The Tukwila School District is on an elite list of 130 districts across the U.S. that earned inclusion in the College Board’s 2015 Gaston Caperton Opportunity Honor Roll. The award is for districts that have expanded access to higher education for traditionally underrepresented students by providing them with rigorous academic offerings and innovative college-preparation programs.
To be included on the Honor Roll, a district must have:
- Increased the number of underrepresented students who took the SAT;
- Increased the number of underrepresented who took an AP course and exam;
- Increased the number of underrepresented who were on-track for college, as demonstrated by scoring 1550+ on the SAT;
- Increased the number of underrepresented who scored a 3+ on an AP exam; and
- Increased the number of underrepresented who sent their SAT scores to at least 4 colleges.
Funding for these initiatives has come from budget prioritization and reallocation as well as an infusion of resources from the Road Map Initiative and federal Race to the Top grant funds.What is striking is that there is almost no mystery to what Superintendent Nancy Coogan (yes, yet another former SPS employee) is doing. It's the intimate, one-to-one work of watching over every single student.
For the past several years, Tukwila’s single high school, Foster, has demonstrated significant and consistent growth in students taking college-level courses and applying to colleges. Here are some reasons why that has happened:
Speaking of the Washington Opportunity Scholarship, here's a good story on it from The Herald.
The list goes on, according to Foster College and Career Counselor Jenni Standard, but the most important thing is that all students—refugees, homeless, those who are the first in their family to graduate high school—now believe they are capable of higher education with a clear path to get there.
- The school board and district leaders have carefully allocated funds for an intentional, strategically aligned secondary approach to achievement, including funding a college/career counselor at Foster and Showalter Middle School and a drop-out/re-engagement specialist at Foster.
- Since 2014, Foster has more than doubled the number of students taking college-level Advanced Placement (AP) courses, including among black, Hispanic, low-income, and English Language Learner students.
- Compared to a handful of SAT-takers five years ago, now every Foster High student takes the PSAT three times and the SAT two times as part of the school day by the time the graduate.
- At Showalter Middle School, 100-percent of low-income students annually sign up for the state’s College Bound Scholarship, and counselors at Foster rigorously track their GPAs to make sure they remain eligible for the full-tuition award upon graduation.*
- Foster holds many financial-aid workshops, including after-school help with volunteers from the University of Washington Dream Project as well as evening events with experts working one-on-one with Foster students to fill out FAFSA and scholarship forms (accompanied by pizza, of course). The efforts have paid off, with Foster High being one of the top in the state with students earning the prestigious Washington Opportunity Scholarship and Act Six Scholarship. Last year, graduates earned more than $3 million in scholarships.
- Showalter and Foster support students through AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a program that helps students set and achieve their college goals; for the past two years, all AVID seniors have graduated and been accepted to a university.
- Annually, Showalter and Foster participate in DiscoverU Week, which exposes students to a wide range of higher-education opportunities and career tracks.
The program, open to Washington residents with a high school diploma or GED and whose families are at or below 125 percent of the state median income, offers multi-year scholarships up to a total of $22,500, starting with $2,500 grants that can be increased to $5,000 after a student's second year and up to $7,500 for high-demand majors. The scholarships are open to students studying among 367 majors in STEM and health care fields.* I want to note that SPS is also very good at signing up middle school students for the state's College Bound Scholarship program.
More than 1,400 students received scholarships last year, and all 1,200 high school students who applied and were eligible, earned scholarships, said program Executive Director Naria Santa Lucia.
In addition to the scholarship program, Opportunity also works to connect students with mentors and internships, assists with outreach into public schools to encourage students to consider STEM fields. And Opportunity is also now administering a program that will appropriate state funds among colleges and university to open more seats to students, Santa Lucia said.
The deadline for applications for the 2016-17 school year is Feb. 29