Friday Roundup: Seattle housing, UW engineering school, the gig economy, graduation rates and teacher retention

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

New Geography: Vancouverizing Seattle?

A recent Wall Street Journal article (“For Chinese buyers, Seattle is the new Vancouver”) reported that Seattle was replacing Vancouver as the most popular destination for Chinese buyers in North America. ..Vancouver has literally become the third most unaffordable city (metropolitan area) in the nine nations covered by the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey...

All of this is a cautionary tale for the Seattle metropolitan area, which also has urban containment policy, but of more recent vintage…Seattle has a severely unaffordable median multiple of 5.5, slightly worse than Vancouver’s 5.3 in 2004. In the late 1980s, before Seattle imposed its metropolitan- urban containment policy, the median multiple was as low as 2.4.

Seattle Times: Students frustrated trying to get into UW’s strict engineering program

At a time when students are encouraged to go into careers in science and technology, as well as business, it’s becoming harder and harder to do so in some majors at the state’s largest flagship university.

Of the roughly 2,000 students in each class who say they want to major in one of the engineering disciplines, fewer than half will get in. 

 …No major is more competitive than computer science — only about a third of the students who apply get in. For those students, some help is on the way; the UW has gotten millions from private industry and the state Legislature to construct a new computer science building, which will allow it to double the number of students it can handle in the coming years.

As more and more Americans hold nontraditional jobs that don’t have benefits attached — think freelance graphic designers or Uber drivers — cities and states are exploring ways to ensure those workers still have access to workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and other support such as help paying for health insurance.

Think tanks and some tech and labor leaders have called for truly “portable” accounts that travel with the worker no matter how he or she earns money. Washington state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, a Democrat, proposed a bill last week that takes a first step toward a more flexible, inclusive benefit system…

While some companies that rely on nontraditional workers, such as Etsy and Lyft, say they support the idea of making benefits more portable and flexible, companies can be leery of forming something more like a traditional employer-employee relationship and taking on all the legal responsibilities and expense that entails.

Seattle Times: New report: 80 percent of Washington’s novice teachers still in class after five years

It’s often said that beginning teachers leave their profession in droves within their first five years.Even if that’s true elsewhere, it’s not the case in Washington state, according to a new study from the University of Washington. 

Here, only about a fifth of new teachers leave before they’ve been in the classroom for five years. And the poverty level of the teacher’s school didn’t affect the likelihood of whether he or she would leave.

The News Tribune: Educators happy, but keeping a wary eye on graduation, course failure data

New data on the success of Washington public high school students shows four-year graduation rates at an all-time high of 79.1 percent for the Class of 2016.

…The state average is up a full percentage point from 2015. And that single point means 1,528 more students, the equivalent of a large high school, graduated in 2016.

The graduation data, released this weekby the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, was accompanied by more sobering data on how students fare in their first year of high school, on the way to a diploma.