Kyle Stokes

Youth & Education Reporter

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.

Kyle joined KPLU after nearly three years covering education in Bloomington, Ind., where he helped launch a reporting collaboration between NPR and member station WFIU. His work for that project, called StateImpact Indiana, earned him a National Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), along with recognitions from the Online News Association and Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI).

Kyle earned his degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. He worked in Columbia, Mo., as a producer for NPR member station KBIA and a reporter for NBC affiliate KOMU. He graduated in 2011.

The Minneapolis native is hopelessly devoted to his Minnesota Twins — sorry, M's fans. Try your luck hooking him on the Sounders, though.

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Election 2014
5:00 am
Thu October 30, 2014

With McCleary Mandate Looming, Will Wash. Class Size Initiative Help Or Hurt?

Kyle Stokes KPLU

If a recent poll is any indication, Washington voters appear poised to again pass a ballot initiative that calls for steeply reducing public school class sizes, this time by hiring more than 7,000 teachers over the next four years.

Voters passed a similar measure in 2000 that had little effect. Lawmakers repealed it two years ago and the state's student-to-teacher ratio remains one of the nation's largest.

But the group behind that 2000 class-size initiative has urged voters to reject this year's version, Initiative 1351. The group joins skeptical lawmakers and newspaper editorial boards who fear a class size-reduction measure would complicate their task of meeting a state Supreme Court order to pump another $2 billion into the state's K-12 budget. 

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School Shootings
5:00 am
Wed October 29, 2014

How School Security Has Changed Since Columbine, And How It's Stayed The Same

Students arriving at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky embrace an unidentified adult on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1997.
Mark Humphrey AP Photo

Seventeen years ago, Bill Bond was the principal at a small high school in western Kentucky that was rocked by a school shooting. It happened before the term "school shooting" had even entered the national conscience.

The Columbine massacre was still a year and a half away when a 14-year-old freshman at Heath High School entered the lobby in Dec. 1997 and opened fire, killing three fellow students and wounding five more. The shooter eventually surrendered to Bond, who says it all happened "right in front of him."

"People are going to want a solution" to prevent shootings like at Heath or Marysville-Pilchuck High School last week, Bond said. "But there's not a perfect, simple solution there. The solutions are hard."

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Schools & LGBT Issues
5:00 am
Wed October 22, 2014

Highline Schools The Latest Wash. District To Consider Transgender Student Policy

A bathroom to accommodate transgender students at Kent State University in Ohio.
Mark Stahl AP Photo

Where should a transgender student in a public school use the restroom? In which locker room should the student shower or change clothes? And how should a teacher refer to a student: as a he, a she, or neither?

The Highline Public Schools Board will vote Wednesday night on a new, formal set of guidelines to help staff answer these questions.

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Election 2014
5:00 am
Wed October 22, 2014

Seattle Leaders Hope 'Magic Sauce' Will Guarantee 'Quality' In Proposed Pre-K Plan

Genesee Early Learning Center teacher Chanel Priel, center, helps two students as they draw "blueprints" for the pretend construction company their class has been running. It's part of the school's 'play-based' approach to preschool.
Kyle Stokes KPLU

Seattle's elected leaders can hardly describe the proposed preschool pilot program at the heart of Proposition 1B without using the phrase "high-quality."

City education officials frequently invoke these words when speaking about their desire to pass a four-year, $58 million property tax hike to not only cover preschool tuition for as many as 2,000 low-income kids, but to ensure these children receive the greatest possible benefit from the program.

But amid a broader debate over whether voters ought to choose the city's plan over a competing childcare initiative, Proposition 1A, a smaller debate has roiled among early educators: What exactly constitutes "high-quality" preschool?

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Standardized Testing
3:10 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Four Red Flags Found In One Seattle School's Now-Invalidated Test Results

File image
Wes Chapman Flickr

Someone altered test responses at Seattle's Beacon Hill International School in a way that significantly increased the elementary school's test scores. State education officials have now thrown out the entire school's results after noting "heavy erasure" marks on the test forms.

Whatever the reason for the alterations — both Seattle Public Schools and the state aren't using the word "cheating" — the changes produced some pretty startling test results, as a state analysis shows:

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Standardized Testing
4:11 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Suspicious Test Results At Seattle Elementary Thrown Out As State, District Investigate

Carol VanHook Flickr

Washington state education officials have thrown out all standardized test scores at Seattle's Beacon Hill International School after a review found "heavy erasures" in the test booklets, district officials said in a letter to the school's parents and staff Tuesday.

State officials think "the test responses were altered in such a way as to significantly increase total scores," Interim Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland wrote in his letter.

High numbers of the erasure marks made from students changing wrong answers to right ones could indicate cheating, according to education experts. That said, there can also be legitimate, innocent explanations for these stray marks.

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Tacoma Public Schools
5:00 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Tacoma District Sues Lincoln High Staffers Who Allege School 'Cherry-Picks' Students

Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Tacoma Public Schools officials recently filed suit against a teacher and two guidance counselors at Lincoln High School, alleging the staff members violated privacy laws designed to keep student records confidential.

An attorney for the educators says her clients have broken no privacy laws. She says the district's lawsuit is retaliation for the staffers going public with concerns the school's scheduling practices are pushing too many students out of Lincoln and into alternative school settings.

But district officials say the practice, which attorney Joan Mell and her clients disparagingly call "cherry-picking," is part of a coordinated effort to ensure the district's most vulnerable students can graduate from high school.

