News

Students who drive get better grades -- sort of

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Federal Way School Board member Charles Hoff recently wondered if parking permits should be used as a carrot –– or a stick –– to encourage high school students to work on their academics.

"It was an honest attempt to find an answer," said said Hoff, who wanted to know if there was a connection between parking permits and grade point averages (GPA).

The answer is no.

More than 6,600 students and their grade point averages (GPA) were part of the study. A third of the juniors and seniors in the Federal Way Public Schools system have permits allowing them to drive to school and use the school's parking lots.

A small amount of sophomores and freshmen have permits –– a combined 4 percent.

According to the school district's assessment department, the difference in cumulative GPA between juniors and seniors with parking permits is .5 higher than those without –– not enough of a difference for the board to consider a policy.

District officials aren't studying further to determine why students with permits were on average slightly higher in GPA. A few theories are students who drive to school are part of a larger socio-economic group who are generally wealthier and typically perform better academically. Also, those with permits could be a portion of a population of students who are more responsible and mature than the average.

An unanticipated result was the students who drive Isuzus had the highest grade point averages of those who had parking permits.

While Hoff defended the study as an attempt to find an incentive for students to work on their grades and assignments, a few critics in the public questioned the board's utilization of time and money.

According to Pat Cummings in the district's assessment office, the calculations only took about an hour after he fed information from the high schools into a computer software program to calculate the data.

One teacher did e-mail Hoff asking what the district was doing analyzing who drove Isuzus to school.

"That was not part of the original question," Hoff said.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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