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State of the schools: 'We're no longer educating kids. We're raising them'
The education landscape in Federal Way is shifting with the times.
Superintendent Rob Neu delivered his 2013 State of the Schools presentation Wednesday during the Federal Way Chamber's membership luncheon at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club.
In a thought-provoking speech to a capacity crowd, Neu cited the growing list of expectations for school districts.
In addition to academics, today's schools function as a surrogate parent — teaching life skills and meeting basic needs for students in ways that were unheard of 50 years ago.
In one powerful example, Neu noted the number of social programs that U.S. schools have adapted in the years since the rise of divorce and single-parent households.
"We're no longer educating kids," Neu said. "We're raising them."
The age of globalization and the "new economy," as he called it, require an updated set of competence skills along with a revised approach to teaching.
Neu advocated for a mantra of instilling more confidence and risk-taking skills in students, who now compete for jobs in a nation where college debt is higher than credit card debt.
The idea is to turn more students into innovative and creative thinkers — and help them reach their potential in a creative society. Keys to accomplishing this goal include equity in discipline and academics alongside engagement of parents and students.
Neu announced a goal for every Federal Way student to know at least one more language other than English. Other solutions include the expansion of music programs in elementary schools, along with establishing a reputation for the district as a fine arts destination. In the coming months, Neu said the district will seek the public's input on recommendations for new graduation requirements.
Highlights of 2012
Before addressing the present and future of education in Federal Way, Neu highlighted key accomplishments of 2012, including but not limited to:
• Passage of the capital projects levy in the November election to build a new Federal Way High School.
• Increased enrollment in advanced courses by students from all ethnic backgrounds.
• Participation in We Scare Hunger and related We Day activities, which promote community service among students.
• Higher test performances for 38 percent of students.
• Federal Way's participation in The Road Map Project (RMP), a group of seven area school districts aimed at improving student achievement. The group was awarded a $40 million grant from the U.S Department of Education's "Race to the Top" competition.
• Accolades for the school board's service, as well as School of Distinction awards for Woodmont Elementary and the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) Academy.
• Thomas Jefferson High School, Decatur High School, Todd Beamer High School and Federal Way High School appeared on the Washington Post's "High School Challenge" list.
• A design award for Lakeland Elementary.
• Green Ribbon Schools Award for Camelot Elementary.
• Michael Self-Bence, a school psychologist at Sunnycrest Elementary School, was named School Psychologist of the Year.
To learn more about Federal Way Public Schools, visit www.fwps.org. Superintendent Rob Neu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.