Youth & Education | KNKX

Youth & Education

Stories and features about education in the Pacific Northwest. Including stories from Washington state and the United States. 

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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.

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.


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.

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.

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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.