Rainier Beach students ask for help with getting to school

At the last school board meeting, a group of Rainier Beach High School students, attended by one teacher, came to ask the board for a simple request: ORCA cards to help them travel to and from school.

The district responded by having a “listening meeting” with students in mid-December. Any news of solutions will have to wait until after the break.

At the school board meeting, one student describes how on his long walk to school, bus drivers will sometimes take pity on him and give him a lift, and sometimes they won’t, and that makes the difference between being late or on time.

Another said that the lack of help for transportation costs pushed her and other students into stark decisions.

“Students are having to choose between having money for food and money for transportation. College is in my future and transportation is not making it easier to get there.”

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District Scorecard: 1 out of 23 goals met for 2013

The new district scorecard is available. Here’s the link. While the district made more gains than losses, it fell short of its own goals, particularly when it came to achievement among low income students. On state reading tests, 62 percent of students with free and reduced price lunches were proficient. This is a gain of 4 percent over last year, but falls far short of the district’s goal of 83 percent. On state math tests, 53 percent of students with free and reduced price lunches were proficient, another gain of 4 percent in a year, but far short of the goal of 69 percent.

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Keeping Kids in School, One Chat at a Time

By Fiona Cohen

Stanford Social Innovation Review has an article featuring the work of Communities in Schools, which runs drop-out prevention programs in schools across the country. In Seattle, Communities in Schools works in Graham Hill and Roxhill elementary schools, Pathfinder K-8, Aki Kurose and Denny middle schools, and Rainier Beach High School, the setting for the scene that opens Stanford Social Innovation Review’s story.

“When the school day begins at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, Dalisha Phillips settles into her customary spot in the welcome room. It’s a mandatory first stop for latecomers, but the vibe is anything but punitive. Phillips, site coordinator for a dropout prevention organization called Communities in Schools (CIS, formerly known as Cities in Schools), is here to hold stragglers accountable, not bust their chops.

‘We do a reflection together, plan what students can do differently in the future, and talk about what the school can do to support them,’ she explains. Then Phillips works the phones to check in with parents. A chat about a pattern of tardies may open a conversation about a family in distress. If Phillips detects that they’re short of food or unable to make the rent—all-too-common situations in schools that serve high-poverty populations—she gets busy connecting families with local resources. ‘You can’t fix everything,’ Phillips admits, ‘but just knowing is a good step in the direction of being able to help.’”

Attendance improvement brings sweet rewards

Aki Kurose Middle School was honored last week for its improved attendance record. As part of the Be Here Get There campaign, schools vied for prizes by improving their attendance as compared to the previous year. Aki Kurose Middle School increased attendance by 3.67 percent and was rewarded with Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream scooped by ten Seattle firefighters who donated their time.

According to Get Schooled, Aki Kurose won their reward through teamwork. The whole school acted as a team focused on a core issue – getting every child to school every day. Teachers stood in the lunchroom with megaphones, speaking to everyone about attendance. Staff made calls to parents to encourage them to encourage their students to come to school. Students who missed school received home visits and encouragement from staff to be in school. Classrooms posted their attendance rates. All of these efforts combined with a keenness for competition led them to success.

The students were congratulated by former Sounders player Taylor Graham, who told them “Whether it’s on the field or in the classroom, you have to show up to succeed. Students here at Aki Kurose made the commitment to succeed in school.”

The “Be Here Get There” attendance campaign launched in October and is a collaboration between the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools, the Alliance for Education, and Get Schooled, which aims to make schools engaging and attractive to students by rewarding students for having excellent attendance.

Read more here.

Editorial: Efforts to boost SPS students’ attendance is paying off

This editorial originally appeared in the Seattle Times.

The biggest contributor to academic performance is school attendance. Teachers can’t teach students who don’t show up.

A nearly six-month-old partnership between the city of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools places a needed focus on improving attendance as another method of raising academic achievement. The “Be Here. Get There” initiative, funded by the voter-approved Families and Education Levy, correctly raises the need to get kids to school on a level of importance with engaging students once they are there.

The city, which controls the levy money relied upon by the district, set academic-performance targets that include improved attendance. The district earns a bonus by meeting the targets.

The payoff has been the district’s student-absence rate moving to its lowest level in five years. There has been a 50 percent reduction in absences since the campaign was launched in September 2011.

Like most school districts, Seattle’s attendance rates are high, around 80 percent districtwide and up to 90 percent in the highest-performing schools. But strong districtwide rates hide pockets of chronic absenteeism at some schools.

Read the full editorial here.