Ashley Gross | KNKX

Ashley Gross

Youth and Education Reporter

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat.  She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.

She studied history at Brown University and earned a master's in international affairs at Columbia University. She grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two sons.

One of Ashley's most memorable moments in radio happened several years ago in Northwest Alaska: "I was visiting an alcohol and drug rehab program in the tiny village of Selawik. It helps Alaska Natives recover by helping them get back in touch with their subsistence lifestyle. It was spring, which meant the river was still frozen - barely. We went out on snowmachines to go ice-fishing, but late in the day, as we headed back, the river had melted to the consistency of a Slurpee. It was a harrowing ride and a good lesson in trust - I rode with my eyes closed, clinging for dear life to the woman driving. A week later, three people drowned trying to ride a snowmachine over that river, and that's when I realized just how dangerous life in rural Alaska can be."

Ways to Connect

Ashley Gross / KNKX

It's been 10 years since a Swedish developer created Minecraft, and the video game has since become a global cultural phenomenon.

Kids adorn their rooms with creeper and zombie pigman toys and head to school with tiny plastic pickaxes dangling from their backpacks. Adults have spent countless hours building a Minecraft version of the kingdoms of Westeros from the Game of Thrones series.

A month and a half into the school year, the state’s largest district continues to face criticism about food shortages and the kinds of food being served to students.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

For parents in the Pacific Northwest, one constant fear is how safe their children will be at school if an earthquake strikes. Now, children at one school in the Stanwood-Camano School District will get warning ahead of time to take cover before the most intense shaking begins.

Students from Visitation Catholic STEM Academy in Tacoma visiting the Science Discovery Lab in the new research building of Seattle Children's Hospital.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

Seattle Children's Hospital has opened a new 540,000-square-foot facility in downtown Seattle as it expands research into possible cures for childhood diseases.

The building will house research scientists and pediatricians working on a range of therapies. Dr. Jeff Sperring, chief executive of Seattle Children's, said the hospital right now employs about 2,000 people in its research institute and the hope is to add about 1,000 more over the next five to seven years.

In this Sept. 2, 2015 file photo, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a news conference in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

A federal judge in Eastern Washington has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule, which would make it harder for legal immigrants who receive food assistance, Medicaid or housing benefits to become permanent residents of the U.S.

Washington is the lead plaintiff in the case, which includes 13 other plaintiff states, such as Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico and Colorado.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

A new report shows that a high percentage of foster children in Washington live with providers who are not paid by the state, and that can place a burden on those families.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

UPDATE, Oct. 11: Adds clarification about the recommendations from a group of people of color on the advanced learning task force.

The Seattle school district’s proposal to change how it serves academically advanced students hit a roadblock Tuesday, after two school board directors voiced concerns in a committee meeting and chose not to advance a draft policy district leaders had put forward.

Two teenage boys are among the people who died from opioid overdoses in recent weeks in King County. One attended Ballard High School in Seattle and another attended Skyline High School in Sammamish.

Skyline High School previously lost another student to an overdose death in August.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The recent climate strike is the latest example of the ways young people are raising their voices for change. A new exhibit at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center in Seattle highlights the work of 10 young activists.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The lobby of the Chinatown-International District office of International Community Health Services in Seattle is a welcoming place where kids play with toys while their parents apply for nutrition assistance benefits.

Seattle Public Schools

For decades, the Seattle school district's program for academically gifted students has been dominated by white children. Disproportionately few students of color, especially black, Latino or Native American students, have been represented.

But the district is considering making big changes to fix what officials say is an institutionally racist structure. It’s part of the district’s push to prioritize the needs of historically underserved students, particularly African-American males, under a recently approved strategic plan.

Jan Hasbrouck, an expert in reading instruction who is on the board of ReadWA, shows BOB books, which are decodable texts used to teach reading.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

The most recent data from a national assessment show that only 39 percent of fourth graders in Washington state are proficient at reading. A new group formed by teachers in the Puget Sound region aims to improve that percentage.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, Sept. 20, 6 p.m.: Adds details from strikes in Seattle and Tacoma, as well as audio of a live Q&A with reporter Simone Alicea, who followed a march by Amazon workers, and audio of a live Q&A with environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. 

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

UPDATE, 10:55 am: Adds demographic data on enrollment in the highly capable program in Seattle Public Schools.

Schools are increasingly vowing to root out racism in the education system. But people of color say much more needs to be done.

A new book by a high school senior in the Seattle school district offers a candid account of how it felt to be on the receiving end of that racism.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

UPDATE, 4:05 p.m.: Adds additional information provided in a statement from the school district.

Students and staff at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines are grieving after the sudden death of a 16-year-old boy who was in his junior year. Juan Carlos Con Guzman was found dead in the Green River last week. A spokesman for the King County Sheriff’s office said his death is being investigated as a homicide.

