Youth & Education

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

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Like any good fifth-grade teacher, Mike Matthews wants to make his social studies unit on the American West as exciting as possible. So he's planning a special "Wild West" evening at the school with his students.

"We're going to have good ol' cowboy-fashion hot dogs and beans, Texas Toast and beef jerky," he says. Matthews will tell stories around a mock campfire, and for added authenticity, the fifth-graders will set up a saloon.

Mariah Evans, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, began to notice a trend in her morning classes: Her students were falling asleep.

While this would make most feel discouraged in their teaching abilities or agitated over their students' idleness, Evans instead was curious. Was there more to this than just laziness?

Every day in this country students come to school without a way to pay for lunch. Right now it's up to the school to decide what happens next.

Since new legislation out of New Mexico on so-called lunch shaming made headlines, we've heard a lot about how schools react.

Greetings and welcome to our weekly roundup of education news from Washington and around the country:

DeVos hires

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made her first official staff announcement this week, with 10 names.

Among them: Josh Venable, will serve as DeVos' chief of staff. He worked on the presidential campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and is an advocate of both school choice and the Common Core.

When I was 4 years old, my parents faced a decision. My birthday is in late November, so should they send me to kindergarten as the youngest kid in my class? Or, wait another year to enroll me? — A practice referred to as academic redshirting.

Since I was already the oldest sibling, they decided it was time for me to experience something different. So, they sent me to school.

Robbinsville High School sits in a small gap in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Green slopes dotted with cattle hug in around the school before they rise into a thick cover of pine trees.

David Matheson is the principal here. And he's the only high school principal in the state who still performs corporal punishment. At Robbinsville, corporal punishment takes the form of paddling - a few licks on the backside Matheson delivers with a long wooden paddle.

New York state has passed legislation that would create the largest experiment in the country to offer free tuition at two- and four-year colleges. The Excelsior Scholarship, approved over the weekend as part of the state budget, would cover full-time students in the State University of New York system, which totals 64 campuses and 1.3 million students.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, appeared with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and state education leaders in an event hailing the new program, which would begin this fall and is estimated to cost $163 million per year.

When New Mexico state Sen. Michael Padilla was a child, he says he mopped the cafeteria floors to earn his school lunch, and he befriended the cafeteria workers so he wouldn't have to go hungry.

"I grew up in foster homes, multiple foster homes," the Democratic lawmaker tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "It's very obvious who the poor kids are in the school."

He says students in circumstances like his often have to watch as other children get served a hot lunch, while they are given a piece of bread — with "maybe a little bit of cheese."

How important is it to have a role model?

A new working paper puts some numbers to that question.

Having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income black boys' probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent, the study found.

And by high school, African-American students, both boys and girls, who had one African-American teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college. Keep in mind, this effect was observed seven to ten years after the experience of having just one black teacher.

President Trump's updated executive order, the one restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries, is blocked for now.

But administrators at Northeastern University in Boston aren't taking any chances.

"We're in a state of limbo," says Mike Armini, who oversees government relations. "We don't quite know what's going to happen next, so we've advised them to stay here," he says, talking about the 250 Northeastern students from those six countries.

The videos are an infamous genre unto themselves: "Mother Punches Her Daughter Dead in the Face for Having Sex in the House!" "Dad Whups Daughter for Dressing Like Beyonce." "Son Left In Bloody Mess as Father Forces Him to 'Fight.'" Their images stream from Facebook timelines and across YouTube channels, alternately horrifying and arresting: burly fathers, angry mothers, lips curled, curses flying, hands wrapped around electrical chords, tree branches, belts, slashing down on legs, arms, buttocks and flesh as children cry and plead and scream out in agony.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Efforts to end Native American mascots – or keep them, with local tribes’ approval – have left 16 Oregon school districts until July 1 to act. 

Recently, Rogue River High School in Grants Pass worked out a deal with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.  They can remain the “Chieftains,” if they incorporate more tribal history in its fourth and eighth grade curricula.

Cindy Hunt of the Oregon Department of Education says 12 districts have either had mascots approved, are pending approval, or have dropped or changed them. 

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

Hate incidents can happen anywhere: the mall, the church, the office. But, in the wake of the 2016 election, hate's been showing up a lot in school.

Imagine if one notice from the federal government could cause you to question your major life decisions.

More than half a million people may have found themselves in that situation after a new legal filing by the Education Department.

Under a program known as Public Service Loan Forgiveness, some student loan borrowers were supposed to be able to have the balance of their student loans forgiven after ten years of both on-time payments and eligible work in the public sector. Meaning, a qualifying nonprofit, federal, local, state, or tribal government.

