Education | KNKX


State Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland, poses with then-4th-grade students at Elmhurst Elementary, last school year. They and teacher Amy Cole, at right, are hoping to get the Suciasaurus named Washington's official state dinosaur.
Courtesy of Amy Cole / Elmhurst Elementary School

Athena Tauscher is on a quest.

The fifth-grader, and many of her classmates at Elmhurst Elementary School in the Franklin Pierce School District, would very much like it if state lawmakers passed a particular bill this session. The subject? A dinosaur.

Joe Wolf / Flickr

Amid a school year marked by controversy over the Seattle district’s plans for its advanced learning programs, officials have announced another change that’s drawing criticism and frustration from parents.

District officials recently sent an email to parents saying Seattle Public Schools will no longer offer separate honors classes, sometimes known as Spectrum classes, in middle school.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a rise in incidents at schools involving racial slurs and discrimination against students of color in the past few years.

But students are increasingly speaking out. This week, educators and students across the country and in Washington state are taking part in the Black Lives Matter at School week of action, which grew out of a movement that began in Seattle in 2016.

Students from the Highline and Renton school districts shared their stories and concerns as students of color at an equity conference in SeaTac hosted by the Rainier Educators of Color Network. The group includes teachers from the Highline, Renton and Kent school districts.

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.

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.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

UPDATE, July 23: Lus Gallardo exited the competition in the 11th round of the National Spanish Spelling Bee in Denver. 

An 11-year-old girl from Mount Vernon is Washington state’s first-ever competitor in the National Spanish Spelling Bee. Lus Gallardo is heading to Denver next month. She’s one of 35 competitors representing 15 states in the event.

“I’ve only gotten on an airplane once,” she said, “so I think that’s going to be fun.”

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

In recent years, there's been a big jump in the number of public school students experiencing homelessness in Washington. More than 40,000 students were identified as homeless in the 2016-17 school year, an increase of more than 30 percent from the 2012-13 school year.

A new performance audit from the state auditor's office recommends ways that school districts could do more to help those students, who often suffer significant academic setbacks due to their lack of stable housing.

Kent School Board Directors Karen DeBruler (second from left), Ross Hardy (third from left), and Debbie Straus (fourth from left) say they will not run to retain their seats.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, May 20: Updates to say that two people withdrew their names from the race for the Seattle School Board District 2 seat.

The Kent School District, which has contended with budget shortfalls in recent years and criticism from its teachers’ union, will have significant changes on its school board after this November’s election.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

May 17 is the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision that said segregating public schools by race was unconstitutional.

Many public schools in Seattle remain segregated in spite of past efforts to address that, including several decades of busing. A national nonprofit group, Integrated Schools, is hosting an event on Thursday, May 16, examining racial divides in Seattle schools, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked and “how to disrupt segregation now.”

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo


Students of faith at colleges and universities sometimes find their school work and religious practices conflicting. But a new law will require schools to come up with with policies to accommodate them.

Washington Superintendent Chris Reykdal
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Going into the legislative session, many Washington school district officials said one of their biggest priorities was to get more funding for special education.

Now that lawmakers passed a two-year budget and adjourned, some district leaders say they're disappointed in how much lawmakers approved for special education services.

A screenshot from the trailer of the Rainier Beach episode of "Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas."

Students at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School will be featured on national television Friday evening, as part of an episode of HBO's show "Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas."

 Investigators work on the scene of the shooting in Seattle on Wednesday, March 27, 2019.
Gene Johnson / The Associated Press

Last week, two people died and two others were injured in a shooting spree and carjacking in Seattle's Lake City area. 

One of the injured was Deborah Judd, a second-grade teacher at Laurelhurst Elementary School who was on her way home from work. As she recovered in the hospital, she told reporters that she wanted to make sure her students knew she was OK.

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Many school districts are planning substantial budget cuts for the fall, including Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma. At the same time, they're urging state lawmakers to raise the limit on levies so they can collect more in local property taxes.

