Area Wide Series



Issues in Education

We take a look at some of the broader issues facing schools in West Michigan and beyond.  Read the whole series

‘The Culture Has Changed’

After being placed on a list of low-achieving schools in 2010, the district's high school swung into action. Now, some of its practices are being studied as models of improvements for other districts. From its lowest point in the 14th percentile

Education Nominee Generates Concerns And Hopes for Future

As someone who taught for 25 years, is the daughter of teachers and married one, Mary Bouwense’s life has been steeped in public schooling. So she was appalled when President Donald Trump, in his inaugural address

Finding True North

Brandi Pilcher knew she was going in the wrong direction, but didn't know how to change course. That is, until she found her north star. As a teenager in Louisiana, Pilcher by her own admission made bad decisions, lacked education

Nurturing the In-between Years

Seventh-grader Cydney Hansma is a girl in constant motion. At her desk, she rhythmically taps her feet and pencil, and rocks her chair back on two legs. In the hallway, she walks fast from one class to the other, often stopping to hug

Keeping the ‘Monster’ Out and Students in Class

Truancy and chronic absenteeism have been described by educators as "the monster at the door." Kent ISD school districts are trying to ensure the monster stays out with new attendance rules this year. Students with higher absenteeism perform lower

More Issues...



GRPS_Morse_1_thumb.jpgRockstar Teachers

There's just something about certain teachers that draws students to them in droves and keeps them checking in years, even decades later. Here, we highlight some of these rockstars of the classroom. Read the whole series

Respect and Relationships Build Bonds with Students

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Bill Kennedy's AP Government class kicks off as it does on most days: with video news footage. Today it's a story about a Defense Department study buried by the Pentagon

He Pushes Students to Excel, with Pushups and ‘Geronimo!’

When it comes to encouraging students to give it their all, band director Troy Anderson says take the leap and yell "Geronimo!" By that he means hold nothing back. Blow those horns and pound those drums with gusto

TK2Farts_series_cotton_band_5_thumb.pngState of the Arts: Learning's Overlooked Ally

Educators have long recognized the value of music, art, drama and writing for students' creative development and academic success. Yet the arts remain squeezed by tight budgets and test-driven performance standards. This series highlights efforts to protect and promote school arts programs:  Read the whole series

Revived Program Attracts Student Artists, Musicians

From imaginative paintings and sculptures to soothing songs and a silky sax solo, Union High and Westwood Middle school students recently shared their artistic talents at the third annual Westside Celebration of the Arts

Speaking Poetry Helps Students Share their Hearts

Katie Mitchell could have picked from a range of interesting topics to share with classmates, but she choose the one closest to her heart. The Crossroads Middle School eighth-grader picked tragedy. As part of a spoken-word poetry workshop


Special Education SeriesReaching Every Child: What's New in Special Education

A series on special education in Kent County. School News Network will take readers into classrooms around the area to shine a light on new approaches to teaching students with physical and mental disabilities.  Read the whole series

‘A Chance to Have a Meaningful Life’

Dutton Elementary School second-grader Daniel Donaldson uses pictures and words on his talker to say what he needs to say. "The device gives me the chance to participate with the rest of the class and share the things I'm doing over the weekend"

‘They Learn by Music’

A drum beat echoes down the halls of Sparta's Appleview Elementary. The source: a boisterous bunch of musicians keeping a beat and dancing to the rhythm. Students with cognitive impairments from across the district are stepping in line


Hidden Pain: Bringing Youth Mental Health Out of The Shadows

This series focuses on students' mental health, the sources of their distress, and how schools and communities can help. Read the whole series

A Friend’s Message on Suicide: ‘This is For Real’

Before the opening credits to a film about suicide, freshman Noah McGee took the stage at Cedar Springs High School to share his painful, personal experience with such tragedy

Helping with Stress at the Holidays

When Karen Hoekstra was in high school, there was no "be nice" committee, and talking about mental illness just didn't happen, she said. "Had there been those sort of programs they have here today, it would have saved me a decade


Places of Refuge

This series focuses on refugee students and their journeys, their new lives and hopes for a future in West Michigan, and the many ways schools and community organizations are working to meet their needs.  Read the whole series

Thanks to English Tutoring, ‘I Can Learn a Lot of Things’

Tutoring from Ann Hoffman, has been crucial for Rose Sanreta, who could speak no English when she arrived here from Pakistan nearly two years ago. “She helps me a lot,” said Rose, a sophomore, in her family’s small apartment

Building a Dream Into Reality

I see the horror figures portrayed in the media. I flinch and glower at the images of helpless people, abandoned and alone, drowning in hatred, blood staining their bodies while marking them for dead. They're all refugees trying to grasp any crumbles

RNN_thumb.jpgThe Road To Reading

A series exploring some of the many reading activities you'll find in our schools, difficulties students may face while learning to read, as well as early childhood ties to literacy and new initiatives to help all children read. Read the whole series

Better Teaching for Better Readers

Before beginning a lesson on weather and climate at Kraft Meadows Middle School, Anita Archer took a moment to talk to each of the two dozen middle school students who sat before her, one at a time. She asked for their names

Calling All Senses: Help Me Read!

