Youth & Education

Stories about education focused on the Pacific Northwest and the nation. 

MOSCOW, Idaho - The "world's most comprehensive collection" of opium smoking paraphernalia has a new home; it's at the University of Idaho. A writer and collector, originally from San Diego, donated the exquisite antiques.

It's taking weeks to carefully unpack and catalogue all the opium smoking implements and accessories. Collector Steven Martin estimates he donated at least 1,000 pieces... ceramic opium pipe bowls, ornamented heating lamps, traveling kits, scrapers, old photographs and mug shots.

A school district in southwest Idaho says the book “Like Water for Chocolate” is inappropriate for high school sophomores. It’s banning the book from the curriculum.

The 1989 book by Mexican author Laura Esquivel includes vivid descriptions of sexual arousal. Nampa School District spokeswoman Allison Westfall says over the weekend, administrators reviewed the passages after receiving complaints.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools will ask voters next year to approve more than a billion dollars in taxpayer funding, and this week the public will have two chances to weigh in on the district's proposal and its priorities.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The Washington state auditor has uncovered another batch of questionable spending by Seattle Public Schools in recent years, widening a scandal that cost a former superintendent her job. The new investigation found that former district official Silas Potter, Jr. made even more inflated payments than was previously known, spending millions of taxpayer dollars on work that was never done or grossly overpriced.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

School districts are often encouraged to make sweeping changes in order to lift up low-achieving schools. Shutting a school down and overhauling it or replacing most of the staff are among the solutions favored by federal officials these days. But one struggling school in Tacoma is taking an opposite approach: they’re doubling down on the teachers they already have.

The latest community college enrollment numbers may hold a clue to what’s happening in the Northwest’s economy. Some two-year institutions in the region are seeing the first decline in class registration since the recession.

At the bookstore at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, the piles of textbooks students buy are kind of like a bar graph for the local unemployment rate.

The principal of rural Toppenish High School, south of Yakima, has been named national high school principal of the year and will be honored in Washington, D.C. in a few weeks.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

As students around Puget Sound begin a new school year, administrators are pushing hard to close disparities in student achievement.

Freshmen "common reads" are becoming increasingly popular at American colleges and universities. Incoming freshmen are assigned the same book over the summer and are asked to come prepared to discuss the book in their first week on campus.

Washington students have made some gains on standardized test scores. Math scores ticked up in nearly every grade tested, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Superintendent Randy Dorn says he’s encouraged by the steady improvement, and credits an intense focus on math and science.

PULLMAN, Wash. — A glitch in a new, multimillion-dollar software system is disrupting the first week of classes at Washington State University for students and parents who depend on financial aid.

biologycorner / Flockr

Washington students did a bit better last year on one of the major standardized tests measuring college readiness. Just about one in five Washington seniors takes the ACT – the SAT”s slightly less famous cousin – but that group saw modest gains over the previous four years.  Thirty-eight percent of test-takers met the college readiness standard in all four subjects tested: English, reading, math and science, up from 34 percent year before.

It's tempting to make a "fight club" reference (and some news outlets have), but the outrageous nature of the allegations seems to call for a more straight-forward approach:

High school students with heavy academic course loads often find the demands of homework colliding with the need for adequate sleep.

In a new study, The Pew Hispanic Center says that for the first time ever, Hispanics have become the largest minority group in the country's college campuses.

It's a report that marks many firsts for the ethnic group, which has been making great strides in education since 1972.

Among them: For the first time, there were more than 2 million latinos ages 18 to 24 enrolled. They reached a record 16.5 percent of all college enrollment. Hispanics make up a little more than a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in two-year colleges.

sea turtle / Flickr

For the first time in its 47-year history, the Head Start program is introducing some tough accountability measures. That’s left three Washington providers fighting for their lives, including a Seattle program with a storied history.

Families often pull together to help finance a college education, with parents and grandparents chipping in or co-signing loans. And now, a SmartMoney report finds the U.S. government withholding money from Social Security recipients who've stopped paying on federal student loans.