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Seattle Public Schools
11:23 am
Wed October 8, 2014

District Settles With Parents Of Garfield High Student Who Alleged Sexual Assault

At a Seattle School Board hearing on Aug. 20, 2014, a dozen protesters hold signs decrying Seattle Public Schools' response to 2012 allegations of sexual assault by a former Garfield High School student.
Kyle Stokes KPLU

Seattle Public Schools officials have reached a settlement agreement with the family of a Garfield High School student who alleged she was sexually assaulted during an overnight school trip in 2012, the district announced Wednesday.

As part of a $700,000 settlement agreement, the parents have agreed to dismiss complaints they'd filed with state and federal officials, and to not pursue "monetary claims" against the district and to stop filing public records requests with the district, according to a Seattle Public Schools statement.

"Our goal was to not have this happen again to another family that would have to live through this trauma," said the Garfield student's father in an interview. (KPLU is withholding the family's name to protect the privacy of the student, who's still a minor.)

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Seattle Early Ed Vote
1:24 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

On The Heels Of Opponent's Ads, Seattle-Backed Prop. 1B Launches Own TV Ads

Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess, former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and current mayor Ed Murray attend a a press conference to promote the city-endorsed preschool pilot program in July. Rice is featured in a new campaign ad for the proposal.
Kyle Stokes KPLU

The city-backed campaign to pass a preschool proposal on Seattle's November ballot has announced its first television advertising buy just a day after an opposing, union-backed campaign hit the airwaves with ads of its own.

Organizers for a campaign to pass Proposition 1B — a plan to hike property taxes to pay some low-income students preschool tuition — unveiled two TV spots Tuesday as part of a "six-figure," week-long ad buy. One of the ads features former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice.

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Seattle Early Ed Vote
3:37 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Childcare Campaign To Air TV Ads During Monday Night Seahawks Game

Backers of the Yes for Early Success campaign, whose favored ballot initiative appears on Seattle's November ballot as Proposition 1A, hold a press conference in July.
Kyle Stokes KPLU

Supporters of a campaign to raise wages and create a training program for Seattle's childcare workers are hitting the airwaves, unveiling a commercial that will air during one of the city's most-watched television events: Monday night's Seahawks game.

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Seattle Public Schools
5:00 am
Mon October 6, 2014

10 Seattle Schools Most Likely To Be Affected By District's Boundary Shift

A screenshot of a Seattle Public Schools map showing that more than 100 students who currently live in the attendance areas of Highland Park and Sanislo elementaries will fall into Concord International Elementary School's boundary next year.
Credit Courtesy of Seattle Public Schools

Seattle Public Schools officials will hold a series of public meetings this week to inform parents of another shift in attendance boundaries set to take place next school year, potentially impacting more than 1,100 students at 25 district elementary schools.

The changes are part of a bigger plan. A package approved by Seattle School Board members last year calls for annual, incremental shifts in the attendance boundaries until 2020, all with the aim of finding enough space for a burgeoning student population in new or recently-expanded schools.

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Seattle Public Schools
9:38 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

State Freezes Part Of Seattle's Special Ed Funding As District Takes Step To Improve

Lynne Sladky AP Photo

State education officials have raised the stakes in Seattle Public Schools' efforts to improve services for the district's most vulnerable students, recently announcing they will hold back $3 million in federal funding until the district can get its troubled special education department back on track.

On Wednesday night, the Seattle School Board members took a step toward potentially getting that funding back, hiring an outside firm to help district officials implement a plan to fix its special education offerings.

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Transportation
5:00 am
Fri September 26, 2014

King County Bus Service Cuts, Stop Closures Begin This Weekend

Atomic Taco Flickr

The first wave of what could be the largest service cut in King County Metro Transit history begins Saturday.

Buses will stop running along 28 routes — a half-dozen of which run within Seattle and another dozen that connects outlying communities with the city center. Service will decrease or change on another 13 routes.

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Washington Dream Act
5:00 am
Thu September 25, 2014

'Dream Act' Makes Undocumented Students Eligible For Already-Strained Aid Program

University of Washington freshman Carlos Escutia, who is undocumented and received a state need grant to help cover his college costs, carries his younger sister up the stairs of his new dorm.
Martha Kang KPLU

Fall classes began at many of Washington's public universities Wednesday, beginning the first term undocumented immigrant students can receive state-backed financial aid under a new state law.

But while more than 2,000 students applied to receive state need grants under provisions of the newly-enacted Washington "Dream Act," state higher education officials say it's possible as many as 700 of these undocumented students won't receive an aid award at all — even if they're eligible.

It's not just undocumented students who will miss out. Though state expenditures on the program have ballooned as tuition costs get higher, there isn't enough funding for the state need grant program to offer aid to every eligible Washington student.

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Washington Dream Act
5:00 am
Wed September 24, 2014

New Generation Of Undocumented Students Starts College Under Wash. 'Dream Act'

"It's nice knowing you're not forgotten just because of where you were born," says incoming UW freshman Carlos Escutia, who is undocumented.
Martha Kang KPLU

Move-in day at the University of Washington is a jumble of boxes and emotions for incoming freshman Carlos Escutia.

"I'm so happy I get to move in first. I get to pick the bed," he says, grinning and carrying a bedspread into his new dorm room. 

For the past 15 years, Escutia's family has worked hard in hopes of celebrating days like this. His parents left Mexico when Escutia was 3, dreaming of better lives and better education for their children. Going to a four-year college has always been Escutia's goal.

A year ago, it wasn't even clear the Lynnwood High School grad would make it to this day. As an undocumented immigrant, Escutia didn't qualify for government loans to cover his college costs. He'd have to apply for competitive private scholarships and hope for the best.

Then the state legislature passed the "Dream Act," granting many undocumented high school graduates access to state-funded college grants. Escutia was among the first to apply, and he is now part of the state's first wave of so-called "dreamers" to start classes.

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