Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Washington in bottom third in on-time high school grad rates

by November 30th, 2012

New rankings that the U.S. Department of Education says are for the first time solidly comparable between states, show that in the 2010-2011 school year Washington ranked in the bottom third nationally in its rate of on-time high school graduation, within four years of 9th grade. Washington was tied with several other states for the 14th lowest rate, of 76 percent, out of 47 states plus the District of Columbia and the nationwide Bureau of Indian Education, for which data were available. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement, “By using this new measure, states will be more honest in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students succeed. Ultimately, these data will help states target support to ensure more students graduate on time, college and career ready.” Making increased K-12 spending effective is certainly an issue in Washington, one which independent state policy analysts continue to probe.

Six thefts of funds found at Seattle Community Colleges

by November 28th, 2012

A letter from the Washington State Auditor’s Office, quietly slipped into the meeting agenda documents packet this month of the Seattle Community Colleges Board of Trustees, reveals that a College investigation verified six distinct instances of vanishing public funds from 2010 to 2012 totaling $7,240 and couldn’t determine who was responsible in any of the cases. They involve four different campuses of the College. The letter’s author, SAO Fraud Manager Sarah Walker, concludes, “we recommend the College strengthen internal controls to ensure adequate oversight and monitoring to safeguard public resources.” The school now says it has done that.

Scant gains from DSHS foster youth ed services program

by November 27th, 2012

A special services-based initiative for foster youth in K-12 public schools in Washington that was created by the legislature in 2006 isn’t correlated with improved academic outcomes for the thousands of students it has served, according to a new report for lawmakers delivered by the state’s own in-house policy analysis unit. The report by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy on the Education Advocacy Program (EAP) of the state’s Department of Social and Health Services found that compared to an equal number of similarly at-risk foster children who weren’t in the program, the high school graduation rates and grade point averages of 2,437 selected students who did use it between 2006 and 2011 were not any better.

South King County votes to decide on new schools, more

by November 6th, 2012

Among local ballot measures likely to be decided tonight in suburban King County are a major annexation proposal in Renton, funding for new high schools in Federal Way and Auburn, a new fire station for Mercer Island, and a possibly a new form of governance for Black Diamond, where a development-related feud has grown between the current mayor and city council.

UPDATE, 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m.: Systemic change didn’t fare well in our five tracked local ballot measures, with proposals for a new form of governance in Black Diamond, and a major annexation to Renton both losing, with unofficial final numbers in. But more routine proposals for increased spending to build new schools or other civic structures appear to have won with broad support in Auburn, Federal Way, and Mercer Island. Update, 9:57 p.m. 11/7/12: Three-quarters of King County ballots overall are counted now. Latest numbers below, courtesy of King County elections.

Proposition 1 in Renton would have led to annexation to the city of the 1,857-acre West Hill region currently part of unincorporated King County. 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m. update – 55% No, 45 % Yes. 11/6/12, 9:22 p.m. update: Paul Berry, a 43-year West Hill resident who co-wrote the Voter’s Pamphlet statement in opposition to annexation said of the results, “People of the community didn’t buy the general and vague promises” annexation would bring improvements. For any future measure annexing West Hill to Renton to pass, several things would have to happen, Berry said. Strong, smart regional approaches to providing police and fire service would need to implemented; plans for upscale development, more sidewalks and urban density softened, and city codes tweaked to be less restrictive on allowing chickens and multiple pets. West Hill contains six neighborhoods, and would have comprised about 15 percent of Renton’s population if annexed. (Map of annexation area).

Proposition 1 in Auburn authorizes School District 408 to levy excess property taxes to fund $110 million in borrowing via bonds over 20 years, to finance construction of a new Auburn High School, and improvements to the high school’s Performing Arts Center and Automotive Technology building. 8:30 p.m. update – 59% Yes, 41% No.

Proposition 1 in Federal Way School District 210 green-lights a six-year, $60 million capital levy to pay for replacing Federal Way High School, plus renovation of 19 elementary school playgrounds, and a new district-wide security camera system. The added cost in each of the six years for school district property owners would be 92 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m. update – 57% Yes, 43% No.

