Tag Archives: Education

Black Educators Closing Equity Gaps for African American Students and Teachers

by Kathya Alexander


The academic achievement gap between white and BIPOC students has been well documented. Black and Hispanic students trail their white peers by an average of more than 20 points in math and reading assessments, a difference of about two grade levels. Black males, in general, fare even worse, a situation that has not changed much for the past 40 years. 

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SPS’ ‘Let’s Go’ Program Prepares South End Students to Become Bike Commuters

by Ari Robin McKenna


In early November, a big green trailer pulled up, parked, and disgorged dozens of blue kids’ bikes at Louisa Boren STEM K–8 (LB STEM) in West Seattle, the first of Seattle Public Schools’ (SPS) 71 elementary schools that will benefit from the Let’s Go bike program this year.

For the next three weeks, third to fifth graders will learn everything they’ll need to know about how to bike to school by themselves. An SPS press release states, “In addition to the physical fundamentals of helmet safety, balancing, steering, pedaling, and stopping, Let’s Go teaches kids the rules of safe and courteous riding along with skills to cross a street at intersections.”

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Team Read Connects Teens and Young Readers to Nurture the Joy of Reading

by Sandra LeDuc


“Reading is important because it expands your mind, your life. It extends your world,” said Haitian American writer Edwidge Danticat. Reading is also an essential skill that significantly impacts academic and career success in our country. But Children and Communities of Color, including many immigrants, often do not have equitable access to resources to learn and practice reading, making literacy a social justice issue.

Through their cross-age, one-on-one tutoring program, Seattle nonprofit Team Read is working to provide more equitable access to reading. The free program pairs trained teen reading coaches with second- and third-grade students to “propel young students to become inspired, joyful readers and teens to become impactful leaders.” The organization partnered with Seattle and Highline Public Schools to serve 22 elementary schools last school year and expanded its programming to include elementary schools in Renton and Tukwila this school year.

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The Need for Mandated Racial Equity Training in Schools

by Alexis Mburu and Eva Herdener


What happens when those tasked with teaching also need to be taught? Our education system has always had to adapt, whether in regards to who was allowed in the doors or how we kept them safe. And we can always find ways to improve the quality of education students are receiving — especially regarding race and equity. 

As two members of the NAACP Youth Council, we spend a lot of time focusing on working towards racial equity in the education system. One of our group’s key issues is the need for mandated racial equity training in schools. We are youth currently in the education system. Most of us identify with one or multiple marginalized communities and we have seen firsthand the damage done to students due to the ignorance of those who are “authorities” inside schools. Racial equity training is one way we can help ensure the system we rely on for our educational and social growth is a safe place for all of us. 

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Dr. Lauri Conner: Investing in Students and Teaching Them the World

by Elizabeth Turnbull


Pouring pen ink into words, Dr. Lauri Conner’s 12-year-old self began the process of writing out her feelings and expressing her way into a new future — as a poet, an educator earning a doctorate degree, and now, the new head of school at Lake Washington Girls Middle School (LWGMS).

“I started writing because it was the way I could express myself. It was a way I could get all those things that were bottled up inside out,” Conner told the Emerald in an interview. “So it just became the way.”

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Seattle Promise Is Building Educational Equity

by Shouan Pan, Dr. Brent Jones, and Ana MariCauce


In the midst of a global pandemic, the Seattle Promise program, which guarantees two years tuition-free at Seattle Colleges, is thriving. This fall, more than 1,100 students are enrolled in Seattle Promise, working toward a degree or certificate they might otherwise not be able to afford. 

Nationally, during the pandemic, nearly all community colleges saw enrollment drop. But at Seattle Colleges, the nationally recognized Seattle Promise program actually grew post-secondary enrollment because of our partnerships and targeted student services. 

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OPINION: Anonymous Survey Reveals Educator Despair, Poor District Communication

“I’m not sure I’m making a difference anymore. We are drowning here.”

by Tracy Castro-Gill and Ari Robin McKenna

(This article is reprinted with permission from the Washington Ethnic Studies Now blog.)


On Tuesday, Nov. 9, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Human Resources Department (HR) sent an email to parents and then 39 minutes later to educators — almost as an afterthought — announcing the unexpected closure of schools just three days later on Nov. 12, sending parents without work flexibility scrambling for childcare.

The HR email author might have mentioned the national teacher shortage. They might have mentioned that — in the wake of the pandemic — substitute teachers have dried up. Nearly every school in the district is shuffling to cover daily absences, with teachers having to use up designated grading and planning time. They might have mentioned that a district calendar initially had Friday as a holiday, and office staff at various schools circulated it before it was updated. They might even have mentioned that, for over a month, staff at SPS district headquarters have been signing up to cover absences — despite, in some cases, not having an active teacher certification.

