The Fate of Their Schools Uncertain, Washington Charter Families Weather an Anxious Holiday

The 74 Million – Kate Stringer

“Most students with winter break homework spend as long as possible ignoring it. But during the first week of her December vacation, Victoria Johnson, a ninth-grader at Summit Sierra in Seattle, was already locked in her room crafting a stock market portfolio for class. “She loves where she is,” Victoria’s mother, Natalie Johnson, said of Summit Sierra. “Who says that? ‘God mom, I wish Christmas (break) was only one week.’” Victoria returns to the classroom Tuesday. But unlike traditional public school students, the high school freshman and her roughly 1,300 peers in Washington state charter schools don’t know how long they’ll get to stay there. During the holidays and midpoint of the school year, this uncertainty has incubated a range of reactions from families: frustration, advocacy, educational opportunities and caution. After a September state Supreme Court decision ruled Washington’s charter schools unconstitutional, students and parents have been thrown into limbo land. Some 400 young people, parents and educators met with legislators and rallied in Olympia in late November, but the court declined to reconsider the case.”(more)

Into the woods: When preschoolers spend every class outdoors

The Hechinger Report – Lillian Mongeau

“Three-year-old Desi Sorrelgreen’s favorite thing about his preschool is “running up hills.” His classmate Stelyn Carter, 5, likes to “be quiet and listen to birds—crows, owls and chickadees,” as she put it. And for Joshua Doctorow, 4, the best thing about preschool just might be the hat (black and fuzzy, with flaps that come down over his ears) he loves to wear to class. All three children are students at Fiddleheads Forest School, where they spend four hours a day, rain or shine, in adjacent cedar grove “classrooms” nestled among the towering trees of the University of Washington Botanical Gardens. In its third year, the program is located less than seven miles from Microsoft, which means while some parents sit in front of computers all day inventing the digital future, the Fiddleheads kids are making letters out of sticks or carting rocks around in wheelbarrows.”(more)

Washington partners with U. of Texas to improve college math

The Seattle Times – Katherine Long

“Practically every week, Bill Moore reads another article that examines what amount, and type, of math that college students really need in order to get a degree. That’s why Moore, director of K-12 partnerships for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), is pleased that Washington recently became one of five new states to join a partnership with the University of Texas’s Dana Center to improve the state’s college math pathways. At the heart of that partnership is making sure college students are getting the type of math they need to be successful in their chosen major. The Dana Center’s New Mathways Project provides students with choices among several different courses, or course sequences, depending on their majors. Each path offers students rigorous mathematics relevant to their fields of study.”(more)

Designing, Building and Iterating Alongside Engineering Professionals

KQED News Mind/Shift – Katrina Schwartz

“The design and engineering process is an important part of the Next Generation Science Standards, but it can be difficult for teachers to work in challenges that feel authentic and relevant in the real world. Several public school teachers in Seattle and Houston worked with Boeing engineers to develop engineering curriculum that both meets required standards and gives kids a chance to build something with their hands. The Teaching Channel documented some of the lessons in practice. In the video below, students in Houston are exploring concepts of lift and drag while designing wind turbines.”(more)

Ban on ‘Tag’: Are school children getting the right playtime?

The Christian Science Monitor – Lucy Schouten

“The playground game of “Tag” was temporarily banned at a Washington elementary school, but the ban was met by parent protests at a time when school recess is considered by many educators as one of the keys to better test scores. Parents at Lakeridge Elementary School protested when they learned that the school’s new “hands off” policy – designed to reduce injuries during recess – also banned “Tag,” reported the Bend Bulletin. “While at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students,” Mary Grady of the Mercer Island School District told Q13 Fox News.”(more)

Early education is the key to student success

The Renton Reporter – State Sen. Steve Litzow and State Rep. Ruth Kagi

“Research shows that children who participate in high- quality early learning have lower rates of: special education placement, grade repetition, obesity and teen pregnancy, abuse and neglect and juvenile detention. They also have higher test scores and higher rates of high school graduation. Scientists say 92 percent of a child’s brain is developed by age five, before he or she sets foot in a kindergarten classroom. Washington has an ethical imperative to prepare all students to compete in the 21st-century job market and fully participate in democracy. With the legislature under a constitutional obligation to fully fund K-12 education, we cannot ignore highly effective programs that move children toward higher student achievement. Because we take our duty to the entire educational continuum – early learning, K-12 and higher education — so seriously, we must invest in both high-quality early learning and our K-12 schools.”(more)