Proposition 1 in Black Diamond would have OKd a change in the way the city is governed, from the current Mayor-Council form of government to a Council-Manager system. If it had been approved, a new city manager reporting to the council, would have become the chief executive of the city and the office of the mayor, who currently serves as the city’s CEO, would have ben abolished. A planned Yarrow Bay Company development of 6,000 new homes planned for the small city of about 4,160 residents has contributed to a sharp political divide between some members of the current council and mayor Rebecca Olness. But the measure appears to have fallen far short. 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m. update – 59% No, 41% Yes. 11/6/12, 9:40 p.m. update: Olness said, “I’m elated the people of Black Diamond have voiced their support for growth. We need to grow in order to survive,” to boost the local tax base and attract retail essentials such as a major grocery store. The Yarrow Bay development will unfold gradually over the next 20 to 25 years Olness said, with the first several hundred homes built in 2014.

Proposition 1 in Mercer Island will finance a $5.2 million bond issue for a replacement fire station in the South End, through a lift of the state-mandated local tax levy increase lid of 1 percent per year. If the majority of “yes” votes holds, property owners will pay another 86 cents to $1.51 per $1,000 assessed valuation each year, with the rate differing by year, over nine years. 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m. update – 56% Yes, 44% No.

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Mapping Washington state unemployment by county

by October 29th, 2012

The Washington State Employment Security Department provides an online map of unemployment rates by county that’s updated monthly. September unemployment in Washington was highest in Lewis, Grays Harbor and Ferry Counties and lowest in Douglas, Whitman, Chelan and Walla Walla counties. The lowest rates for September ranged from 6.2 percent to 6.6, and the highest at or near 12 percent. Eight counties in southwest and northeast Washington had double-digit unemployment last month. Here’s the department’s map of the September 2012 unemployment data, by county.

September, 2012 unemployment data by county/Washington Employment Security Department

Check the department’s latest monthly map of unemployment by counties, and access additional reports including county economic profiles, here.

The profiles show that the four counties with lowest September unemployment had economies most reliant, variously, on agriculture, tourism and leisure (Douglas and Chelan); retail, manufacturing, healthcare, tourism and agriculture (Walla Walla); and export-related manufacturing, technical educational services, and agriculture (Whitman).

The three with the highest September unemployment tended to have been reliant on resource extraction in past decades, and to have populations with markedly lower rates compared to the state average, for high school graduation and higher education degrees.

Public Data Ferret’s Washington State+Data Visualization archive

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

State report: K-12 spending hikes would yield modest gains

by October 17th, 2012

In its McCleary ruling last January, the Washington Supreme Court said the state has failed to meet its constitutional responsibility “to make ample provision for the education of all children.” As a result, by 2018, state K-12 spending could grow by one-fifth, legislative fiscal staff told researchers at the state’s in-house think tank, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. But in keeping with its mission to get to the bottom of what constitutes effective policy, the Institute wanted to know more. So in a new report titled “K-12 Education Spending and Student Outcomes: A Review of the Evidence,” Institute researchers Steve Aos and Annie Pennington, ask and try to begin to answer the question, “If K-12 spending is increased, is there reason to believe that student outcomes will improve and, if so, by how much?…That is, does money matter?” Their survey of the best academic literature shows a modest, some might say quite modest, positive relationship between increased general K-12 education spending and student outcomes.

However, a broader follow-up report due next July from the Institute and funded by the MacArthur Foundation, could reveal more about what specific strategies and programs are most likely to move the needle on graduation rates.

From K-12 Education Spending and Student Outcomes/Washington State Institute of Public Policy, Oct. 2012

In the current report, released this month by the Institute, Aos and Pennington carefully selected 40 studies (mostly from around the U.S.) with the strongest research designs, and where K-12 per-pupil expenditures were able to be directly correlated with student outcomes – either in terms of changes in scores on standardized tests, or changes in graduation or drop-out rates. They found that on average, for each 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending, there was an annual positive change in student outcomes of less than three-quarters of one percent in early grades, and that the benefit in percentage terms – across the various indicators – declined to an average annual gain of zero percent or nearly zero percent moving toward the end of high school.

