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Saturday, February 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Education

The 2010s in review: Schools faced tragedy, expansion and budget drama

Dingnitaries break ground on the new Shaw Middle School during a ceremony on Oc. 1, 2019, in Spokane. In 2018, Spokane voters approved a $495 million school bond that will add three new middle schools and replace three others, including Shaw. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Dingnitaries break ground on the new Shaw Middle School during a ceremony on Oc. 1, 2019, in Spokane. In 2018, Spokane voters approved a $495 million school bond that will add three new middle schools and replace three others, including Shaw. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

In Spokane, the state and the rest of the nation, it was an exciting, tumultuous decade for education.

New schools were built and new standards enacted even as educators were challenged by violence and the vaping epidemic and curriculum changes – ensuring another interesting decade ahead.

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights in education from 2010 through 2019.

Violence in schools (2010-19)

For the people of Spokane, Sept. 13, 2017, is the day when school shootings ceased to be just a problem for other communities. That’s the morning when one student was killed and three wounded by an attacker at Freeman High School. Along with other incidents around the nation, the Freeman shootings have sparked debate over school security and whether or not armed professionals should be placed in schools.

As the decade ended, many districts had placed armed professionals in schools. However, the issue remains divisive in Spokane following the release of the Safe Havens report that asked the district to consider the option.

Kindergarten, all day, every day (2013)

Five years ago, in 2014, the state of Washington required that districts offer full-day kindergarten. Spokane Public Schools did so a year earlier at all 34 elementary schools.

It was a trendsetting decision. After decades of half-day kindergarten, Washington is the only state west of the Rockies and one of just 15 in the nation that mandates all-day kindergarten. Studies indicate that on average, children in full-day programs gain more than 12% in reading assessments and 10% in math over peers from half-day kindergarten.

The McCleary decision (2012-19)

The long and winding road of the McCleary court case hit home in the summer of 2018 at every school district in the state. The Washington state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the state wasn’t fully funding public education, but it wasn’t until six years later that the court lifted a contempt order and declared that its orders were being followed.

However, changes in the funding model coupled with significant boosts in employee compensation led to major budget problems in Spokane and other districts. As the decade ends, expect more tweaks to that model.

Graduation rates rise but test scores stagnate (2015-19)

In Spokane and the rest of the nation, high-schoolers are graduating at ever-higher rates. However, there has been less progress in some standardized test scores, especially for younger students.

Spokane-area high schools continue to overachieve, with 90% or more graduating at Ferris, North Central, Lakeside, West Valley, Medical Lake, Freeman, Cheney, Mead, Mt. Spokane, Liberty and Deer Park high schools.

At the same time, results released recently from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, showed flat or declining test scores among two of its major test groups, fourth- and eighth graders.

Vaping scourge hampers learning (2016-19)

In Washington and the rest of the nation, the incidence of teenage vaping reached epidemic proportions during the last three years.

From 2016 to 2018, vaping nearly doubled among the state’s sixth- and eighth-graders. One-third of high school seniors admitted to vaping in the previous 30 days. The problem has proved elusive and has diverted resources. Schools continue to grapple with the issue – some by imposing fines, others through education and preventive measures.

Building for the future (2018)

The idea was bold and proved attractive to voters. In 2018, Spokane Public Schools, the city of Spokane and Spokane Public Library collaborated on a series of land swaps and a pair of historic bond measures.

Both passed easily: a $495 million school bond that will add three new middle schools and replace three others; numerous other improvements and enhanced library facilities throughout the city.

Central Valley decides to add third high school (2018)

In 2018, voters in the Central Valley School District overwhelmingly approved a request for a new tax to pay for the construction of a new high school. Ground was broken in Liberty Lake on the future Ridgeline High School in August on land that previously served as the Spokane Gun Club.

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