League of Education Voters http://educationvoters.org Building a quality public education system from cradle to career. Thu, 28 Aug 2014 20:20:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Celebrating our Q2 Donorshttp://educationvoters.org/2014/08/27/celebrating-our-q2-donors/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/08/27/celebrating-our-q2-donors/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:28:40 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22831 April 1–June 30, 2014

Thank you!Donations are made to the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the League of Education Voters Foundation by individuals, groups, and businesses throughout the community. These generous donations from those who believe in high-quality public education allow us to ensure measurable progress toward LEV’s vision that every student in Washington state has access to an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.

Below are our donors from the second quarter of 2014, April 1–June 30. We regret any omissions or errors to the donor list. Please contact our Development Manager, Jackie Schultz, by emailing jackie@educationvoters.org or by calling 206.728.6448 with any questions or to correct any information.

Thank you to all of our donors!

Donor Names
Emily AnthonyArik KormanKathleen Pierce
James BerryKraft Foods FoundationMary Lynne Poole
John BowenAntonio & Margaret LaliberteMarquita Prinzing
Shira BrewerAmy LiuKelli Schmidt
College Spark WashingtonThe Lochland FoundationThe Seattle Foundation
John D. DelafieldLucky Seven FoundationState of Washington
Jonathan DunnKristine LyttonRobert Stephenson
Paul GeorgieffTre MaxieThe Todd and Carolyn Simpson Family Trust
Lisa JaretMarian McDermottDawn Trudeau
Betsy JohnsonMicrosoft Matching Gifts ProgramUnited Way of King County
Ruth KagiMelissa PailthorpLarry & Elaine Woo
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All means all: Preparing all kids for the futurehttp://educationvoters.org/2014/08/26/all-means-all-preparing-all-kids-for-the-future/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/08/26/all-means-all-preparing-all-kids-for-the-future/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:00:27 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22822 At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we believe that all Washington students should have access to a high-quality public education that provides the opportunity for success. All means all. Our recent work to implement a rigorous high school diploma that prepares every student for college and career is a good step in the right direction. But as a recent guest blog post mentioned, 64 percent of foster kids in Washington do not graduate from high school in the first place.

That’s why we are thrilled to highlight the work of one of our partner organizations, Treehouse, which works to give every foster kid a childhood and a future. Continue reading for summaries of several Treehouse stories about preparing students for their future and for life beyond high school.


PamelaBreaking down barriers for Pamela
Learn about the challenges that Pamela overcame. A troubled student, Pamela worked with an Educational Advocate at Treehouse to turn herself around and excel in school. She graduated this spring and is planning to attend Bates Technical College to study welding. Read more


JaydenLights, camera, action: Jayden’s job shadow experience
Learn about Jayden, a high school student with the goal of entering the film industry and becoming a cinematographer or director. Jayden had the opportunity to shadow the film crew on set as they filmed Treehouse’s year-end thank-you video. Read more


JasminPartnering for Jasmin’s success: The YMCA’s Independent Living Program
Learn about Jasmin, a recent high school graduate, who has faced numerous obstacles, including homelessness, job hunting, and completing her high school degree. Jasmin worked with an Education Specialist at Treehouse and the YMCA Independent Living Program to prepare for living independently and life after high school. Read more


FidelMy summer internship: Fidel’s story
Learn about Fidel’s summer internship in his own words, a student who emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo as a refugee in 2010. Fidel was offered an internship at Northwest Harvest, and he was so inspired by the organization’s work that he volunteered there on his days off! Read more


Visit the Treehouse website to learn more about their work.

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Activist of the Month: Connie Gerlitzhttp://educationvoters.org/2014/08/05/activist-of-the-month-connie-gerlitz/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/08/05/activist-of-the-month-connie-gerlitz/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:00:08 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22757 Connie Gerlitz with her son Jordan

Connie with her son Jordan

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for August: Connie Gerlitz. Read more about her experience as a long-time advocate for all kids.

