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Federal Way takes part in regional education ‘road map’

A Seattle-based education advocacy organization wants to ameliorate the “shockingly poor” education results in South King County and Seattle with a 10-year improvement project it launched Thursday: the Road Map for Education Results.

Federal Way is inside the project’s target area. School district officials attended the Community Center for Education Results’ road map project launch on Dec. 9 at the Westin Hotel in Seattle. The center is setting goals for the school systems and cities that have, according to CCER, signed up to endorse the road map.

The goals of the road map are to close the achievement gap — the difference between white students and their low-income minority classmates on standardized achievement tests — and to double the number of students on track to graduate from college or attain a post-secondary certification.

Officials from Federal Way that attended included Mayor Skip Priest, Superintendent Robert Neu, Assistant Superintendent Joshua Garcia, Deputy Superintendent Mark Davidson and School Board Director Suzanne Smith.

The road map target area also includes South Seattle, Tukwila, Renton, Auburn, Highline and Kent. This area has the highest number of low-income students in King County, according to the center.

Neu said of the road map that he would “be interested in collaborating in a regional effort with local school districts,” especially to improve graduation rates and college readiness.

The road map laid out a series of steps for the participating districts to achieve goals of closing the achievement gap and increasing college graduation rates. The steps include making sure youngsters are healthy and prepared for kindergarten, supported throughout their school career, ready for college upon graduation and that they complete their post secondary coursework.

But Thursday’s launch was just that: There are still details to work out, like how to measure how students are “on track” to graduate college. Targets for closure of the achievement gap have to be set.

The road map is not a mandate from the CCER, but a partnership, said Executive Director Mary Jean Ryan. It exists to collect and publish data from the target area and to support projects that further the road map goals. The center is partially funded by the nonprofit Seattle Foundation, a charity run by former Seattle Mayor Norman Rice.

The launch was also a confab for educators and government officials, with a full day of seminars and speeches.

Neu attended a workshop on improving high school graduation rates.

Neu said that the presentations were “wonderful,” but that Federal Way is already doing much of what was included. Renton’s strategies for improving graduation rates, for example, included intervening when students fail a class, keeping students informed of whether they’re completing credits to graduate on time, and designing better first day orientations for sixth- and ninth-graders.

“It’s comforting to know that what we’re doing in Federal Way is consistent with the best practices in other districts,” he said.

Priest appeared with the mayors of Seattle, Auburn, Tukwila and Kent to endorse the road map. Priest said it was easy for him to endorse the plan because a successful city needs a successful local school system. He said it would be premature to define the city’s role in achieving the road map goals on the day of its launch. But he said he would be supportive of the school district, Neu, the students and a district motto, “All means all.”

“It’s important for the city to be a strong proponent of education,” Priest said. “This is an organized attempt to commit to follow the philosophy we have, and it’s one that’s worth committing to.”

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