Edmonds School Board reviews district graduation rates during Feb. 27 meeting

Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab discusses the district’s graduation rates with the Edmonds School Board.

Graduation rates were a hot topic during the Edmonds School Board’s Feb. 27 meeting.

The board heard from students and staff at Mountlake Terrace High School, which has a 93% graduation rate, placing it above the state and Edmonds School District average.

However, this degree of success is not echoed across the district. Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab shared with the board that overall high school graduation rates for the Edmonds School District are 83%, lower than the statewide average and other nearby districts.

The graduation rate comparison chart shared with the school board.

Following a student presentation to the board, Mountlake Terrace High School Principal Crosby Carpenter presented the school’s improvement plan (SIP), which showed the school beats its goal of 90%.

Carpenter said the school’s new target goal is 95% because of their success.

“They found the sauce,” said Board Director Hawk Cramer. “They figured out the recipe to make significant improvements.”

The “sauce” at MTHS is not a secret, according to Schwab, but a strategy used across the district. So, it would seem the trick is not the ingredients but how it’s made.

Mountlake Terrace High School Principal Crosby Carpenter explains the school’s approach to achieving a high graduation rate.
Graduation rate trends at MTHS.

Carpenter explained that the MTHS staff focused on 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students who were not on track for graduation and ensured the school provided opportunities for them to make up missing credits through online and summer school classes and potentially award Mastery credit.

“Again, we’re looking at identifying those barriers, removing those barriers and really designing a pathway for every student so that they can move forward and be successful,” Carpenter said.

The lack of progress on improving graduation rates at other high schools sparked conversation among the directors.

“I think there’s something significant in this district that is preventing us from moving forward. I don’t know what it is,” Director Deborah Kilgore said. “I’ve been here seven years, and I’ve heard this report every year for seven years, and I feel like I’ve found this board hasn’t done a thing to improve our growth rates.”

According to data from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the 2022-23 graduation rates for the other district high schools are as follows:

Edmonds eLearning Academy: 39.4%

Edmonds Heights K-12: 80%

Edmonds-Woodway HS: 84.1%

Lynnwood HS: 83.6%

Meadowdale HS: 89.0%

Scriber Lake HS: 53.8%

One issue Schwab mentioned with graduation rates is missing or late work, often resulting in a severely reduced or zero grade.

Board President Nancy Katims talks about the district’s current grading system.

Board President Nancy Katims said that how a student is graded will affect their scores. She explained that students who miss an assignment get a zero. If their next score is a 100%, their average will be a 50%, an F grade. However, a student who is graded with a letter grade would get a C, the average between an A and an F.

Further, Katims said that timeliness is a soft rather than a hard skill. Although soft skills are essential, they fall secondary to subject mastery.

Board member Hawk Kramer offers his perspectives.

Cramer said he’s seen academic excellence decline among students over the years and that his own children – who attended district schools –  learned they didn’t need to turn in assignments on time. Further, they could get a higher grade by taking a class during summer school rather than doing their schoolwork during the regular year.

In contrast, Katims said her child didn’t feel his schoolwork was as important as helping people in real-world scenarios.

The common theme across the district is the absence of standardized grading. Katims said that the district was close to adopting a standards-based system. However, the person leading the initiative left the district, and efforts were not resumed.

“I think, and I am going to continue pushing as a board member because I think we are failing our kids for the wrong reasons in many situations,” Katims said. “And when we do that, they don’t get credit, and they don’t graduate, and we don’t know what they really know.”

One of the essential aspects of student success at MTHS was that students feel a sense of belonging and that the teachers were there for their needs, which was reflected in the student presentation.

Sara of Mountlake Terrace High School describes how the school supports all students.

Sara, one of the Mountlake Terrace High School student presenters, explained that one of the aspects of inclusion is offering a wider variety of clubs outside of sports, including medical and the arts. She also said the school provides a safe haven and support for students.

The MTHS STEM program went from 90 to 180 students, which MTHS student Tyler attributes the program’s outreach to middle schools.

Tyler of Mountlake Terrace High School explains that the school’s STEM program has doubled from 90 to 180 students.

“Right now, I’m actually doing research with Ph.D. students and a professor at the University of Washington,” Tyler said. “I credit all of that to the amazing STEM program for allowing me to have the opportunity.”

Since returning from COVID restrictions, the MTHS Associated Student Body (ASB) has collected canned and non-perishable foods and $5,000 in cash donations. Also, the ASB executive board changed their constitution to ensure  the election process produces a more diverse student council.

During new business, the school boards approved updates to the Board of Directors Norms and Protocols, the superintendent’s goals for 2023-24, regular board meeting dates and the emergency waiver request to close Meadowdale Elementary School while it is undergoing repairs.

The next school board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, at the Educational Services Center, 20420 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood. 

You can watch the meeting online by clicking here.

— By Rick Sinnett

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