rose by 29.7 percent between the 2006-07 and 2009-10 academic years, according to the most recent available data published last December by the Office of Public Instruction (OSPI). In 2006-07, the state's school districts had identified 16,853 students as homeless; three years later, the number had risen to 21,826.
The increase is unsurprising in light of this week's announcement by the U.S. Census Bureau: Childhood poverty across America has risen from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22.0 percent in 2010. By the end of 2010, according to the agency's report, 15.1 percent of the US population, or almost one in six Americans, lived below the poverty line.
Supporting literacy for kids, Seattle Times
I think I can. I think I can.
Like "The Little Engine That Could," Carol Rasco and Susan Dibble face a seemingly insurmountable task, and like that engine, they are not giving up.
Rasco is the president and CEO of Reading is Fundamental, the oldest and largest nonprofit dedicated to increasing literacy among young children. Dibble is executive director of Page Ahead, a Seattle-based literacy program that serves 55,000 children in Washington state each year.
Tacoma School District Teachers Contract
Judge might OK replacement teachers in Tacoma strike, Tacoma News Tribune
A Pierce County Superior Court judge said in court this morning he might authorize the Tacoma School District to hire replacement workers if striking teachers do not return to work as he ordered Wednesday.
Chushcoff suggested such an authorization might convince the vast majority of the teachers, who have not shown up to work since Sept. 12, to return to their classrooms while their negotiators try to reach a contract agreement with the district.
"I'm seriously considering doing that," the judge said.
Tacoma teachers' strike keeps schools closed, Seattle PI
TACOMA, Wash. - Schools are closed Monday for another day in Tacoma as negotiations continue between the school district and striking teachers.
The News Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/rlsUtY) talks went late Sunday night with the help of a state mediator.
Earlier Sunday, Tacoma Public School officials said they would withdraw some contract language on teacher transfers and reassignments. The district also offered a one-year grace period for the current seniority-based system - the biggest point of contention in contract talks.
Teacher strike still on as talks progress, Tacoma News Tribune
As Tacoma families prepared for another day without school today, negotiations between the Tacoma teachers union and the school district continued late into the evening Sunday.
The head of the state Public Employment Relations Commission, Cathy Callahan, mediated bargaining sessions.
Talks resumed this morning, and both sides were scheduled to meet with a mediator at noon.
Earlier Sunday, Tacoma Public Schools officials said they would withdraw some contract language on teacher transfers and reassignments that the union found objectionable. They also offered a one-year grace period to keep the current seniority-based system intact.
No sanctions against teachers ... for now, Tacoma News Tribune
There will be no class again on Monday - the fifth day of a teachers strike - as a labor dispute between the Tacoma Education Association and the school district plays out in the courts and on the streets.
Even if the two sides come to a tentative contract agreement over the weekend, district officials said, students couldn't return until Tuesday because teachers would need a day to vote on any proposed settlement.
On Friday, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff said he found the labor dispute between the district and the union "very distressing," but he declined to sanction striking teachers for defying his earlier order to return to work.
Obama lays out cuts, new taxes to tackle deficit, Boston Globe
WASHINGTON - President Obama this morning laid out his vision for deficit reduction, calling for $1.5 trillion in new tax revenue and $583 billion in spending cuts during the next 10 years.
The president's proposal would cut the deficit by $3 trillion overall, taking into account savings from troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The new tax revenue would come from closing loopholes and ending subsidies for oil and gas companies, among others, and from instituting minimum tax rates for Americans who earn $1 million or more annually.
"This is not class warfare, it's math," Obama said in an address in the White House Rose Garden. ``We can't just cut our way out of this hole. It's going to take a balanced approach."
EDITORIAL | Lawmakers, governor face brutal budget triage, Tacoma News Tribune
"I'd like to assure you this nightmare will end. But I don't see an end in sight."
That's precisely what you don't want to hear from the state's chief economist, Arun Raha. His new revenue forecast has blown a $1.4 billion hole in the state's biennial budget, which was already packed with an abundance of suffering. And $1.4 billion is actually an understatement: The necessity of restoring a prudent reserve makes this a nearly $2 billion problem.
The only faint hope Raha offered was the possibility of a 4.4 percent revenue bump in 2013 - too far down the road to bank on, especially given the ringworm-like tenacity of this economic misery.
EDITORIAL | Keep a focus on our future, Everett Herald
On Wednesday, a day before the latest revenue forecast punched a new $1.2 billion hole in the state budget, the state's community and technical colleges declared a financial emergency.