Connie Gerlitz got her start in advocacy through her work at Safeco Insurance “way back,” she says, where she worked to improve safety standards for children. She worked with the Legislature to fight for laws around things like seatbelts for children, car seats, and bike helmets.

Working with the Legislature gave her the confidence to speak publicly and testify on behalf of issues that she believes in, and she also gained insight into why working with the Legislature was so important.

Connie has been involved with the League of Education Voters (LEV) since its inception, and she recalls attending an exploratory meeting with LEV co-founder Lisa Macfarlane in Bellevue thirteen-some years ago. She has also been a PTA member for years and served in every possible office. She has organized trips for PTA members to testify at the Legislature.

In fact, Connie and her husband Dennis were awarded the Washington State PTA Outstanding Advocate Award in 2006. LEV State Field Director Kelly Munn says Connie has a long and steady history of advocacy for kids, and she’s worked with LEV on a variety of issues. Most recently, Kelly says, Connie worked on LEV’s endorsement committee for 2014 elections, and her contributions were invaluable. “She attended every meeting and asked the questions that we didn’t know to ask.”

LEV Board President Karen Cooper added, “Connie’s questions were pointed and thoughtful. She helped get specific answers when the candidates often preferred to stay vague and non-committal. She was a valuable part of our team.”

Connie described LEV’s endorsement process as being very fair and credits LEV Government Relations Director Frank Ordway for making sure that the candidates were comfortable with the process while still allowing the committee to ask difficult questions. “I didn’t want to offend anyone, but I’m not afraid to ask pointed questions and follow-up questions.”

When asked to highlight work with LEV that stands out for her, Connie called out the campaign for HB 2261, which expanded the definition of basic education. “I knocked on doors, gave speeches, testified, wrote letters…. It was a huge effort by many people and organizations, and it paid off.”

Reflecting on Washington’s public education system, Connie says, “If I could wave a magic wand over the public education system in this state, I would make it possible for all parents to get more involved and engaged in their child’s education. All I can say is, thank goodness for organizations like LEV.”

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Endorsements announced by the League of Education Votershttp://educationvoters.org/2014/07/30/endorsements-announced-by-the-league-of-education-voters/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/07/30/endorsements-announced-by-the-league-of-education-voters/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:00:20 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22701 The League of Education Voters (LEV) is pleased to announce its endorsements for the 2014 elections.

“Our vision is to improve public education for all students in Washington state, from cradle to career, with ample, equitable, and stable funding,” said LEV CEO Chris Korsmo. “To achieve that vision, our goal is to elect candidates who will be partners in that effort.”

LEV’s endorsement process is conducted by a committee of board and community members who interviewed candidates beginning in May. The LEV Board voted at their June and July meetings to approve the committee’s recommendations for endorsement.

2014 LEV Endorsements

The endorsements below are accurate as of 7/30/2014.

Candidates for the House of Representatives

District Name Party
5 Chad Magendanz R
11 Steve Bergquist D
16 Maureen Walsh R
21 Lillian Ortiz-Self D
21 Juston McMahon D
22 Chris Reykdal D
22 Sam Hunt D
23 Drew Hansen D
26 Nathan Schlicher D
26 Larry Seaquist D
27 Laurie Jinkins D
27 Jake Fey D
29 David Sawyer D
30 Greg Baruso D
31 Drew Stokesbary R
32 Ruth Kagi D
33 Tina Orwall D
35 Drew MacEwen R
36 Reuven Carlyle D
36 Gael Tarleton D
37 Eric Pettigrew D
40 Kris Lytton D
41 Tana Senn D
41 Judy Clibborn D
43 Brady Walkinshaw D
43 Frank Chopp D
45 Larry Springer D
46 Jessyn Farrell D
47 Pat Sullivan D
48 Ross Hunter D

Candidates for the Senate

District Name Party
6 Rich Cowan D
31 Cathy Dahlquist R
36 Jeanne Kohl-Welles D
37 Pramila Jayapal D
42 Seth Fleetwood D
43 Jamie Pedersen D
44 Steve Hobbs D
45 Andy Hill R
46 David Frockt D
47 Joe Fain R
48 Cyrus Habib D

To support these candidates, donate to our Political Action Fund today!

