Case Study

Education Guide

Course Content
teacher and three students laughing together

The Seattle Times launched “Education Lab” in 2013, in collaboration with the Solutions Journalism Network, to apply the solutions approach to coverage of public education in Washington State. Now in its fourth year, the initiative has produced dozens of major feature stories and hundreds of daily blog posts, narrative videos, interactive online chats and guest columns.

The Times has built a network of schools, education nonprofits, and other community groups to capture the perspectives of the diverse constituents that make up school systems. It has also produced a series of live events―from intimate “listening tour” stops with parent-teacher groups to large public forums focused on urgent policy issues―that connect its solutions reporting to more productive public discourse. In fact, “Education Lab” won a 2015 Associated Press Media Editors’ Journalism Excellence Award for community engagement; the judges observed that “the newspaper helped turn often angry rhetoric into constructive dialogue that parents, educators and community members craved.”

That dialogue has moved the needle on education policy. Following Education Lab’s series on school discipline issues, the Seattle School Board voted for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions for elementary students. After The Times highlighted the success of Rainier Beach High School in increasing performance of low-income students, public and private actors joined to ensure funding for the program.

Times readers have responded vigorously. “People are telling us that they’re reading these stories, that these stories are making a difference, that they’re engaged in a way that they hadn’t been before,” says Times Editor Kathy Best. An analysis of 150 education stories indicates that Education Lab’s solutions-oriented coverage hold readers’ interest longer than traditional education reporting.

In a survey, 780 readers were asked about their reactions to “Education Lab” stories.

Here are the results:


“Now that I’ve read this article, I think there are ways to effectively address this problem.”


“The story changed the way I think about this topic.”


“I appreciated the focus on a solution that seemed to be working.”