Strategies for Success

The road to graduation starts with a strong foundation

Teacher Erin Christensen from Audubon Elementary in Redmond works with students in the school’s garden. Photo courtesy Lake Washington School District

Statewide, more than 81,000 high school students took end-of-course exams in math, geometry and biology in 2013. Forty-seven percent of students did not pass the algebra 1 test on their first try, and 31.4 percent did not pass the biology test on their first try.

Educators agree establishing a relationship with your student’s high school before he or she fails a required class is more important than ever.

Research shows good attendance and good grades go hand in hand. Good attendance is the student’s responsibility, but students should expect their high school to have various strategies in place to help them when they are struggling socially or academically.

“We really work to make our schools welcoming and knowing each child,” said Dr. Timothy Yeomans, superintendent for the Puyallup School District. Yeomans invites groups of students to have lunch with him and attempts at some point to ask, “What can we do to make sure they are best served?”

Nowadays, most school districts offer parents access to an online grade book so they can see how their teen is doing in class. Parents are encouraged to email teachers and all area high schools and districts maintain websites where information about help — beyond the classroom — can be found.

“Communication between parents and the school is critical,” Yeomans said. “When we get that right, the success rate of students is increased.”

In districts where ninth-graders are in junior high, there’s an on-time graduation specialist assigned to each student from the moment they enter ninth grade. Yeomans said the specialists “have been hugely helpful” in communicating to students the importance of the next four years.

Several area districts also offer AVID — Advancement Via Individual Determination — classes. AVID stresses a college-bound attitude toward learning, and additional support is offered especially to students from households underrepresented in colleges, such as students living in poverty, students whose parents did not graduate from high school or attend college, and students from limited English-speaking households.

Students who are very close to passing a required state exam can simply choose to take it again, and they should find out when it will next be offered (usually in January) and discuss with school officials how best to prepare.
Some students simply aren’t good test-takers even though they do well in class. For these students, a Collection of Evidence — a COE — is an option.

Under a COE, students have the opportunity to develop a portfolio showing they have learned the material. Their COE portfolio is submitted to the state for scoring and evaluation.

Considerable research has been done on the importance of freshman year. According to research conducted by the University of Chicago, grades and attendance are the two most important factors among ninth-graders influencing future graduation.

Researchers there found that more than 95 percent of students with a B average or better in their freshman year went on to graduate.

Clearly, the freshman year can be a fresh start when students commit to good habits.

“It’s important for (students) to know how critical, even imperative, it is for (their ninth grade year) to go well,” Yeomans said. “The world begins to keep score — everything from this point forward is transcripted.”

Additional resources about high- school requirements and strategies for success can be found on the OSPI website.

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