As superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools I am proud of the continuous improvements our scholars and schools are achieving. That’s why I read with interest Kim Comito’s letter to the editor published on Dec. 14 claiming the district is a, “failed education system.” This is simply not the case, and the data proves it.
The FWPS district graduation rate has steadily increased, reaching an all-time high of 86.2 percent for the class of 2018. The district’s graduation rates have risen six years in a row with each of the four comprehensive high schools and TAF@Saghalie experiencing an increase.
While Comito claims only 76 percent of students are on track to graduate for the 2018–19 school year, this is not true based on current data. The data dashboard shows 87 percent of our ninth through 12-grade scholars are on track to graduate. The dashboard is updated monthly, so the “on track” number changes as scholars earn credits. It’s also important to note our ninth grade scholars on track to graduate data has risen over a three year period — from 81 percent in 2015–16 to 87 percent in 2017–18.
Comito also focuses on the decrease in FWPS English Language Arts (ELA) and math scores according to the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). The average scores for the state and the region — including Auburn, Highline, Kent, Renton and Tukwila school districts — show the same downward trend for all grade levels in ELA and the data remains relatively unchanged in math.
We are taking specific steps aligned with our strategic plan goals and metrics to provide supports that can increase student achievement. After two decades of no strategic plan or standard curriculum, an immediate step I took as superintendent was to build and begin implementing a guaranteed and viable curriculum to provide consistency across all school sites. Informed by teacher and parent voice, this common curriculum is already being rolled out in many areas.
We are seeing gains for our third grade reading as a result of this focus. Third grade data comparisons show an increase in our ELA SBA state data from 38 percent in 2017 to 42 percent in 2018. Our third graders are improving, and we know the importance of students reading proficiently by third grade is a strong predictor for graduation.
We also have evidence of scholars achieving after graduation. For two consecutive years, the district is outperforming the state average with 63 percent of scholars who have enrolled in a two or four-year college program and persisted two or more years. For two consecutive years, FWPS has outperformed the state average for scholars who enroll in a two or four-year program.
FWPS is leading in college going attendance. We are third in the Road Map Region (Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, South Seattle, Tukwila) with 71 percent of our high school graduates taking one or more AP, IB or Cambridge course(s) in high school. We are third in the Road Map Region with 60 percent of high school graduates having met the College Academic Distribution Requirements. Additionally, enrollment in pre-college remediation coursework has significantly reduced for scholars enrolling in two year colleges from 55 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2016.
FWPS is a data-driven organization positioned to achieve great success following the roadmap of our strategic plan. We are clear and transparent about areas we need to improve. These efforts take time, but let there be no mistake. The data shows we are making gains, and through the shared commitment in the strong community we live in, together we can make a positive impact on the scholars we serve.
Dr. Tammy Campbell