However, small annual gains can add up, at least to a degree. The report stressed that over the course of the 13 years between kindergarten and high school graduation, a sustained level of spending ten percent higher in the aggregate than a flat level would, for example, boost the on-time graduation rate from the current 76.6 percent in Washington state to 79.5 percent. Divided by the baseline figure, that 2.9 percent bump actually would represent a 3.7 percent improvement over the 13 years, the researchers underscore. Based on that “elasticity” – or correlation between a percentage change in one increment with a percentage change in another – a 20 percent increase in K-12 per-pupil spending could lead to an approximate doubling of the benefit, to 6 or 7 percent.

Using an approved cost-benefit model and focusing on the outcome of on-time graduation rates, the follow-up report due in July will project the relative bang-for-buck from more particular policy strategies such as targeting improved teacher effectiveness, and from combinations of specific strategies – rather than just looking at gains from an incremental hike in general per-pupil spending, as the current report does. Other strategies to be examined for ability to improve performance outcomes will include smaller class sizes, all-day kindergarten, longer school days and longer school years, enhanced early childhood education, ramped up programs to recruit, hire and retain especially talented teachers, and more and better after-school programs, said Pennington, the Associate Director of the Institute.

Of the interim results in the current report she said, “given that the impacts are stronger in the early grades, one option may be to concentrate more resources there.”

Where state monies would come from to boost K-12 spending is still unclear. One approach, Initiative 1098 in 2010 for a state income tax on high earners to fund education and other programs, was roundly rejected by voters. A Joint Task Force on Education Funding is to report its suggestions to the legisalture by year’s end.


McCleary V. Washington ruling

Public Data Ferret’s Washington State+Education archive

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Washington wants to bury Native American school mascots

by October 12th, 2012

Washington State’s non-profit public affairs TV channel TVW this week aired a segment on the continuing push by the state board of education against Native American school mascots. The board at its September 25th meeting in Walla Walla passed a resolution urging public school districts in the state who have Native American mascots and logos to reconsider their use and retire them. The resolution states that such mascots and logos can cause psychological harm to Native American students and may prevent efforts to close the academic achievement gap. Oregon passed a law last year banning Native American mascots in public schools. But part of the story in Washington is the push back. More from TVW’s “The Impact,” and host Anita Kissee.

Washington passed a similar resolution in 1993 but dozens of districts still have Native American mascots. One is Port Townsend, where the school board has appointed a special committee to investigate the appropriateness of the high school’s “Redskins” mascot, with the board to decide later this school year on whether or not to keep it. The special committee is to be named at the board’s Monday October 15 board meeting. Meeting materials will be available here.

Public Data Ferret’s Video archive

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Seattle Channel looks at WA charter school initiative

by October 8th, 2012

The Seattle Channel recently posted online an edition of its City Inside/Out public affairs show which delved into the debate over whether or not Washington State should have charter schools. On the ballot for the November 6 election, Initiative 1240 will pose the question to Washington voters for the fourth time since 1996. They’ve said no each time previously. Mail-in ballots will be sent out statewide on October 19. In the episode, Tara O’Neil, principal of the successful Emerson Elementary K-5 charter school in Portland, Oregon, tells City Inside/Out, “What happens to a normal school that’s not working? It stays open and keeps not working…harder. A charter school can be closed down. That’s the big difference.” But 1240 opponent Sharon Peaslee, a Seattle School Board member, argues, “There is no reason to vote for charter schools.” Citing a 2009 Stanford University report, she said, “Twice as many charter schools fail as succeed. That’s not a good recommendation for charter schools.” Here’s the half-hour City Inside/Out segment.


  • Fact Check Washington I-1240 page
  • Washington Living Voters Guide I-1240 hub
  • Tutorial: Using The Washington Achievement Data Explorer,” Public Data Ferret

  • Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.