The impact of Con Guzman’s death has rippled out far beyond his immediate family. That sudden loss has sent shockwaves throughout the Highline school district, where social worker Lisa Foote leads a response team that coordinates support in the aftermath of tragic events like this one.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, Sept. 13: Adds statement from Kent school district and information about Title I and Learning Assistance Program funding.

Five schools in Kent that were offering free meals to all students will no longer have the program this school year. Separately, in Seattle, United Way of King County has ended a grant for a breakfast pilot program in nine schools.

In the Kent school district, five high-poverty elementary schools had been using what's called the Community Eligibility Provision to provide free meals to all students. That means any kid could eat for free, even if the family did not qualify for a free or reduced-price meal.

Washington would be one of the states hit hardest by the Trump administration's proposal to limit access to food assistance. The changes would affect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP.

Seattle Parks and Recreation

Our region is known for its outdoor beauty, but most youth in King County are not getting the recommended amount of physical activity, according to a new report from the University of Washington.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

There's a growing body of research showing that racism takes a physical toll on people of color. One way that racism shows up is in interactions between women of color and their health providers, according to a new study by Molly Altman, an assistant professor at the University of Washington.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

This story originally aired Feb. 25, 2017.   

To live in the Northwest is, to some extent, to roll the dice. If you lived through the 1965 Seattle earthquake, or the Nisqually quake in 2001, or if you just read the New Yorker article about the “really big one” destined to hit our region, you know this well: There are forces under our feet that could just shrug our cities off into the abyss.

The push and pull of continental plates is so huge compared with a puny little human. And yet, for a man named Kelcy Allen, the act of a child shielded him from the seismic forces. He’s spent decades feeling grateful to the boy who died saving his life.


Getting kids to after-school activities can be difficult for working parents, but ride-hailing startups are trying to address that need.

HopSkipDrive, a California company that allows parents to book rides for their children, recently launched in Seattle. CEO Joanna McFarland said the company has signed up about 100 drivers in the area.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (left) and West Seattle Elementary School Principal Pamela McCowan-Conyers (right) greeted students on their first day of school.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

At one Seattle elementary school, the school year kicked off with local officials high-fiving kids as they walked down a red carpet. The school, West Seattle Elementary, is one of 13 slated to receive extra attention this year with the district's new strategic plan.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

School starts tomorrow in Seattle and with it comes a big question — will school bus service in the state’s largest district be any better than last year?

The district's bus contractor had more than 4,000 delays or canceled routes. That made for a lot of stress for families, and it's something the district's new superintendent is trying to resolve.

Rogelio V. Solis / The Associated Press

Elementary school kids have a lot of thoughts about lunchtime at school. One frequent complaint? They don't get enough time. Now they've got the weight of a state audit to back that up.

A new state performance audit looked at whether elementary schools in Washington are providing kids the recommended 20 minutes of seat time to eat their lunch. The auditors found that almost all of the 31 schools they visited did not give that much time, and a majority of schools send kids out for recess after lunch instead of the other way around.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

UPDATE, 11:30 am: Adds comments from a Tacoma school district spokesman.

Last year, Tacoma public schools were delayed by a teachers strike that lasted more than a week. This year, the district and the educators union reached an agreement well before the start of school.

The Tacoma Education Association reached a tentative agreement with the district at 3:33 a.m. on Wednesday, the union said in a Facebook post. Members gathered later that afternoon to take a vote. The certificated contract passed with 89 percent in favor, and the contract for office professionals and technical staff passed with 95 percent. 

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Seattle Public Schools will start on time next week, after educators voted to accept a contract that ensures pay increases for the next three years

Members of the Seattle Education Association, which represents about 6,000 teachers, counselors, librarians, office professionals and other school employees, approved their contracts during a membership meeting, the union said in a statement. Office professionals approved their contract by 98 percent, paraprofessionals approved theirs by 92 percent, and teachers and other certificated educators approved their contract by 88 percent.

Cellphones can be of use during instruction, for example, in this classroom in a high school in the Franklin Pierce school district. But increasingly, districts are barring students from using phones during class.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

The ubiquity of smartphones has become a big issue for schools and teachers. Teachers have to keep a constant eye out for students tapping away under their desks or listening to music instead of listening to instruction.

Increasingly, entire school districts are adopting policies barring cellphone use in class, including the Everett school district.

In this photo from August 2018, Seattle educators held an informational picket outside of Ballard High School.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: Adds information about educator contract negotiations in Tacoma.

This is a big week for the state's largest school district as it tries to reach a contract agreement with teachers and other school staff.

The Seattle Education Association set a deadline of this Wednesday to reach a tentative agreement. The union represents almost 6,000 teachers, counselors, office professionals and other school employees.

Students at Hazel Valley Elementary are learning the difference between short and long vowel sounds.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

It's more than two years until a law goes into effect requiring Washington elementary schools to screen students for possible signs of dyslexia. That's a reading disability that affects a lot of people — some estimates put the number as high as 1 in 5.

But some teachers already are taking time out of their summer vacation to learn methods for teaching kids with dyslexia how to read, including four teachers from a school in the Highline district who are heading to a training this week.