Instead, HR chalked it up neatly to teachers insisting on taking leave. “We are aware of an unusually large number of SPS staff taking leave on Friday,” the email explained. Then they chose to end the email assuring their audiences that the district’s central office, the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence (JSCEE), would remain open Friday — as if anyone reading this email cared about anything other than classrooms and children.

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South End Equity Questions After Protest Highlights Special Education Staffing Moves

by Ari Robin McKenna


A mix of well over a hundred teachers, parents, and students showed up at the district headquarters in SoDo Wednesday, Oct. 27, for a rally on a quickly darkening, drizzly evening. A number of speeches were given under the partially covered colonnade in front of a red wall — on the other side of that wall the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) board was in a budget session addressing a $28.1 million loss of revenue due to enrollment decline and eyeing an estimated gap of $78 million for the 2022–2023 school year.

The rally was organized by Seattle Education Association (SEA) leadership in conjunction with the Special Education PTSA (SEPTSA). The protest was in response to word that there would be 50 schools affected by special education staffing adjustments — which SEPTSA reported on their blog. With the slogan “Needs Before Numbers,” the speakers at the rally criticized the impact of these moves at specific schools and a general lack of parent and teacher involvement in staffing decisions. Attendees also questioned whether a disproportionate amount of the 3,440 students that have left the district since 2019 were receiving appropriate special education services.

Tess Bath, a special education instructional assistant at Highland Park’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program, addressed the crowd warmly. “It’s really nice to be here with all y’all. We’ve been crying a lot and it feels really healing to just share space.” The start of the 2021–2022 school year, on the heels of two COVID-disrupted years, has been brutal on educators, and Bath read from a letter she’d sent to the district about how disruptive staffing changes can be in her line of work. “SEL is built on consistent and trusting relationships. To sever those would alter the very foundation of our program and our ability to do our jobs and serve our students … They deserve to have enough support to meet their IEP [Individual Education Program] goals, access their LRE [Least Restrictive Environment], and be seen as a priority by their school district.”

The disruption that occurs when a single educator is required to leave their school and the relationships they’ve built is incalculable. But given the context of a pandemic, a massive budget shortfall, and a special education system that favors white students, some have expressed doubts about the timing of this rally, and the information that catalyzed it. 

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OPINION: Education, Mentorship Key Part of Getting Latinx Youth Excited About STEM

by Rafa Díaz


My story is one that isn’t often heard in the tech world. I grew up in Huayacocotla, a small Indigenous town in the mountains in Mexico. When I was 5, my mother — who was an elementary school teacher — moved me and my three sisters to La Guerrero, one of the most underprivileged neighborhoods in Mexico City. Resources were scarce, and kids were easy targets for violence and many other social problems. 

Thankfully, education was a force that shielded me from violence and, eventually, allowed me to flourish. Growing up, I was always interested in math, and my passion led me to multiple gold medals in Mathematical Olympiads in school.

Despite the barriers facing me, I was able to overcome challenges like racism, lack of knowledge about the opportunities available to me, and my own imposter syndrome. But I didn’t overcome these challenges alone. There are many factors that led me to where I am today — a software engineer at Google working on products like Google Meet — including mentors, access to a good education, and my love of math and problem-solving. I’m here today thanks to mi comunidad. 

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New Maritime High School Offers Project-Based Learning for Ninth Graders

by Chamidae Ford


On Sept. 2, Maritime High School opened its doors to its first class of ninth graders. The new project-based-learning high school is located in the Highline school district and is a recent addition to the five other career-focused high schools in the district. 

At Maritime High School, “Student learning will center on the environment, marine science, and maritime careers working on or near the water,” as stated in the school’s mission

Although the high school is just now opening its doors, it has been in discussion and development for nearly two years, having been slowed down by the pandemic. Maritime High School is a partnership between The Port of Seattle, Northwest Maritime Center, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, and Highline Public Schools.

Stephanie Burns, the program director at Maritime High School, mentioned in an interview with the Emerald that the school was a long time coming, given our region’s vibrant maritime community. 

“There’ve been conversations in this region for a long time about the need for a maritime high school. And a couple of years ago, one of the commissioners for the Port of Seattle, Ryan Calkins, started driving the idea of creating a maritime high school,” Burns said. “It would be committed to supporting workforce development for the maritime industry. It would be committed to equity and access to the maritime industry because historically it hasn’t been very representative. Then also really addressing some of our big challenges and problems around climate change and environment and those sort of aspects of our communities.”

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