The declaration, which gives colleges the authority to expedite faculty layoffs, came in response to an earlier directive by the governor to submit plans for cutting 5 and 10 percent from current spending. This after state support already had been cut by 22 percent since 2009.
The disconnect between record enrollments at community and technical colleges, the chief engines for retraining workers displaced during the Great Recession, and record budget cuts is glaring. The most important vehicle to long-term economic growth and prosperity -- education -- is being starved to the point that it might never fully recover.
New cuts impossible, agency heads warn, The Olympian
The $1.4 billion budget crater left by the state revenue forecast last week may require new cuts of up to 10 percent in many state government programs over the next few months.
But cuts of any size might be impossible at some agencies, such as the Department of Corrections. Secretary Bernie Warner said that to make cuts, he would need to trim prison sentences by up to 120 days for all inmates except sex offenders and people imprisoned for violent crimes.
Warner also would need to end state supervision for all convicts - including killers and rapists - after their prison terms. Exceptions would be made for those sentenced under special sentencing alternatives in which supervision is a court requirement.
EDITORIAL | Fearful economy, dreadful budget, Wenatchee World
We are not even in a recession, at least that's what they tell us. We are in a "recovery" where jobs are shrinking. It is stifling, and unnerving. People very rightly are afraid to spend, businesses are afraid to invest or hire, and government is hamstrung. "Fear and uncertainty," said the state's economist Arun Raha, have "overwhelmed" us. As Franklin Roosevelt said, all we have to fear is fear. That is quite enough.
We live with a daily dose of bad economic news, and there was a big gulp Thursday. Raha made his dire observations as the state's Economic and Revenue Forecast Council gave its expected awful quarterly projection. The state's revenues from this budget cycle, it says, will be $1.4 billion less than projected when the last forecast was issued in June. Even that was a big enough downer to wipe out most of the reserves the Legislature wrote into its praiseworthy bipartisan $32 billion biennial operating budget, passed only weeks earlier. There is another revenue forecast due in November, and it would be a shocking surprise if it wasn't more bad news. Assume the budget hole is $2 billion, said Gov. Chris Gregoire.
EDITORIAL | In Our View: Sorting Out SATs, Vancouver Columbian
On its surface, the headline could appear alarming: "SAT reading scores hit lowest level on record."
That was in Thursday's edition of The Columbian, above a story that explained how reading scores had dipped in the widely taken test - which is designed to measure a student's preparedness for college - and how combined math and reading scores were at their lowest point since 1995.
Certainly a matter for concern, but not a matter for panic.
As the article also explained, The College Board, which owns and administers the test, said that a record number of students in the high school Class of 2011 had taken the exam. The College Board also explained that the pool of test-takers reflected increasing diversity.
OPINION | How to Stop the Drop in Verbal Scores, New York Times
THE latest bad but unsurprising news on education is that reading and writing scores on the SAT have once again declined. The language competence of our high schoolers fell steeply in the 1970s and has never recovered.
This is very worrisome, because the best single measure of the overall quality of our primary and secondary schools is the average verbal score of 17-year-olds. This score correlates with the ability to learn new things readily, to communicate with others and to hold down a job. It also predicts future income.
The decline has led some commentators to embrace demographic determinism - the idea that the verbal scores of disadvantaged students will not significantly rise until we overcome poverty. But that explanation does not account for the huge drop in verbal scores across socioeconomic groups in the 1970s.
Educators may increase English and social studies classes for future high school graduates, Everett Herald
For years, the debate has been over what types of standardized testing students need to pass to get a high school degree.
This week, educators talked about what types of classes students need to take -- and those requirements may be changing.
The Washington State Board of Education discussed changing credits that students need to achieve in high school. If the changes occur, it would be the first time since 1985, and would affect students now in eighth grade.
The potential changes would keep the state-mandated number of high school credits at 20 but change the allocation of those credits. The number of English and social studies would increase while the number of elective credits would decrease.
When Free Trips Overlap With Commercial Purposes, New York Times
In recent years, the Pearson Foundation has paid to send state education commissioners to meet with their international counterparts in London, Helsinki, Singapore and, just last week, Rio de Janeiro.
The commissioners stay in expensive hotels, like the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore. They spend several days meeting with educators in these places. They also meet with top executives from the commercial side of Pearson, which is one of the biggest education companies in the world, selling standardized tests, packaged curriculums and Prentice Hall textbooks.