For more information or to be considered for endorsement, please contact Frank Ordway at frank@educationvoters.org.

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First step: Engagement. Second step: Change the world.http://educationvoters.org/2014/07/29/first-step-engagement-second-step-change-the-world/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/07/29/first-step-engagement-second-step-change-the-world/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 18:00:05 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22775 Micaela RazoEarlier this month, a study from the University of Washington examined ways that immigrant parents could become engaged in their child’s school when traditional methods are barriers to their involvement.

That study resonated with League of Education Voters (LEV) Community Organizer Micaela Razo, who has done much of the work mentioned in the study—both as a parent and as an organizer—by engaging parents in migrant families in eastern Washington.

We asked Micaela to tell us about her experience engaging parents in their child’s school, and she told the story of creating the first Spanish-speaking PTA in Washington state, formed two-and-a-half years ago in Grandview, and how she got there.

I became an advocate for my child when he was very young. We were living in one of the wealthiest school districts in the area and the PTA lived up to the stereotypes you hear about—that it’s just bake sales and fundraising.

But I was finding that I had to navigate the maze of school bureaucracy and learn to advocate for my child all on my own, so I decided to infiltrate the bake sales. I was the first parent of color to join the PTA.

The story could have ended there, but the school’s principal said she saw something in me that she didn’t see in many parents and nominated me for the office of secretary in the PTA.

From there, I slowly began to change the board. I organized trainings and brought in specialists to talk about special needs students. We began to engage parents in ways beyond fundraising. This, in turn, opened the door for other families, families of color to get involved. Next, I began advocating for Hispanic families who needed resources and ensured that they had access to the same resources I had found.

Micaela Razo presents to a group of parents and family members.

Micaela Razo presents to a group of parents and family members.

Next, I got more involved in the school district. When the school district formed a diversity committee, I joined the committee as the parent advocate. We discussed the issues the school district was facing that we needed to examine from a diversity lens.

My family and I moved to Florida, where I was also heavily involved in my child’s school. We eventually returned to Washington and settled in Grandview.

When I went to the school to sign my children up, I asked the staff, “How do I sign up for your parent group?”

The staff literally laughed at me. They said, “We don’t do parent engagement here. We haven’t had a PTA in 20 years.”

I felt so strongly about parent engagement that I told the staff I was going to start a group. The principal heard me and told me that he would support my efforts. He started by calling a parent meeting during the second week of school.

Just 15 parents attended, all of them Spanish-speaking, so there was a huge language barrier. Although the principal was making every effort, it was clear to me that the parents were not engaged and did not really understand what he was talking about. So I started asking questions and translating what I was asking, and all of the parents perked up.

I wasn’t working at the time, so I starting going to the school everyday and talking to parents as they dropped their kids off at school. I made phone calls and then I invited parents to an initial parent engagement meeting.

Word got out, and more than 60 parents showed up at the first meeting. That meeting lasted more than three hours, and we discussed our goals for the school and barriers to parental involvement in the school.

By the third meeting, more than 100 parents were showing up, and I introduced the concept of a governance model and forming a PTA. And at the fourth meeting, more than 100 parents and 40 teachers all voted in favor of creating a PTA.

That’s how the Grandview PTA was formed for Spanish-speaking parents. But the PTA was the end result—it’s not how we started.

Micaela Razo preps for a parent and family engagement day.

Micaela Razo preps for a parent and family engagement day.

I started by talking about getting engaged in your child’s education and gave parents some ownership of and leadership responsibilities for their child’s education, and we were able to discard the stereotype of a PTA and form an organization that actually engaged parents.

Even now, with a formalized PTA chapter, we don’t focus on governance. We spend the minimum amount of time on minutes and the rest of the time on parent engagement trainings.

