Want An Example of a District Making Progress? Meet Tukwila

From Our Kids, Our Future, a great story about the success Tukwila is having with a diverse student population.  (bold mine)

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:
  • 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 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.
Speaking of the Washington Opportunity Scholarship, here's a good story on it from The Herald.
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.

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
* I want to note that SPS is also very good at signing up middle school students for the state's College Bound Scholarship program.


Jet City mom said…
Keep in mind, the parameters of a " successful" school, are chosen by the college board.
So schools that offer IB courses, have a number of students that take Running Start college courses, design their own courses and/or have students who take ACT instead of SAT, or are on a vocational track, will not be considered as " successful".

lowell parent said…
And for all you haters,former ed director Nancy Coogan is the superintendent.
She was and is a gifted dedicated educator.
lowell parent said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lowell parent, that was totally unnecessary. I said nothing bad about Ms. Coogan (indeed, I'm pointing out the good she is doing) and neither did anyone else.

Jet City, good points.
Anonymous said…
Nobody said anything bad about Nancy Coogan, though perhaps Lowell Parent was referring to past snark about her. Indeed there was, though not by Melissa. FWIW, I think her and Phil Brockman's departures such a huge loss for Seattle. They both impressed me tremendously with their smarts, dedication, and drive to do right by what was best for kids; wish we could lure one or both back to the District.

Anonymous said…
Some of the loudest SPED activists on this blog wanted her pushed out of this district. Not opinion. Fact. Traceable in this blog.

Wise reminder that activists and leaders and staff and parents and students. All more complicated, with strengths and weaknesses, than today's online discourse often indicates.

Two Sides
Anonymous said…
I am not sure of your point, Two Sides. Aren't there always two sides? Lowell Parent said that anyone opposed to NC is a "hater." I guess this person is an example of positive "online discourse?"

"SPED activists" are not the only ones who were not happy with NC. We had a problem principal (maybe three principals ago?) at Lowell who affected all programs at the school in not ideal ways, and NC was not helpful resolving the issues.

All parents are as entitled to their opinions as everyone else. As you said, there are two sides to every story, and from what I saw, there were reasons to want someone else in that position. Maybe she would have been more effective in a district that ran properly. We'll never know because we are still waiting for that kind of district.

I am glad to see a district seems to be working well with a diverse group of kids. I hope Seattle is looking at what's working there.

-another side
Anonymous said…
Another Side there are generally more than two sides. I picked the wrong signature! And I think the key to your comment above is your statement about Coogan is "from what I saw." In matters of education we each bring our own perspective, our own blind spots, our own strengths and our own flaws.

I agree that tossing the hater tag around is as unfortunate as the previous coarse Coogan comments from some on this blog, which remain unfortunate in tone whether or not justified as fact from one's perspective. Is Coogan adding value in Tukwila? Did she add value here? The answers may be many-sided in both cases, but hearing a positive story about Coogan's leadership of a district poorer than Seattle's seems net positive on a Friday.

Two Sides
Anonymous said…
Well, I'm a "SPED activist", and I always liked Nancy Coogan, and especially, Phil Brockman. Moose is right on point. Great if we could lure him back to Seattle - in ANY capacity. I recall some bit of Coogan hating on this blog - but it wasn't really SPED. More likely we're hearing SPED hating now.

Sped Activist
Anonymous said…
SPS was way more out of IDEA compliance while Nancy was employed there. It's not great now, but I'm just saying.

SPED Parent
Anonymous said…
Is it possible that an admin like Nancy Coogan can do better work outside the mess that was Lowell at Lincoln, following the disaster that was the teacher-retaliation cesspit at Original Lowell, part of the greater cluster that is SPS? If her students are doing well, lucky students and good for her. I can't speak to her SPED issues except it would seem that the ongoing abuse of SPED funds, ignoring IEPs and neglect of SPED students comes from the top. Go along to get along.

1) I have been trying to get Phil Brockman back as well. (He waves me off when he sees me coming because he knows what I'm going to say. But, that said, we got Noel Treat and Steve Nielson back.)