Dear college students across the U.S.,

Like millions of my colleagues who teach at universities and colleges, I'm working hard this week to put an updated zing into the syllabus for each of my fall classes. Describing the course content and readings for Biological Anthropology and Primate Behavior is the fun, mind-engaging part.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Fifty years ago a group of Seattle students were asked to make predictions about the “classroom of the future,” as part of the 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair. They came back with a mixed bag: phones that fit in your pocket? Check. Flying cars? Still waiting. (None mentioned high-stakes tests, Lunchables or Wikipedia.)

This year as part of the fair’s 50th anniversary, the Seattle Center asked students to make their own predictions about what school will look like 50 years from now.

Arkdog / Flickr

Police officers working in schools can’t necessarily search a student without a warrant, even though a teacher usually can. That’s the upshot of a ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court out Thursday, in a case involving a student at Robinswood High in Bellevue and the murky legal realm of cops in schools.

The Bellevue Police Department has five officers working exclusively in the schools. In this case, one of them caught the student with a bag of marijuana, arrested him, and then searched his locked bag without permission.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle’s new superintendent of schools won’t be voting for the charter schools initiative on the November’s ballot. He doesn’t care much for “site-based management” that gives lots of autonomy to individual schools and he’s leery of letting schools more easily opt out of controversial curricula, such as “discovery math.”

A child who is 11 years old today could be paying more than $20,000 by the time he or she enters state school, according to an actuarial report prepared for the state's prepaid tuition program.

Lower Columbia Ciollege / Flickr

Many of the efforts to improve schools in Washington are focusing on science and technology, and some leading educators are concerned that’s coming at the expense of a well-rounded education. They’re forming a group to advocate for liberal arts learning.

Jesse Michener

A couple of bad sunburns have left Tacoma’s school district smarting, and could help spur policy changes about students and sunscreen. Tacoma school officials say they’ll revisit a policy banning the use of sunscreen by students, except with a doctor’s note.

The district is getting national attention after a Tacoma mom’s story went viral in late June. Jesse Michener says it never occurred to her to jump through the hoops it would take to get her daughters sunscreen when they left for a field trip on a rainy morning, but they came home burned badly enough that Michener took them to the hospital.

Many students in American classrooms don't feel challenged enough. That's according to new analysis of federal data (pdf) conducted by the Washington think tank American Progress.

The organization, which promotes "progressive ideas and action," came to that conclusion when it analyzed surveys given to students by the Department of Education for its National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

At the core of Washington’s agriculture industry is science – you can’t grow a potato or cherry without knowing about soil chemistry, hydrology and photosynthesis. But the people who get their hands dirty in the business of growing and picking don’t always think of it that way.

In fact, the children of that workforce tend to struggle in math and science. Just one in four children of migrant workers meets state science standards in eighth grade, far below the population as a whole. The gap in math is nearly as wide.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Two aerospace companies plan to expand their operations in Washington. Governor Chris Gregoire made that announcement Monday from the Farnborough Air Show in London. But the news highlights a gap between the legions of unemployed and the skills they need for many new jobs.

Everett, Washington is a good microcosm for the so-called skills gap. The industrial city north of Seattle is home to Boeing and hundreds of key aerospace suppliers.

Washington schools will be able to sidestep some of the toughest standards and punishments in the federal No Child Left Behind law. The federal government announced Friday it will give waivers to Washington and Wisconsin.

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has said under the current law, nearly every school in the state would get socked with penalties. Schools are supposed to have all of their students meeting learning standards by 2014, or else lose control over big chunks of federal money.

Backers of a measure to allow charter schools in Washington are scheduled to turn in their petition signatures Friday. Meanwhile, a pilot project designed in part to short-circuit the argument for charter schools was blocked Thursday in court.

Gov. Chris Gregoire isn't happy about Western Washington University's new faculty contract.

She wrote a letter last week to Western President Bruce Shepard expressing "grave concerns" about the raises faculty members are getting.