A lot of work that I do trying to engage migrant and low-income families is simply gaining their trust. Once parents know that what I say is true and effective, they’ll trust me. Many of them might not understand school bureaucracy or organizational governance, but if they trust me, they’ll stay engaged in the organization and in their child’s education. They respect me because I respect them and meet them where they are. I will make sure that all parents have the resources they need.

I always tell parents, “We can move walls if we work together. We can’t do it alone.”

My primary goal wasn’t to form a PTA, it was to engage parents; the PTA was a side effect. And together, we changed the culture of our school. After 20 years of no parent engagement, we changed that culture within two years.

The University of Washington study hits the mark on the work that we’re doing in eastern Washington.

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Sixty-four percent.http://educationvoters.org/2014/07/22/sixty-four-percent/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/07/22/sixty-four-percent/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:34:13 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22739 By Emma Margraf

Sixty-four percent of foster kids in Washington state do not graduate from high school.It was the day that Jane was brought into the principal’s office to be scared by a police officer for threatening other kids that sent me over the edge. She was in the eighth grade, being bullied, and in a downward spiral of discipline without direction or objective. I walked into the principal’s office and told him if he ever did anything like that again without calling me first I was going to sue everyone in the district. “There is a long line of people who’ve let this kid down,” I said, “and you are one of them.”

As I walked out of the school, I realized I had to be honest with myself—the status quo was never going to work. Cut to five years later and Jane and I have pretty much worked it out, with the help of friends. Quite a bit has happened that you can read about here and here. Jane’s nearing the end of her high school career and the girl who no one wanted to let out of the resource room has tested into college-level English, gotten her driver’s license, and learned to make friends and plan for her future.

According to OSPI, sixty-four percent of foster kids in Washington state do not graduate from high school.

Sixty-four percent.

They graduate at a lower rate than any other category of students—homeless kids, kids who speak limited English, children of immigrants—they all graduate at a higher rate. It’s easy to see how Jane could have been one of those statistics—some kids and parents just don’t have the fight in them to succeed.

I represented a teenage boy in foster care as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)—a very smart kid who was in a terrible placement and on the same downward spiral of discipline that Jane was on.

Except that, instead of looking for positive solutions, his foster parent had him arrested over and over again for things that other kids get grounded for. This boy is needlessly failing classes and already planning to drop out. At the moment, it’s only the thug life that this boy can see. Professionals are lining up to tell him he needs to stand up and “be a man,” but no one is teaching him what, if anything, that means.

I was asked recently if anyone in foster care has asked me how Jane found the road to success while so many other kids did not. The short answer to that question is “no.”

The secret to Jane’s success is simple—she and I ask for what we want, set goals, and figure out how to reach them. I find her as many opportunities as I can and she takes advantage of them. I have resources, and I have friends who have resources, and I have made the case that investing in her now will pay off in the long term.

To everyone who will listen I say this: sixty-four percent of foster children will not graduate from high school this year.

This is not an inevitable statistic.

The League of Education Voters has done quite a bit of work on the school-to-prison pipeline—but it wasn’t until I saw it close up that I realized how entrenched the pipeline is in our schools and our society. When we wonder where our homeless population comes from and where criminals are made, all we have to do is look around our public high schools to see which kids are in the principal’s office without an advocate ensuring they get the treatment they deserve.

This fall Jane will be applying to college, something that I was told was impossible way back in the eighth grade. She told me back then that she wanted out of special education, off medication, and to have a better life than her parents. I have kept those sentiments as goals and held to them, and so has she. It’s not been easy in the same way that any kind of parenting isn’t easy—but it’s no secret, and she’s not a statistic, not one of those kids in the sixty-four percent.

Emma Margraf is a writer and a foster parent in Washington state. She writes mostly about foster parenting and nonprofit life, but she aspires to be a food and travel writer and to make the perfect grilled cheese.