In a small room within the teacher's lounge, Southeast Elementary School fourth-grader Aubrianna Vernon focused on the consonant blend, "spr." With her index finger, she wrote the letters in the air, on a table and in sand spread

Linh_Le_3_thumb.jpgStudent Leaders

A series dedicated to students that go above and beyond to serve their school, peers and community. Read the whole series

High School Sideline: Organic Milk

It looks like big things are on the horizon for sophomore and Future Farmers of America member Shannon Good. Shannon is really no "future" farmer; she's already milking cows, driving tractors and cleaning stalls

This Eagle Scout and 3-point Shooter Gives His All

Kyle Bueche has done exceptional things. As an eighth-grader he was recognized by peers for his fabulous three-point shot in basketball. Now, as a junior, he has earned the top rank in Boy Scouting. Kyle, who has Down syndrome


Poverty_Series_Promo_thumb.jpgThe Burden of Poverty: A Backpack of Heartache

A series on poverty in the schools and how it affects students’ learning. We examine the problems poverty creates for students and their families and the schools and strategies that are helping disadvantaged students succeed. Read the whole series

Report: Are We Caring for Our Children? Not Well Enough

When Carol Paine-McGovern sees child poverty continuing to rise in Kent County, she takes some comfort in the work local schools and their communities are doing to relieve its burden on students

Wanted: A House We Can Afford

Dawn Broene is well aware of the challenges of finding affordable housing in the Lowell area. Breone, director of Flat River Outreach Ministries, said the organization's social worker hears from three to five families a week who are having trouble


Grads With Grit

A series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring. Read the whole series


‘A Better Life, a Safe Life, a Good Future’

In a swirling sea of students in red and white caps and gowns who were hugging family members and being photographed, Abdulhadi Aljazaeri stood tall with a beaming smile. In his hand he clutched something precious: a high school diploma

Unbreakable Spirit

A recent district grad who's lived his life with serious health problems is on his way to Harvard, an accomplishment that surprised even him. Justin Sydloski applied to four colleges and was accepted by the University of Michigan to study pre-med, then decided to apply to Harvard


Making Math Add Up

A series on the difficulties students have learning math, and what methods some schools and teachers are using with success. Read the whole series

Club Subtracts Fear from Math

Diamond Sparkman softly counts aloud as she measures the sides of a polygon displayed on a computer screen, trying to determine its area. “Seven times seven is 49,” she says, writing the equation on paper. Then she’s stuck. “Miss Kanoza, I need help,”

New Technology Helps Kindergartners with Math

Lakeside Elementary kindergartner Charlotte Kanaan stood beside teacher Shannon Mitchell and worked through a math problem, which her classmates could see thanks to a document camera that beamed her


Educating Migrant Children

A series about the migrant student population and how teachers and administrators work together to serve them. The series focuses on Kent City Community Schools and Kenowa Hills Public Schools. Read the whole series

Journaling, Imaginations Make Waves of Summertime Learning

This was the first summer Spanish Elementary teacher Lorin Sorenson drove to a handful of migrant and Spanish speaking fourth- and sixth-grade students' homes to forge one-on-one relationships with them and their parents

Summer Migrant Program Stimulates New Generation of Possibilities

While scores of area children can be heard frolicking in the summer sun, an all together different buzz resonates inside the district's middle school classrooms


At Recess: An Occasional Humor Column

At Recess takes a lighter look at schools and education. Funny things sometimes happen when you work with kids -- or adults! Read the whole series

Math, Fun? With Creative Teaching and Baseball, Anything’s Possible

Math and I have never been great friends. Oh I can get along with math all right when I have to, like when I try to figure out how much less per ounce I am paying for a 12-ounce box of Cheerios compared to an 8.9-ounce box

Attack of the Whole Grain Pop-Tart

Always smiling. Always kind. Always helpful. These are the lunch ladies. But behind their smiles is a smirk. This salt-of-the-Earth crew has pulled off a covert operation few have noticed. The mission? Stick whole grain into everything