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Lawmakers continue to wrestle with the new education-funding system they put in place in 2017, in which the Legislature increased the state property tax as a way to satisfy the long-running McCleary school-finance lawsuit. The approach limited how much districts can raise through local levies.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The Seattle school district appears to have won enough support from voters for both of its local tax measures in yesterday’s election. The first vote count showed about two-thirds of voters approving the capital levy and the operations levy.

Port Angeles School District

Voters have until Tuesday, Feb. 12, to return their ballots in an election that's important to many Washington school districts. But some school districts are reckoning with the possibility of not winning enough voter approval for their bond measures, and they’ve turned to the state Legislature to try to lower the threshold required for passage.  

Washington State Patrol

A frequent complaint from parents is that their children don’t have enough time to finish their lunch at school. Now, one of the state’s newest lawmakers has introduced legislation to try to figure out the barriers to giving students sufficient time to eat.

Seattle Public Schools

Navigating the public school system can be daunting for families with limited knowledge of English. Some state lawmakers have introduced legislation to help those families get the interpretation assistance they need.

Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

There's been a lot of debate nationally and locally about how to prevent school shootings like the one that left 17 people dead in Parkland, Florida, last February.

Republican state Rep. Jim Walsh from Aberdeen said one important prevention tool is to provide resource officers in schools, and he’s pre-filed a bill that would authorize funding from the state to pay for one in each public school.

Martin Meissner / AP Photo

UPDATE, 9 p.m.: Adds comment from a media lawyer  on whether students could be held liable for sharing bigoted content online. Corrects to remove inaccurate information about Washington's law on recording conversations.

Schools are increasingly having to deal with the combustible mix that results from students having cellphones and using social media.

That played out in dramatic fashion this week as Hamilton International Middle School in Seattle tried to address the fallout from a student's tweet that went viral and drew the attention of the right-wing conspiracy website, InfoWars.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

As the #MeToo movement continues to shed light on painful stories from women, the careers of the prominent men they accuse have taken a hit. For people in the arts, it's also changed how we view the works they've created, whether it’s comedy by Louis C.K. or movies by Harvey Weinstein.

It's also put high school English teachers in a quandary.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Kent School District's superintendent has faced public criticism for receiving thousands of dollars in stipends to participate in education-technology conferences. Now, the school board has voted against allowing him to take part in one in February.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A growing body of research shows that teenagers benefit when they're allowed to sleep later.

The latest study, from the University of Washington and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, found that students at Roosevelt and Franklin high schools in Seattle got more sleep and better grades after the school district moved the high school start time almost an hour later.

Matt Brown / AP Photo

Parents with kids at Licton Springs K-8, a small school in North Seattle that focuses on social justice and Native culture, got some assurance from Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau that the school won’t be displaced next year.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle's neighborhoods have become more racially mixed since 1990, but its schools have become more segregated, according to a recent study examining the 100 largest cities in the country.

Fifth graders write during class in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / AP

Washington’s charter school law emphasizes the need to serve at-risk students, including those who need special education or come from “economically disadvantaged” families.

A new performance audit from the state examined how well the voter-approved schools are serving the needs of those students. It found mixed results.

Kent Schools administration building
Ashley Gross / KNKX

Washington state is funneling billions of dollars into K-12 public education over the next few years to satisfy a state Supreme court order in the McCleary school-funding lawsuit. But that influx of money raises questions about accountability for school district finances. Washington, unlike other states, does not require districts to employ internal auditors to monitor spending of public funds.


Such oversight would be welcome in the Kent School District, where financial turmoil has many people reeling, even within the organization. Ashley Gross, KNKX’s youth and education reporter, sat down with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick to discuss her reporting on internal auditing in school districts, and the experts who champion the benefits of the additional accountability measure.


Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, Nov. 13: After an outcry from parents and a contentious meeting, Seattle Public Schools announced in an email Friday that Licton Springs will stay put for now. Read the full follow-up story by reporter Ashley Gross

The possible displacement of a Seattle option school that has a focus on Native culture and social justice is drawing criticism and outrage among parents.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

In Seattle Public Schools, there are gaps in achievement between white students and students of color.

According to a recent Stanford University study, black students tested 3.7 grade levels behind their white peers in 2017. The year before, they tested 3.5 grade levels behind.