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

The jazz band at Mount Si High School in the Snoqualmie School District.
Ariel Van Cleave / KNKX

Creating art or engaging in artistic endeavors has numerous benefits for young people – from fewer disciplinary infractions to better academic performance and increased likelihood of pursuing post-secondary education.

And yet students’ participation in arts classes varies by what school they attend. Higher-poverty schools in King County have lower enrollment in arts classes.

Denise Juneau just wrapped up her first year as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools and put a new strategic plan in place. The plan has an emphasis on racial equity and serving students who are "furthest from educational justice," with a particular emphasis on African-American males.

Now the school district has hired a Bellingham firm, Vega Nguyen Research, to come up with a slogan, logo and marketing materials for getting the message out.

The Puget Sound region has been grappling with a homelessness crisis, and many people are trying to understand the root causes. Frequently cited factors include a lack of mental health services, the opioid crisis, and the high cost of housing.

But something that may be less understood is the way the state has tightened access to public assistance for families in poverty.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

About a quarter of high school seniors in Washington and 12 percent of eighth-graders say they've been forced into kissing, sexual touch or intercourse, according to the most recent Healthy Youth Survey.

The Legislature passed a law last year aimed at child sexual abuse prevention. It’s known as Erin’s Law and it’s the result of advocacy by Erin Merryn, a woman from Illinois who survived sexual abuse as a child. Washington is among 37 states that have now adopted versions of the legislation.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Seattle adopted a later start time for high school several years ago and a recent study showed that students benefited by getting more sleep. They even got better grades.

Now, a group of teenagers in Tacoma is pushing for their schools to make the switch. They’ve launched a grassroots campaign that they’re calling Tacoma Sleepyheads.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

The state is focusing on making sure high school seniors are ready for the next step, whether that’s college, an apprenticeship or a job.

Now, a new state board of education work group is looking into the idea of letting students advance through school based on what they know instead of just the number of classes they’ve taken.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Thousands of students in Washington state attend full-time online school. This fall, they'll have another option as a new virtual school, Pacific Northwest Connections Academy, opens.

The British educational company Pearson will operate the school, which will be hosted by South Kitsap School District. It will initially serve grades seven through 12, with a plan to expand into younger grades in subsequent years, and will be open to students from across the state.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Almost half of Washington students are non-white and addressing their needs in public schools is a growing priority in the state.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a bill encouraging schools to offer an ethnic studies course to middle and high school students. In the Puget Sound region, a group of teachers is working on developing more culturally responsive math lessons.

School Board Director Scott Pinkham (center)
Seattle Public Schools / Flickr

 UPDATE, July 11: Adds information about the school board rejecting the proposal to re-establish Indian Heritage High School and the African-American Academy, as well as information about a legal challenge to the district's decision to terminate the partnership with the Urban Native Education Alliance.

The state's new law will phase out the practice of sending young people to juvenile detention facilities for failing to comply with a judge's order for truancy offenses.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

The state has taken steps in recent years to try to reduce the practice of locking up young people for non-criminal offenses. A newly passed law aims to phase out the use of detention for young people who repeatedly skip school or run away and then fail to comply with a judge’s order.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Lead is a contaminant that's particularly dangerous for children, especially kids younger than 6. It's associated with learning disabilities and behavioral issues.

The Washington Department of Health has been testing water fixtures in schools for high levels of lead, and the capital budget approved by the Legislature includes funds for schools to replace lead-contaminated drinking fixtures.


Gov. Jay Inslee has made a big push in recent years to help more Washington students train for and find work in science and technology fields. In particular, state leaders want to make sure students of color have access to those high-paying jobs.

Pierce County has less than half the population of King County, but the two counties have almost the same number of children in foster care or other out-of-home placements. In Pierce County, a new effort is underway to keep families intact.

Researchers at the University of Washington have been examining the health of child care workers and one thing they've found is high rates of depression.

Tyee High School students Bashar Abokar (left) and Guled Ahmed collected about 600 signatures on a petition asking the Highline district to recognize Eid celebrations as official school holidays.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

New York City and some other school districts on the East Coast and in the Midwest have designated the Muslim celebrations of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr as official school holidays.

Both are very important holidays in the Muslim religion. Eid al-Adha marks the culmination of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Eid al-Fitr comes at the end of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day.

Now, two high school students in the Highline school district are asking their school board to do the same.

