Federal Way Public Schools will roll out the College Readiness Pathway next year.
The program is aimed at getting students in grades 8-12 to begin thinking about life after school, whether it's a four-year college, a vocational school, or heading straight into the workforce.
Dr. Josh Garcia, assistant superintendent of Teaching for Learning for FWPS, outlined the district's plans next year, chief among them a testing/advising day to be held on Oct. 17.
Along with that testing day being offered during the week, the costs for taking the tests and utilizing some of the advisory and tutoring tools will be free to students and families.
"This fall, Federal Way Public Schools will be utilizing the College Board's College Readiness Pathway for all students. This integrated series of assessments is deigned for 8th through 12th grades to measure, monitor and direct student progress from middle school through high school to ensure college and career readiness," Garcia said during the school board's April 24 meeting.
Eighth-graders will participate in a "low stakes" test known as the ReadiStep test. The aim of this test, Garcia said, will be to measure students' skill levels for college and career preparation.
"We may miss some kids with our standardized tests. This is a test that can allow us to say to kids, 'You should be automatically enrolled into an honors class. It's great additional data. It provides insight into the student's academic progress, and also equips educators with tools they can use to make informed decisions in the classroom."
Garcia noted this eighth-grade test can also be used as an alternative assessment for teachers and students in regards to meeting the Standards Based Education program's Power Standards and Learning Targets.
For ninth-graders, there will not be much of a change, Garcia said. The district plans to have those students continue to take the Pre-SAT (PSAT) test. 10th-graders will gain access to an online tool called My College QuickStart next year, Garcia said, with the hope of helping that grade have a more focused and intentional direction.
"We've really struggled on how to find ways to stop, pause and reflect," Garcia said. "My College QuickStart is an online advisory program that helps with timing, timelines, different skills, how to read your PSAT scores. It's a way for (students) to stop and pause, and think about the greater goals without having to put additional pressure on them that's not needed."
11th grade will remain mostly static, Garcia said. He briefly touched on opening access for students to take part in the National Merit Scholarship program. For seniors, as was already mentioned, the SAT will be offered during the week, and will also be at no cost to students and their families. Tutoring tools specifically tailored to the SAT will be made available online to students at no cost, Garcia said.
"Federal Way, according to the College Board, is the first district in the western region of the United States, to be able to do a mid-week SAT for all seniors," Garcia said. "(FWPS) will also be one of the few districts in the nation to develop a college readiness assessment path at no additional charge for the family."
Federal Way School Board director Danny Peterson said this was a step in the right direction for the district.
"I'm excited to see how many students, after being offered to take the SAT…how many more kids will choose to go on that pathway toward college. I think this is a great decision," he said.
Garcia agreed, but noted that while a large chunk of the program is aimed at college readiness, it's also aimed at just getting students and families to focus on life beyond high school.
"I would be remiss to not acknowledge we're not telling every kid to go to college, we're removing the barriers so they have a realistic choice on whether or not they can or want to attend," he said.