Pearson would not say which state commissioners have gone on the trips, but of the 10 whom I was able to identify, at least seven oversee state education departments that have substantial contracts with Pearson. For example, Illinois - whose superintendent, Christopher A. Koch, went to Helsinki in 2009 and to Rio de Janeiro - is currently paying Pearson $138 million to develop and administer its tests.
Education Impact of Jobs Bill Under Debate, Education Week
Educators and analysts are taking a hard look at whether the $55 billion K-12 portion of President Barack Obama's nearly $450 billion jobs plan will provide the jolt to schools still feeling the pinch of a sputtering economy that the administration hopes.
The plan faces long odds on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are struggling to trim at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years in a climate hostile to tax increases. But, if the plan does pass, some sympathetic analysts argue it would help school districts cover the cost of long-delayed school repairs and avert big layoffs and program cuts.
Others, however, question the White House's prediction of 280,000 teacher layoffs this year-a key argument raised in favor of the need for $30 billion over two years in job-preservation aid.
School district uses Race to the Top money for public relations, Washington Post
A school district that is a finalist for the soon-to-be announced $1 million 2011 Broad Prize for Urban Education is embarking on a public relations effort - funded with U.S. government and Gates Foundation money - to end public opposition to its school reform program, which includes a slew of new standardized tests.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina is using Race to the Top money - which wasn't intended to fund public relations efforts - and $200,000 in Gates Foundation money for the campaign.
First reported in The Charlotte Observer, the hirings come after the district this past spring field-tested 52 new exams, initially designed to help evaluate teachers by how well their students perform on the tests.
Teachers & unions
Some Districts Rethink Last-Minute Teacher Hiring, Education Week
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg district recently found itself in a situation other districts might envy in a time of tight fiscal constraints.
The 133,600-student district in North Carolina faced budget cuts this year, but, thanks to some last-minute changes, less money was taken away from the school system than originally anticipated. That welcome news sent the district into a hiring frenzy before the Aug. 25 start of classes. About 300 teachers signed on two weeks before school began. By Sept. 12, the district still had about 80 vacancies, for which principals were actively recruiting but had not yet identified a candidate.
Despite reports of teacher layoffs around the country, districts in some places are still hiring, and, in some cases, that hiring has continued into the start of the school year. Hiring may even pick up later in the year if federal lawmakers approve President Barack Obama's jobs bill with its promise to restore education jobs. ("Potential Impact of Obama Jobs Proposal Under Scrutiny," September 21, 2011.)
School day debate is getting ugly, Chicago Tribune
If it weren't a propaganda war already, the debate over a longer school day has now turned nasty, with both sides accusing each other of exerting pressure to sway teachers.
The battle is so fierce that union leaders at some schools have complained to the district that Chicago Teachers Union officials have made unannounced visits to their homes at night to persuade them to vote against adding 90 minutes of instruction time. Other union delegates have accused their principals of intimidating teachers with threats that schools will be closed and staffing positions cut unless teachers approve the measure, securing as much as $150,000 in financial incentives.
With rumors and allegations rampant on both sides, it's difficult to separate fact from fiction.
How To Serve Rural Gifted Students Better, Education Week
One rural Oregon superintendent says most gifted students in rural settings are failing to receive an education that's on par with their abilities, and he says he has four inexpensive ways schools can improve those services.
Donald Kordosky wrote a guest column, "Attending to the Gifted in Rural Schools," that appears in the September issue of The School Administrator, the monthly magazine published by the American Association of School Administrators.
Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World, New York Times
MONTCLAIR, N.J. - For weeks, Justin Canha, a high school student with autism, a love of cartoons and a gift for drawing, had rehearsed for the job interview at a local animation studio.
As planned, he arrived that morning with a portfolio of his comic strips and charcoal sketches, some of which were sold through a Chelsea gallery. Kate Stanton-Paule, the teacher who had set up the meeting, accompanied him. But his first words upon entering the office were, like most things involving Justin, not in the script.
"Hello, everybody," he announced, loud enough to be heard behind the company president's door. "This is going to be my new job, and you are going to be my new friends."
California schools turn away unvaccinated students,USA Today
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - California schools are turning away middle and high school students who have not received the whooping cough vaccine as required under a law passed last year after a historic spike in cases of the potentially fatal disease.
The law passed in October initially required all students entering grades seven through 12 to get vaccinated by the start of the 2011-2012 school year. Lawmakers passed a 30-day extension this summer as districts worried many students wouldn't meet the deadline.
Under California law, students also can still attend if their parents file a form saying they oppose vaccines.