- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - Washington high school graduation rates are moving upward but the state still lags behind the national average.

In addition, Washington’s low-income kids and those from minority groups are still graduating at lower rates than the statewide average, according to The News Tribune (https://is.gd/qOQl06).

The state superintendent’s office released last year’s high school graduation rates.

The four-year rate statewide was 78.1 percent, up from 76.6 percent in 2011. The rate for students who took a fifth year to finish high school was 81 percent, up from 78.2 percent in 2011.

The federal government in 2010 began requiring states and school districts to report graduation statistics uniformly.



Federal numbers are typically a year behind state-level data. The most recent national four-year graduation rate, for the class of 2014, was 82.3 percent - a record high.

Dixie Grunenfelder, director of secondary education for the state superintendent’s office, said Washington’s data is getting better.

“It allows schools to identify students earlier when they get off track, and get them back on track,” she said.

And once identified, schools are getting better at helping students who are in danger of falling through the cracks, she added.

The state education office looked at school districts in the state with poverty rates of more than 60 percent and spotlighted four that are doing outstanding work for low-income kids: Franklin Pierce, Kelso, Sunnyside and Spokane.

In those districts, students in poverty graduate at relatively high rates when compared to overall district graduation rates.

In the Parkland-based Franklin Pierce district, 78.5 percent of low-income students graduated in four years last year, compared to an overall district rate of 82.7 percent.

Nearly 73 percent of the district’s more than 7,600 students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches, a marker for poverty. Students speak more than 50 languages at home and more than 60 percent are students of color.

“With the high mobility rate in Franklin Pierce, it’s really amazing,” said Grunenfelder. Mobility rate refers to the number of students in a district who move during the school year - a process that can disrupt education and one that occurs more frequently among low-income families.

Franklin Pierce Superintendent Frank Hewins said the district has adopted a vision that all kids can learn at high levels and aim toward college or other post-secondary training.

State officials say the four successful districts on the spotlight list have elements in common.

Among them are adults who believe every student can succeed, clearly defined and measurable goals, data-based early warning systems to flag at-risk students and an emphasis on supporting students, including connections to mental health and substance abuse assistance.

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Information from: The News Tribune, https://www.thenewstribune.com

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