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Graduating all students college and career ready in Washingtonhttp://educationvoters.org/2014/07/11/graduating-all-students-college-and-career-ready-in-washington/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/07/11/graduating-all-students-college-and-career-ready-in-washington/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 23:03:30 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22718 A campaign for the strongest rules possible in the implementation of Washington’s new high school diploma culminated in a big win for kids. Read the story of our journey below.

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From Sandy Hook to Seattlehttp://educationvoters.org/2014/07/10/from-sandy-hook-to-seattle/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/07/10/from-sandy-hook-to-seattle/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 16:00:11 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22709 Building the compassionate schools movement

Following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, Dr. Christopher Kukk and Scarlett Lewis, mother of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, began work to weave compassion into schools. They met with President Obama and soon after with his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who was developing compassion curriculum for schools on the opposite side of the country. The movement to create a nation of compassionate schools had begun.

Join Compassionate Seattle—Compassionate Schools Constellation for a networking conference for teachers, parents, students, administrators, and community partners as we learn from these experts and work together to promote social and emotional growth strategies, community service opportunities, earth stewardship initiatives and innovative perspectives for rethinking schools.

August 11, 2014   7–9 p.m.   $10.00
August 12, 2014   8–4 p.m.   $20.00

$25.00 for both events if registered by August 1, 2014

Cleveland High School, 5511 15th Ave S, Seattle

Register online: http://compassionateschools.bpt.me

Guest speakers include:

Dr. Christopher Kukk
Western Connecticut State University
Center for Comnpassion, Creativity & Innovation

Scarlett Lewis
Founder, Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation

Marilyn Turkovich
Charter for Compassion International

Ron Hertel
OSPI, Compassionate Schools Project Director

Raj Manhas
Superintendent, North Thurston Public Schools

The office of Mayor Ed Murray
City of Seattle

Clock hours offered for all Washington State certified teachers. Light refreshments and a full lunch will be provided.

Register Now: http://compassionateschools.bpt.me

This event is being co-sponsored by Compassionate Seattle—Compassionate Schools Constellation, and Charter for Compassion International with the generous support of Cleveland High School. This was posted on behalf of Compassionate Seattle—Compassionate Schools Constellation. Download the flyer for this event.

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Activist of the Month: Ashley Guerrahttp://educationvoters.org/2014/07/08/activist-of-the-month-ashley-guerra/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/07/08/activist-of-the-month-ashley-guerra/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:00:34 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22686 At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for July: Ashley Guerra. Read more about her experience leveraging technology to improve parental involvement in education.

The Guerra family at the June 6 State Board of Education forum. From left: From left to right, Ashley, her younger brother Julito, her mom Yelenys, and her dad Julio.

The Guerra family at the June 6 State Board of Education forum. From left: From left to right, Ashley, her younger brother Julito, her mom Yelenys, and her dad Julio.

Ashley Guerra just finished her first year of high school, so it might surprise you to hear that we chose her as our Activist of the Month for July. But it won’t surprise you for very long.

Ashley recently testified at the State Board of Education’s forum on the updated high school diploma for Washington. Her focus was parent engagement.

Her goal to increase parent engagement began as a school project at Kent-Meridian High School, which has the lowest graduation rate in Kent. Ashley and her peers decided to try to find a way to improve Kent-Meridian’s graduation rate.

After researching strategies that have been shown to improve the graduation rate, Ashley and her project group members decided to focus on parent engagement.

While the Kent School District already has a very successful program to engage parents called the Parent Academy for Student Achievement (PASA), Ashley found that many parents were unable to attend the 9-week class regularly because of their work schedules or transportation difficulties in attending the class.

As a solution, Ashley came up with the idea of building a mobile application with the entire PASA curriculum on it. Parents would be able to follow the curriculum at their own pace, and the app could be translated into whichever language is spoken at home. “When used to its full potential, the PASA curriculum can have a huge impact in empowering parents to become involved in their child’s education,” Ashley says.

The reception to her idea for a mobile app was so good that Ashley gave Kent-Meridian High School’s first-ever TED(-style) talk. Her idea also caught the attention of one of her teachers, who put Ashley in touch with LEV’s Community Organizer Joyce Yee.

