From one Washington to the other, discussion heats up on school discipline, the federal role in public education, and whether Washington state should lower the passing score that high-school students need on graduation tests.

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No vacation from education debates in this state, or in the other Washington.

From one coast to the other:  Lots of talk about school discipline

 School discipline, as many Education Lab readers know, has been our biggest theme this year.   One reason is that it’s a big topic nationally as well as locally. This week, there were interesting discussions on this coast, and the opposite one:  Late last week in Seattle, Oakland educators shared their lessons in reducing out-of-school suspensions by 47 percent. Then, on Wednesday, the White House hosted a school-discipline summit, expressing dismay over the fact that more than 3 million students are suspended or expelled nationally each year.

Here’s Education Week’s coverage of the summit, which includes maps that show suspensions are most concentrated in the Southeast.

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In the other Washington:  Two bills to replace No Child Left Behind

The House and Senate now have both passed bills to replace the unpopular No Child Left Behind law, with widely varying visions of the future. Here’s an analysis of the differences by Education Week, and a similar, but more concise chart from the Fordham Institute.

Whatever happens, a new law could get Washington state out of a very weird space, where schools have to live by rules that everyone agrees are  flawed, even the U.S. Department of Education, which is enforcing them here.

One intriguing note: Both the House and Senate bills expressly prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from coercing states to use the Common Core learning standards, which cover reading and math. Since most states are already using them – would they stop?

Meanwhile, in this Washington:

A group of state lawmakers met Tuesday to discuss what they should say to the state Supreme Court about their progress in meeting the requirements of the court’s McCleary school-funding decision.  Even some legislative leaders don’t expect the justices to be happy.  So what’s next?  Sanctions, possibly.  But this is very new ground for the court, and no one knows what the justices might do.

Other interesting stories from here and across the nation:

  •  In The News Tribune, reporter Melissa Santos highlighted the unintended consequences of a 1995 law that sought to help runaways and curb truancy, but has ended up putting many students in juvenile detention.
  • While the U.S. angsts over our students’ math skill, here’s one bright note: the U.S. team just won a big international math competition.
  •  Washington isn’t the only state with school-funding issues.  This Chalkbeat Tennessee story sounds hauntingly familiar:  “While Tennessee taxpayers spend around $6 billion a year on education — which should be split about 50-50 between state and local revenue — around $4 billion currently is being paid by local governments.”

Upcoming debate on state graduation tests:

The State Board of Education, concerned about how many students may fail the state’s new, more difficult tests, is considering lowering the scores students must get to earn their diplomas. (Update with a little more context:  A passing score on the tests is a 3.  The board may set a lower score for students to graduate,  so about the same number of students get over that bar as in the past.)  Beth Sigall, of the Eastside Education Network, thinks that’s a bad idea. To find out more, and to let the state board know what you think, go here.

 Finally, from you:  One of the  52 comments  in a spirited discussion sparked by a post on high-school start times:

Emily M wrote:   “I agree that good parenting is key, but there has been a mountain of research that shows that in teen brains, melatonin production frequently doesn’t begin until 11 p.m. and continues until 7 or 8 a.m. depending on the teenager … I was always in bed on time as a teenager and still struggled with extreme sleepiness in first period throughout all of high school.”

Thoughts, ideas, comments on Education Lab?  Send them to lshaw@seattletimes.com