Education Update: 4/15/2015

Ingram HS Seattle WA Washington

Education Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.

All-day kindergarten, smaller classes challenge for schools

The Associated Press reports on Washington State public schools and the struggle to find more classroom space to accommodate Court-and-voter-mandated lowered class sizes. The 2012 State Supreme Court Case, commonly known as the McCleary Decision, ruled in favor of the plaintiff claiming that the State was neglecting its constitutional duty to provide adequate K-12 education to all pupils in Washington. To meet the requirements imposed by the Court over 5,500 classrooms will need to be added throughout 261 districts in the state, at a cost of $2 billion, according to OSPI Director of School Facilities and Organization Gordon Beck. This estimate does not include provisions for meeting the lower student-to-teacher ratio initiative 1351, approved last fall. Districts like Highline School District, just south of Seattle, who failed to pass a super-majority bond, are now forced to find the extra space in portables and re-purposing auxiliary spaces.

 Real World Math: A bit of Trig and Hay for the Horses

NPR reports on Colorado teachers who uses agricultural manufacturing to help teach real world applications of math to meet new common core standards. In rural Oak Creek, Colo., agriculture teacher Jay Whaley has teamed up with math teacher Maggie Bruski on a project-based learning effort in which students produce their own giant steel bale feeders. The octagonal steel-tube frame requires precise measurements and welding skills, forcing students to be exact in their equations. “It’s different to see how the math you are doing in class relates to real life. It definitely made it so there was a purpose in doing the math, not just to get numbers,” said student Kendall Hood.

If Walls Could Talk: What Lead Is Doing To Our Students

NPR reports on a new study linking tangible gains in student achievement to reduced lead exposure. Lead, which even in low levels can negatively impact cognitive development and performance in children, became prevalent throughout the United States after the Second World War. It wasn’t until the 1970s, after it had been incorporated into gasoline, cars, paints, and a host of other products, did data emerge leading to its ban in most applications. Researcher Jessica Wolpaw Reyes has been studying the links between lead exposure levels and performance on tests and has found that in Massachusettes, “if lead had stayed at 1990 levels, unsatisfactory performance statewide would have been 5 percent higher.”

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