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    Graduation Rate Gains
    Posted on 11/15/2018
    A graduate poses for a photo with a friend in front of the Seattle Center fountain

    Our Progress: Seattle Public Schools Sees Increase in 2017-18 Graduation Rates

    Seattle Public Schools is a high-performing school district and has continued to see gains in the graduation data for 2017-18. This year’s graduation rate is 82 percent, up three percentage points from last year. Collectively, in the last five years, graduation rates have increased by 11 percent for all Seattle Public Schools students and 15 percent for historically underserved students of color.

    Though the district is making steady gains, there is a recognition that gaps continue to persist for our students of color. The district continues to learn from schools and staff that are closing gaps and replicating best practices. There are several factors likely contributing to positive graduation gains including a district focus and training on racial equity; positive student-adult relationships; rigorous, student-centered learning; and promotion of post-secondary education.

    Factors Contributing to Success

    Positive Student-Adult Relationships

    Student success is influenced by positive student-adult relationships. Research shows that when students have an adult at school they can rely on and trust, they are more likely to succeed in school. When adults at school are upholding positive beliefs about the student and partnering authentically with families, the result is an entire community of support built around the student to ensure their success.

    Rigorous Student-Centered Learning

    Seattle Public Schools high schools are creating academic environments rich in student-led learning and collaboration. Teachers hold high expectations, monitor students’ performance against rigorous standards and create space for authentic learning opportunities. Project-based learning is an example of a student-centered academic environment where scholars are encouraged to deepen their knowledge of real-world challenges through active questioning, complex thinking and problem solving.

    Racial Equity

    All 17 high schools are diving into transformative work grounded by a commitment to racial equity, where every student has access to high-quality learning opportunities and teachers that are trained in culturally-responsive practices. The outcome is graduation rates have increased by 15 percent for historically underserved students of color.

    Post-Secondary Education Culture

    Across the district, educators are focused on supporting students to reach their educational goals whether that be college, an apprenticeship or a trade. All 11th grade students now take the SAT, reducing barriers to college entrance, and students prepare High School and Beyond plans. We have seen enrollment increases in post-secondary education continue to rise every year. The latest college-going data from the National Student Clearing House shows a 3-point increase in the percentage of SPS graduates enrolling in a two-or four-year college the year after graduation from 71 percent for the class of 2016 to 74 percent for the class of 2017.

    Commitment to Student Progress

    The increase in graduation rates in the 2017-18 school year is a positive sign of progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done to eliminate opportunity gaps and fulfill our promise of educational excellence to all students. We remain committed to partnering with families, as they know their child best. We will continue to reinforce restorative practices and positive student-adult relationships by focusing on a student’s strengths and repairing relationships. Educators will continue to support students’ academic goals and work to make high school content relevant and meaningful. And for each one of our students, expectations will remain high. We believe and are committed to our students graduating high school prepared for college, career, and community - all 17 high schools have brilliant students and dedicated staff to move this work forward.

    Lessons Learned from Graduation Gains at Three Seattle High Schools

    Three students hold their diploma and smile for a photoNathan Hale High School

    Nathan Hale’s 2017-18 graduation rate was 88.7 percent

    At Nathan Hale High School, 10 common principles guide the vision of the school. One principle, “student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach” captures dynamic classroom spaces where the teacher’s role is defined as a deliverer and coach of instruction. The student’s role goes beyond that of a recipient. Teachers coach students to think about their learning and thus teach themselves. Students are given the space to explore and question their learning.

    At Nathan Hale High School, learning is personalized. Teachers spend time cultivating relationships with students through mentorship classes, advisory periods, and support time. The school schedule allows for students to meet with an adult at the school throughout the week as it relates specifically to additional academic support (if needed), relationship building, coaching, goal setting for career and college, and future planning.

    A graduate hugs an adult after graduation ceremonyRainier Beach High School

    Rainier Beach High School’s 2017-18 graduation rate was 88.6 percent.

    Rainier Beach High School staff and community are heavily invested in increasing parent and family engagement, as research indicates how critical this is for student success. Advisors make regular phone calls to families to build bridges between home and school, while working to cultivate deep relationships. Calls to families are not punitive - they celebrate student successes while partnering with families to learn more about the student.

    Rainier Beach staff emphasizes restorative practices and is committed to improving and repairing relationships between people and communities. Teachers and staff implement restorative practices in their daily interactions with students in classrooms and advisory periods. Restorative practices focus on strengthening relationships with students and families to build healthy communities. At the classroom level, it begins with talking circles where educators attend to a student’s strength and potential.

    Students clap during graduation ceremonyCleveland High School

    Cleveland High School’s 2017-18 graduation rate was 95.8 percent.

    Cleveland High School has seen continuous increase in graduation and college-going rates for students and increased achievement generally and among African American students. Cleveland aims to prepare students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) content areas by using a school-wide project-based approach for authentic learning.

    Every student at the school is expected to complete 4 years of science and mathematics. The emphasis on project-based learning is meant to boost deeper learning by connecting learning concepts to real-world application. Twice a year, students in grades 9-12 lead conferences where they reflect on their learning and present to their family members about their progress. Students are the leading voice in these conferences, which provide family members, teachers, and advisors an opportunity to partner together in support of the student and their learning goals.