Closing the gap: Federal Way School District taking the lead on race issues

Federal Way recognized for raising academic success of African-American students

State education officials looked to Federal Way as a role model for raising the academic achievement of African-American students at a meeting last week.

Representatives from the Washington State advisory committee on the African-American achievement gap met at Federal Way City Hall on Thursday to discuss how to improve African-American students’ achievement in schools.

The committee, which includes Federal Way School District chief communications officer Diane Turner, was created following the passage of House Bill 2722 in 2008. The bill allocated $150,000 to conduct an analysis of the African-American achievement gap and recommend a plan for closing it.

At the opening of the meeting, representatives from Federal Way discussed local efforts to raise achievement among African-American students. A panel of kids from Federal Way High School answered questions related to their personal successes in school.

The students pointed out that the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program has been a key factor in their success. Katrina Shaw, a junior at Federal Way, also mentioned the cheer team as being partly responsible for her motivation to do well in school.

One of the questions asked was regarding potential barriers to achievement for African-American students.

Ray-Rae Weston, a senior at Federal Way, said students could benefit from more patience from staff.

“We do learn differently and it does take different techniques for us to understand things,” she said.

Ronni James, also a senior at Federal Way, said the teachers there do a good job by believing in African-American students and not expecting them to fail.

Shaw suggested that some African-American students might do poorly in school because they lack motivation and support at home. Receiving that from teachers could possibly help.

When asked what the number one most important thing for their achievement was, the students unanimously discussed support from teachers and staff.

“I think that teachers should have a more open relationship with their students,” Shaw said, adding that they could do this by making an effort to get to know the students and what’s going on in their lives.

The Federal Way School District has recently been recognized by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Service for narrowing the achievement gap between caucasian and African-American students.

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