Kent Superintendent Calvin Watts
Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, June 27: Adds that the school board voted to end automatic renewal of the superintendent's contract.

The Kent school board voted Wednesday evening to cease automatic renewal of Superintendent Calvin Watts' contract beyond June 30, 2021, ahead of a Monday deadline to make a decision on the matter.

Under the proposed dress code policy in Seattle, students will be allowed to wear tank tops.
colorblindPICASO / Flickr

Seattle public school students who have been told not to wear tank tops or short shorts will probably be relieved to hear that a new districtwide policy is in the works. The proposed policy will be introduced at tonight’s school board meeting.

Camp to Belong Washington

This is a special week for about 100 kids in Washington who live apart from their siblings. Camp to Belong Washington brings together siblings who are separated from each other because they're in foster, adoptive or relative care.

Graduates celebrate receiving associate degrees at last year's ceremony of the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound.
Freedom Education Project Puget Sound

Graduation ceremonies have been taking place all over the region, and this Saturday, 11 people incarcerated at the Washington Corrections Center for Women will receive Associate of Arts degrees. 

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Thousands of students in Washington state enroll in online schools every year, but it’s difficult to figure out who the students are and why they’re opting for online programs instead of attending brick-and-mortar schools.

Data from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction show that almost 10,000 students enrolled in the state’s three biggest online schools in the 2017-18 school year.

Seattle Central College

It's graduation season, and it's an accomplishment for everyone who reaches that milestone. For one mother of three who came here as a refugee from Somalia as a teenager, that degree will help fulfill a promise she made to herself long ago.

Eric Neurath / Peninsula College

Community and technical colleges across Washington state are working to increase the percentage of students who graduate or transfer to another college or university.

Peninsula College in Port Angeles has had the biggest increase in the past five years. The college’s rate of full-time students graduating or transferring to another college has jumped by 47 percent since the 2013-14 school year. The school’s rate reached 62.1 percent this school year, according to statistics from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Shaima Shamdeen / Graduate Tacoma

 UPDATE, June 11: Clarifies identification of Tacoma Completes initiative.

School bus after school bus rolled up to Tacoma's Eastside Community Center on a recent Friday morning. High school seniors stepped out and were greeted by people cheering and waving pompoms — a welcome crew from the University of Washington Tacoma.

The high schoolers were there to participate in an event called What’s Next — a chance to meet students from other Tacoma high schools heading to local colleges in the fall and get a head start on connecting with college mentors and advisers. 

Jeff Shulman and Steven Fong

Growth and development have reshaped much of Seattle in recent years. That's especially true in the Central District, the neighborhood that has been the heart of the city's African-American community for decades. A new documentary screening this Sunday explores the toll of gentrification on the community.

The film, "On the Brink," tells the story of a neighborhood that hummed with black-owned businesses, from Helen’s Diner, famous for soul food, to Mr. Gideon's drugstore, where kids would sip malts.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

Student journalists at Western Washington University in Bellingham have taken their own school to court. They allege the university violated the state Public Records Act.

Students and teachers gave public testimony at Wednesday's school board meeting in favor of adopting new science curricula, including Amplify Science at the elementary and middle-school levels.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

After a lengthy meeting with a lot of debate Wednesday night, the Seattle School Board voted to approve new science curriculum that some community members and one former board director urged them to reject.

Rainier Beach High School
Architectsea / Wikimedia Commons

Computer coding and software jobs have become linchpins in Seattle's economy. But Seattle Public Schools has been outpaced by nearby school districts when it comes to providing computers to students.

Now the Seattle district is asking the school board to approve a $12 million purchase to try to catch up, including by providing all ninth graders with a laptop starting this fall.

Curtis Cronn / Seattle Pacific University/Flickr

Washington lawmakers voted to make public college or university tuition free for students who come from families earning less than about $50,000 a year. That will become a guarantee starting in the 2020-21 school year.

They also expanded eligibility for the grant, so students from families that earn up to about $90,000 will qualify for partial tuition assistance.

Officials at private colleges and universities said it’s good news for them, too.

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

The Everett School District is in the final stages of choosing a new superintendent to succeed Gary Cohn, who is retiring after a decade in the position. The school board has selected three finalists.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

The high-paying jobs in the Puget Sound region can seem out of reach for a lot of people. Officials from King County and the City of Seattle say they want job training to benefit people who have been left behind as the local economy has grown.