The rest, as they say, is history. Ashley gave an excellent presentation, and Joyce describes her as a “visionary” individual with an unparalleled commitment to her cause. In fact, Joyce added, “Ashley insisted on testifying at the State Board’s forum despite having had her wisdom teeth removed just two days prior.”

What’s next for Ashley Guerra? Well, career-wise, Ashley plans to become a pediatrician. But, Ashley attributes her success as a student and advocate to her parents and strives to emulate them. “My parents sacrificed everything to ensure that I could succeed in life, and I want to pay it forward. Above all, I want to impact society and make a difference.”

You can rest assured that we will be seeing a lot more of Ashley in the future!

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Making the sky the limithttp://educationvoters.org/2014/07/03/making-the-sky-the-limit/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/07/03/making-the-sky-the-limit/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:47:22 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22697 Making the sky the limit. (View from Spokane.)Rogers High School in northeast Spokane had a graduation rate of 50 percent in 2010. This year, the graduate rate was 85 percent, an increase of 35 percent in four years.

What changed between 2010 and 2014? Not the student body. Seventy-five percent of students at the high school are eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL). What DID change is how students prepare for high school and life after high school.

Rogers High School is in its sixth year of a Navigation 101 grant from College Spark Washington, and they have also implemented the AVID program in their school. Both Navigation 101 and AVID are programs designed to prepare students for college or career.

One aspect of both of those programs is the High School and Beyond Plan, used to help students chart a path through high school to achieve their post-high school career goals. The High School and Beyond Plan is also one part of the newly updated high school diploma for Washington, which was passed during the 2014 legislative session. The League of Education Voters is working with communities across the state to ensure that the implementation of the new diploma is as effective as possible.

So how did Rogers High School implement the High School and Beyond Plan successfully?

Assistant Principal Brett Hale described the format for the High School and Beyond Plan used at Rogers and outlined a number of tactics that were successful:

  1. Begin the plan in middle school.
    “We partner with the middle schools and students prepare their High School and Beyond Plans beginning in 7th grade.” Thus, Brett says, what was originally a four-year plan became a ten-year plan, which students preparing plans to take them from middle school through their post-secondary plans.
  2. Revisit the plan often.
    Students meet with their advisors every week. Advisories are made up of the entire school administration—guidance counselors, administrators, and teachers—so that the student to advisor ratio is 14:1.
  3. Engage parents.
    Parents engagement can make a huge difference in student success. So Rogers High School brought parents in to be active participants in their students’ class registration process.
  4. Engage students in order to engage parents.
    This one is pretty obvious, right? Engaged students are more likely to be successful than peers who are not engaged. But Rogers took this one step further and organized student-led conferences with their parents. These conferences take place every year for every class, and students lead discussion with their parents on career and college readiness and the High School and Beyond Plan. They also discuss pathways to different careers and explore all of their options for their next steps after high school.For ninth grade, Brett says that Rogers added an additional student-led conference at the beginning of the year to lay the groundwork for the High School and Beyond Plan. “This conference gives both incoming freshmen and their parents the foundation they need to really take advantage of the High School and Beyond Plan and make plans for the future.”

But what effect has the High School and Beyond Plan had for Rogers High School?

In addition to the 35 percent increase in graduation rates, the percentage of students graduating with college-ready transcripts has also increased by 45 percent, says Brett. “More students than ever are going to college or have college as an option now. Seventy-seven percent of our graduating seniors have been accepted and are continuing on to post-secondary school this fall.”

With such great success, Brett says Rogers High School has no plans to change the way they’re doing the High School and Beyond Plan. “We haven’t plateaued by any means. We’re going to keep this model and continue empowering all of our students to graduate high school ready for whatever the next step in their career may be. The sky should be—and will be—the limit for all of our students.”

To learn more about the rules process for implementation of Washington’s new high school diploma, please visit our website.

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