Bellamy Pailthorp / knkx

Port officials are looking to place 150 interns for private businesses in Seattle this summer.  First they have to get kids interested.

Two 16-year-olds named Tim Viel and Dupree Picket came from an alternative program in South Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood called Opportunity Skyway.  They tried operating the robotics on a manned submersible that can conduct underwater research or fix pipes and turn things underwater. The kids operated the vehicle’s arm with a joystick.     

Welcome to another weekly roundup from the NPR Ed Team, where we lasso the latest news on student aid, school choice, and more.

Trump University settlement finalized

Thousands of students are set to get money back now that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel has finalized the $25 million fraud settlement against Trump University.

Muslim children are more likely to be bullied in school than children of other faiths. A new survey by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) reveals that 42 percent of Muslims with children in K–12 schools report bullying of their children because of their faith, compared with 23 percent of Jewish and 20 percent of Protestant parents.

These results confirm recent findings by other research and advocacy groups showing that bullying of students of color is on the rise.

It's a little after 8 a.m. at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., and Michelle Harris' AP Environmental Science class is getting right to it.

"All right, you guys got your brackets out?" Harris asks.

The class of mostly juniors and seniors ruffle through folders and pull out pieces of paper with brackets — 64 slots, four quadrants, and one central box to predict the championship. But there's something a little different about these brackets ...

"We're going to jump down to the fourth-seeded spider monkey against the 12th-seeded antelope squirrel," Harris says.

It's clear from the numbers. Google has a diversity problem.

For the past few years, the company has publicly shared its workplace makeup in a report detailing the race, gender and ethnicity of each employee hired the previous year. Last year, while the number of black employees went up, they still represented only 2 percent of the company's workforce and Google admitted it fell short of its diversity goal.

For-profit colleges have faced federal and state investigations in recent years for their aggressive recruiting tactics — accusations that come as no surprise to author Tressie McMillan Cottom.

It's a perennial debate in American education: Do kids learn best when they're sitting in rows at their desks? Or moving around, exploring on their own?

Back in the 1960s and '70s, that debate led to a brand new school design: Small classrooms were out. Wide-open spaces were in. The Open Education movement was born.

Across the U.S., schools were designed and built along these new ideas, with a new approach to the learning that would take place inside them.

Sixteen-year-old Na Da Laing struggled in elementary school.

"I was different from other students," she remembers. "I couldn't speak English at all."

Now, eight years later, she's reading George Orwell's Animal Farm.

In the U.S., roughly one in 10 students is an English language learner.
Many schools struggle to help them feel comfortable with their new language. Helping them get ahead and to college is another challenge entirely.

No rest for the weary in our weekly roundup of national education news.

Supreme Court rules on special education case

"I'm thrilled," said Amanda Morin, a parent and advocate with the website Understood.org, after the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a case that could affect 6.5 million special education students. "Now I can actually go into a school system and say 'The Supreme Court has said, based on my child's abilities, he is legally entitled to make progress.' "

Growing up in a hungry household in the first couple of years of life can hurt how well a child performs in school years later, according to a new study.

An estimated 13.1 million children live in homes with insufficient food, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

We are in the midst of a quiet revolution in school discipline.

In the past five years, 27 states have revised their laws with the intention of reducing suspensions and expulsions. And, more than 50 of America's largest school districts have also reformed their discipline policies — changes which collectively affect more than 6.35 million students.

Protesters interrupted the Oregon State University Board of Trustees meeting last Friday over a proposed tuition increase. The Board postponed their vote until further notice.

OSU is considering a 4 percent increase in tuition for resident undergraduates and 2 percent for non-residents. The board adjourned last week after a group marched into the meeting room, locked arms and chanted protests. OSU Spokesman Steve Clark says OSU is facing reduced funding from the state.

Education advocates made their case for increased school funding in front of Oregon lawmakers Thursday. The subcommittee that focuses on education heard testimony from people who want lawmakers to boost K-12 funding from the $7.8 billion proposed in a preliminary budget framework.

This morning President Trump released a proposed 2018 budget that calls for a $9 billion, or 13.5 percent, cut for the U.S. Department of Education.

Right in the heart of the University of Vermont, Burlington campus, there's a big dormitory going up, with room enough for 700 students next fall.

The dorm is being set aside for students like Azilee Curl, a first-year studying neuroscience who has taken a pledge — of sorts — to live out her college career at UVM with her health in mind.

She's part of a growing group on campus who all live together in a clean-living residence hall, have fitness and nutrition coaches at the in-house gym, and can access free violin lessons, yoga and mindfulness training.

Last year, gun violence shook communities in Marysville and on Whidbey Island, Washington. Some lawmakers in Olympia said it was the result of inadequate mental health resources.

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