Our Northwest Matters blog discusses ideas and innovations in education from a Northwest perspective. Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

Claudia Rodriguez-Mojica November 19, 2014
In the classroom, the ability of students to provide explanations while talking to the teacher is an important skill. I looked closely at what English learners are able to do with their emerging English in a school setting while I was working on my dissertation in California. Among my findings, I found that when situations called for students to provide an explanation, the teacher wasn’t always...
Hella Bel Hadj Amor November 6, 2014
When you approach a district with a request to conduct research or receive data, you probably won’t be the first. Districts are likely to have a process for managing requests, especially districts like DC Public Schools where I used to manage this process and everyone wants to do research. The request process is not in place to bug or discourage you but to follow laws and regulations. (Heard of...
Hella Bel Hadj Amor November 5, 2014
When I led the data and research request process at DC Public Schools, I heard a range of arguments from researchers who wanted to conduct research or receive data. Some were funny, others outrageous. That’s why I am writing an introduction on how to do this right. Believe it or not, doing research in a school district is not primarily about researchers. The best way to start is by thinking about...
Jason Greenberg Motamedi October 22, 2014
English learners entering high school have to learn both English and grade-level content to begin accumulating credits to graduate. Unfortunately, in many cases, English language development courses do not provide the necessary credits. So how are students supposed to graduate if their required classes don’t count? Highline and Seattle Public Schools had a solution to this problem: Give kids...
Michael Magone October 8, 2014
As most folks know, Montana is geographically large. As a result, it’s not always easy to attend conferences across the state. For that reason, many districts provide practical and closer-to-home options for employees to obtain training to fulfill their required in-service hours. Several years ago Lolo School District, a small district 10 miles outside Missoula, launched the “book discussion”...
Steve Fleischman October 1, 2014
Have you seen The Maze Runner ? Here is a spoiler alert. I have not, so don’t read any further if you’re looking to learn more about this popular movie or book series. Sorry. However, hearing about the movie reminded me how much the effort to improve low-performing schools feels like trying to get through a maze. We know what we want at the other end of school improvement: students who can...
Nancy Henry September 24, 2014
As a former teacher, I often run into adults I taught years ago when they were children and marvel at what they’ve achieved. Sometimes my mind scrambles, though, to square the confident, accomplished person in front of me with the child who struggled to write an expository paragraph or make sense of a reading. Why do some young people overcome initial challenges, do well in school, and go on to...
Danette Parsley September 17, 2014
Do you all remember the classic “Now & Later” chewy candy? After having gone many years without popping one of those tasty morsels in my mouth, I thought about the candy as I began to write this post about Education Northwest’s school improvement approach, called Success Now! In this data-rich era of accountability, schools are increasingly called upon to zero in on improving classroom...
Bill Keim September 10, 2014
In education, we are always hearing about research that points out a strong negative correlation between poverty and student achievement. In other words, the greater level of poverty, the lower the level of achievement. That’s not always the case. As I pointed out in an article for the WASA Hotline newsletter and on my own blog , there is good news in Washington state’s recently released...
Claire Gates August 27, 2014
When I started at Education Northwest, I never imagined I would be making trips to Pacific islands to lead math workshops. I made my third trip this past July to the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) along with my colleague, Malkeet Singh , to do a series of four-day workshops. In our first two trips to CNMI, we worked mainly with middle and high school teachers, but this time, the...
Steve Fleischman August 13, 2014
Like many educators, I try to take time in the summer to reflect and recharge. For many of you, a new school year is about to begin—or already has. For others, the summer break will last just a few more weeks. I know that when I taught, this was when I asked myself, “How can I do better by my students this year?” It’s a tough question, because great teachers are only one of the many things...
Hella Bel Hadj Amor July 29, 2014
It’s easy to understand why teachers are not always thrilled when they learn their district is considering using value-added models to help evaluate their effectiveness. One concern teachers may have about any system that rates them based on their students’ performance is, What if, by design or luck of the draw, they teach many students who are academically challenged by factors beyond the...
Richard Melo July 16, 2014
What I remember most from when my kid was starting kindergarten is the anxiety. We didn’t know the school as well as we would have liked, didn’t know the staff, or even the name of our son’s teacher. The orientation materials arrived in the mail just before the school year started and didn’t answer all our questions. Perhaps our biggest concern was that we didn’t know how our son would react in a...
Steve Fleischman July 1, 2014
This summer, we observe the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. My grandfather fought in that war. One of my most prized possessions is a commemorative picture of him (he’s on the right) and his friend, taken just before they left for the front. What always struck me in the picture are the flowers that my grandfather placed in his uniform and cap, as symbols of life and hope. My...
Joyce Harris June 18, 2014
This year, on July 2, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. For me, as director of the Region X Equity Assistance Center, it is another landmark because the Equity Assistance Centers were created in the Civil Rights Act as Desegregation Assistance Centers. That means this is our 50th anniversary as well. It’s also been a half century since the 1964...
Rhonda Barton June 4, 2014
Is there a recipe for a “super teacher” when it comes to helping English language learner (ELL) students develop academic English skills? That question is important throughout the nation, as the proportion of ELL students has climbed by almost 64 percent from 1994–95 to 2009–10. During the same 15-year period, the ELL population grew by 46 percent in the Northwest. Complicating the challenge is...
Steve Fleischman May 27, 2014
Does our fear of failure stifle our creativity and innovation? Focusing on failure may seem like an odd way to inaugurate a blog on strengthening schools and communities. But failure is a significant and everyday fact of life. As the pizza lovers among you might know, one major takeout chain has even made “failure is an option” the catch phrase of its latest advertising campaign. This made me...