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Protect those noggins!

Children’s brains are constantly growing and developing. As such, they are more sensitive and easily damaged than adult brains — and their concussions are much more serious. The same impact or force can do more damage to children and teen brains than adult brains. And, it can also take them longer to heal.

So when children receive head injuries, it is very important for them to rest, recover and see a medical professional, even if the impact seems minor. Concussions are of especially high prevalence during sports games like soccer and football.

The need to stop and treat concussions can run up against the mentality for children to “be tough” or “shake it off” and get back in the game. But not attending to a concussion immediately can have devastating, life-long effects on a child – like Zackary Lystedt.

When Zack was 13, he was playing in a football game and suffered a head injury during a tackle. He came off the field, but only for three plays. After the game, Zack collapsed and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center. He spent the following year unable to move or speak and the next three years unable to walk.

But Zack was determined to make sure this didn’t happen to other children. Thanks to the efforts of concerned lawmakers and Zack’s family and attorney, Washington state passed the Zackary Lystedt Law requiring that children who are suspected of having a concussion be removed from play. The children are then not able to return to practice or play until they have been evaluated by a medical professional.

Zackary Lystedt with his parents and Governor Chris Gregoire after the bill signing.

Zackary’s story received national attention, and Washington’s landmark law paved the way for other states to pass laws protecting children and teens from serious brain damage from concussions. This year, all 50 states have now passed laws addressing concussions in youth sports!

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Legislative Scholar Program wraps up in Olympia

legislative scholar programWhile most students are out of school enjoying their summer break, many teachers are using this time to further develop their skills and create lesson plans for the upcoming school year.

One of the many ways teachers can increase their state government knowledge and create new lesson plans is through the Washington State Legislative Scholar Program.

The scholar program is a week-long workshop held every July for civics, social studies, history, and government teachers in Washington. The workshop provides hands-on lessons about how state government operates.

Through mock committee exercises, guest presentations, lesson planning, and discussions with lawmakers, educators increase their knowledge of civic education and bring these experiences back to their classrooms.

The scholar program is a unique professional development opportunity for teachers, but don’t take our word for it.

“This is by far the best training I’ve had on government. It was so comprehensive, so detailed, and so useful to me as a classroom teacher that I will recommend it highly to my fellow teachers without hesitation.”

-Anthony Long, A.C. Davis High School, Yakima

Click here to see more photos of this year’s Legislative Scholar Program on our Facebook page.

Visit the Washington State Legislature page to learn more about the program.

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STEM grads finding varied job prospects

A report released earlier this month by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that only about a quarter of recent STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates wind up working in STEM jobs.

Obviously, educators, legislators, and employers themselves ought to stop all this cheerleading for STEM courses and focus instead on more high-demand fields. Right?

Not so fast. Like most things that appear simple on the surface, this bears a little additional scrutiny. It turns out that, yes, the headline is technically accurate: 1 in 4. But dig a bit deeper and it seems that STEM grads, with the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired, are doing very well in the job market.

It appears that a significant reason that three of four end up outside the strictly defined STEM field is not that there aren’t enough STEM jobs available; it’s because these grads are in demand across a wide spectrum of occupations.

They can, in other words, pick and choose, and as a result have one of the lowest unemployment rates of any major. Thinking critically, analyzing and understanding complex data, problem-solving, and decision-making are decidedly STEM-related abilities, and they’re valued in almost every career field.

The chart reproduced below shows who’s working in STEM and STEM-related jobs, and in addition offers a clear look at the relative underrepresentation of women in the field — a situation that many members of the House Democratic Caucus are working to address.

But for a far more detailed view of STEM vs. non-STEM employment figures, including demographics, someone at the Census Bureau – apparently someone with a triple-major in statistics, computer science, and visual art – has created an amazing interactive graphic that answers almost every conceivable question one might have about the value of STEM education.

Take several looks.

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Get ahead of the curve in back-to-school prep

20130603_LegWA_4790shCalling all moms, dads, and guardians – especially parents of kindergartners and first-graders eagerly awaiting the 2014-2015 school year. Most all of Washington’s public and private classrooms will reopen in a month or so.

School and school-district websites, of course, are already accepting your clicks, and school offices should be taking your calls and welcoming your visits any day now.

Rookie school-parents naturally have a ton of questions, the topmost generally involving age and immunization requirements. By midnight August 31, Washington children must be at least five years old to enter kindergarten, and six years old to start first grade. For information about exceptions that allow early admission, check with your school-district headquarters or the private-school office.

These websites — WAC 392-335-010, WAC 392-335-015, and WAC 392-335-025 — feature additional, legal information on age-requirement exceptions and fees for preadmission screening. Click me to obtain information about approved private schools here in the Evergreen State.

Talk with your school district about the specific documentation you’ll need to show. As a rule, you’ll be asked for your child’s birth certificate, immunization record, medical needs, and any previous school records, as well as your address and emergency-contact information.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is a terrific online resource.

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The 2014 Kids Count report is out; Washington is a mixed bag

Each year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation releases its Kids Count Data Book, which contains information on the state of children in the United States. The 2014 edition reports some good—and some troubling—news about Washington’s children.

On the up side, we gained a spot over the course of one year; our overall rank went from 19 in 2013 to 18 in this year’s report. And over the past few years we’ve made slight but important improvements in both education and health, the latter as a result of programs like Apple Health.

But our ranking in economic well-being has slipped. 19 percent of our kids (about 288,000 children) are living in poverty, up from 15 percent in 2005. We are still seeing the effects of the recession and must really work to improve these indicators and create better outcomes for Washington’s youngest residents.
 Nieto, Lilia

For more information:
• The Washington State Budget & Policy Center’s blog, Schmudget, has a great post about the 2014 Kids Count report.
• To see how other states are doing, go to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s website for national and state-by-state data.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation was established in 1948. Its primary mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families.

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