2) I know it's a great middle-school thing to call people "haters" but hate is a big word. Maybe we could just call it what it is (was) - a differing of opinions.
Anonymous said…
Uhhhh no, SPED parent. It's more out of compliance now. Now they simply have learned how to mail in the paperwork on time. And, they've learned that IEPs must have absolutely no information in them, that could ever be used against sps. Eg, IEPs must basically be blank documents. Is that your idea of "more compliant"? Special ed services are not better now. More is spent on administrators and consultants, and they are worse than ever. Consultants alone are eating up 15% of our federal funds, and more on useless administrators.

The objective measure of compliance is number of winning legal decisions. Last I looked ospi complaints were still going about 75% for parents, and that's way more going to parents than it was under Coogan.

All the Coogan whining i recall, was a bunch of app parents who wanted to keep app together at Lowell in a giant app school. That was always unrealistic. Anyone could see that party was going to end, just like the Garfield party will also end sometime soon.

Sped Activist
Lynn said…
If you can't advocate for one group without sneering at another you're doing it wrong.
Agreed, Lynn. You don't have to be disagreeable.

Anonymous said…
yeah, coogan was hopeless for sped. all she did was look at you wide eyed "oh really that's terrible" and then off to the next meeting. she wasted a lot of people's time doing nothing, couldn't seem to understand or didn't want to, and ultimately participating in driving many parents to seek legal solutions for special education services gone awry where they (parents) prevailed as was obvious to anybody but coogan. no, not a leader.

there are probably more ineffective education directors --let's think about the one who replaced coogan in central district-- but the bar is pretty low. whatever is happening in tukwila, it is in spite of this ineffective person, that is for sure.

been there
dan dempsey said…
Meanwhile away from Ms. Coogan, back to Tukwila

So let us contrast MATH results in Tukwila with Tacoma (with another former SPS employee, Carla Santorno as Superintendent)

Ms. Santorno pushes Algebra for all in grade 8.

Algebra EOC pass rate for 8th graders in Algebra (2013-14)
Tacoma 40.4% Tukwila >95%

In Tukwila students placed in Algebra in grade 8 experience success.
In Tacoma many students placed into Algebra are unprepared to be there and who knows what happens to them in grade 9? (I don't)

8th grade MSP Math pass rate for all 8th graders (2013-14)
Tacoma 44.4% Tukwila 39.80%

8th graders scoring at level 1 far below basic MSP (2013-14)
Tacoma 32.7% Tukwilla 39.8%

cohort in grade 7 (2012-13) far below basic
Tacoma 27.4% Tukwilla 44.3%

The numbers show in Tacoma a 5% increase in far below basic students from 7th grade to 8th grade. Hardly surprising as too many students are placed into Algebra

In Tukwila there was a 5% decrease in the number of students scoring at level far below basic from 7th grade to 8th grade on the MSP Math

2015 SBAC testing shows Tukwilla still trailing Tacoma in 8th grade Math.

Yet almost the same percent at Level 4 exceeds standard
Tukwila 17.9% Tacoma 18.3%
So why does Tacoma put all those students in 8th grade Algebra?

Congrats to Tukwila students, faculty, and staff, for positive improvement.

Linh-Co said…
It is troubling to me the same cohort of students do far better on the Algebra EOC than the 8th grade MSP. It tells me that the Algebra EOC is an easier test by design because it's a graduation requirement.

We saw similar results at Salmon Bay and Whitman a few years back.
Anonymous said…
There is a lot to be troubled about as lots of math propaganda is floating about courtesy of LEV and other reform groups.

Remember the Math 1 (Algebra) EOC
only covers about the first semester of a traditional Algebra I course.
EOC Math 1 was designed not to penalize students in an integrated math class that may not have covered many Algebra I topics.

Dec 2011 LEV posted a glowing psuedo-analysis of Totem Middle School (Marysville)
8th grade Algebra for all. HERE

There was no test data that showed any success at Totem. LEV apparently neglects student performance data in awarding praise.

HERE are the 2015 SBAC Math results for Totem.

8.3% exceeds standard level 4
46.1% well below standard level 1

21.3% meeting standard excluding No Score.

-- Dan Dempsey

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