Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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Jul 28 2009

Commencement for Seattle’s High School Graduates!

Published by at 10:05 pm under Graduation,Seattle Public Schools

When is the last time you’ve attended a High School graduation? Last month I had the pleasure of celebrating the academic achievements of Seattle’s 2009 high school graduates. It was an incredible experience! Superintendent Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph. D., and I spoke at or attended several high school commencements, including Ingraham High School and Garfield High School. I participated in Roosevelt High School’s rehearsal exercise and attended O’Dea’s commencement services at St. James Cathedral.

We are living in a time when less than 7 in 10 American students graduate from high school in four years. Our Council was recently briefed on the graduation rates of the Seattle School District and what was very interesting is how, using the exact same data and representative class, the graduation rate significantly changed depending on the methodology used to track it. For example, in looking at Washington State’s graduation rates for 2006, the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) deduces the graduation rate to be 48.6%. At the same time, the National Governors Association Compact’s rate was 52.9%, and the Cumulative Promotion Index (Ed Week/Swanson) rate was 62.6%. However, the Manhattan Institute’s (Jay Greene) rate for this class was 74.4% and that is the rate most commonly used. According to Mary Beth Celio from Northwest Decision Resources, her study concluded there was a 66.5% graduation rate. Again, these rates are based on the same graduating class of 2006. What is critical about Mary Beth Celio’s presentation is that it is possible to identify the warning indicators and tipping points for failing students. Race, gender and free or reduced lunch status can only predict 11% of future dropouts. What are more indicative factors are middle school unexcused absences, early “F” grades, and whether they enter Seattle Public Schools as late entries. By using these early indicators, we should be able to significantly improve our intervention strategies.

Notwithstanding the difference in computing rates, after speaking to teachers, parents, and students, it became clear that our schools will continue to set high standards for all students. When we value and support the critical role that teachers, staff, parents, and community play in the lives of our youth, they will graduate with the “prescription” for a lifetime of success.

I am proud and humbled to stand with these new graduates. I look forward to the opportunity to push for and demand that we raise our educational sights even higher — because the real bottom line is we owe it to our youth to prepare them for what is to come!

Congratulations to the “Class of 2009!”

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