Among the items considered during the Edmonds School Board’s Feb. 28 meeting was a report from Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab regarding the district’s graduation rate, which has remained stagnant in recent years.
“None of us are happy with our graduation rates…I need that to make that very clear,” Schwab said. Although district high schools have a goal to reach 95% graduation by 2025, the current graduation rate is 83% — a figure that has remained stagnant for years, he added.
“We’ve been talking about graduation rates for a number of years and, as you can see, we’re stuck,” Schwab continued. “There’s a need for us to be laser-focused on improving graduation rates.”
Schwab said that schools are trying to address this by offering credit-recovery periods and credit-mastery programs to help students who fall behind. Other goals include establishing systems to monitor credit accrual of individual high school students and creating a sense of belonging.
Students can fall behind for a number of reasons, such as absence, home struggles and a lack of education to support them when they begin high school. For example, Schwab said that students who enter high school are often underprepared for Algebra 1 — their mathematics education is insufficient for the “gatekeeper” class.
Board members also talked about the impact of attendance on dropout rates and said that the district’s CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs could help students that struggle with academics to achieve success in their adult lives.
“I think the phrase ‘We must see our graduation rate challenges as a crisis for our system’ is absolutely true,” said Board President Nancy Katims.
The meeting began with College Place Elementary kindergarten students demonstrating their Spanish-speaking skills, part of a school improvement plan presentation. The kindergarteners took turns reading a Spanish book aloud to an audience of beaming board members. First graders followed with the reading of a Spanish poem. College Place Principal Carla Carrizosa explained that the students were demonstrating skills they’d learned in the school’s dual language program.
Carrizosa said that the school’s improvement plan was focused on literacy, as staff were already strong in these areas and students were showing phenomenal growth. The plan includes co-teaching strategies, an emphasis on phonics and the use of a program called “i-Ready” that monitors progress on literacy and customizes plans for students.
Three Meadowdale High School students and Lynnwood High School teacher Brenda Torres spoke during public comment regarding the district decision to discontinue the AVID (Advancing Via Individual Determination) program. Students described the impact that the program made in their lives, with one saying that AVID helped her “find herself.” Those who spoke also pointed to how the program has helped low-income and minority families by assisting them to overcome obstacles. Torres urged the board to fund .4 full-time employee hours to “honor the commitment made” to students already enrolled in the program at Lynnwood High School.
As public comment continued, Sarah Dilling asked that the board allow PSAT testing to take place a year early – in 10th grade instead of 11th grade. She explained that familiarity with the PSAT would not only give students a higher score, but also a better chance to claim merit scholarships.
While the new business was largely composed of language changes to existing policy, the school board also read a completely new policy about remote work. By adopting the policy, the school board would recognize remote work as a viable option for certain tasks, though it excludes any staff that work directly with students and their families. Director Keith Smith said that the choice to work from home provided flexibility that he greatly appreciated.
Finally, board members heard from the board’s student advisers about the Day on the Hill, an event where they visited with state legislators in Olympia. Advisors Elizabeth Lopez and Peter Garcia spoke with Rep. Shelley Kloba and State Superintendent Chris Reykdal. They also ran into a number of other officials such as Rep. Strom Peterson, Lt. Gov. Denny Heck and Secretary of State Steve Hobbs.
— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis