Opinion

Federal Way community should step up to help school district | My Perspective

Keith Livingston - Contributed
Keith Livingston
— image credit: Contributed

How do you measure success? What is your grading system? Do you have one for yourself, your children or their schools? How about your career or your employer? If you had a score pad in your hand how would you rate where you live, your neighborhood or your city? What would be your criteria?

As people we are always measuring and being measured.

The Federal Way school district recently found itself in a kerfuffle with some in this community with its new grading system. School districts often have problems with change. Parents, students and staff like familiarity.

It is the district’s responsibility to have a system that is understandable, provides information to the district, teachers and parents on each student’s performance. Grades are never the whole story and regardless of the system being used, the challenge is to get students to achieve at their greatest potential.

Greatschools.org, the school district rater used by the online real estate marketing company Zillow.com, gives the Federal Way school district a rating of 4 on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being high. They give the Auburn and Kent school districts a 5. Bellevue gets a 9 and Seattle a 7.

On my part, this is not a judgment of Federal Way Public Schools, but a statement that it is being graded. Before any of us draw conclusions, my guess is most of us do not know the grading criteria being used.

However, families looking to relocate to an area accept the grade as valid because they believe Zillow.com as a purveyor of information.

If you have school age children and live in the district, you may or may not be aware of the district’s rating from Greatschools.org.

If you are a part of your children’s daily activities and a cheerleader for them and their school, your children are on their way to getting a great education.

If you are involved, you recognize the rating by Greatschools.org has minimal impact on the education your children are receiving. But, their rating creates a negative impression of Federal Way that affects all of us.

The district initiates a new grading system and we have angry parents and negative articles written.   Sadly, there is no outcry when the district receives a low rating.

It’s much easier to blame leaders when we do not understand or like a new system than it is to ask the questions: “what can we do to improve” or “how can I help?”

Where is our collective personal responsibility for the schools and student needs as district parents and residents?

The district can set the table for success. However, they don’t do it alone. They need the cooperation of students, families and community. We need to appreciate their challenge.

They have to meet the needs of more than 22,000 students, provide transportation and meals, make sure each classroom is staffed, buildings and grounds maintained, extracurricular activities provided, student safety assured, educate and measure the success of each student.

They have an impressive challenge that deserves respect. Add diversity of 105 languages spoken in district schools and the fact that 57 percent of the students live at or near the federal poverty level and the challenge grows.

Cultural differences, communication barriers, economic stress, and hunger stretch family resources to the breaking point for many students. But in typical fashion we see the world through the lens of “how change affects me.”

Success will come only when we realize we are in this together. As residents and parents, our opinions matter but until we choose to expect more of ourselves, a meaningful dialogue for improvement will not take place.

Or as Walt Kelly’s comic strip character Pogo would say: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Federal Way resident Keith Livingston: keithlivingstondesign@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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