Majority of Highline School District Rated ‘Good’
by Jack Mayne
The majority of the 36 schools in the Highline School District were rated as good, very good or exemplary, for the 2010-2011 school year by the State Board of Education.
The remaining 15 were rated as fair or struggling.
A 2009 state law required the state board to create an Accountability Index of more than 2,000 public schools, to determine whether schools are fulfilling their duty to provide a quality education for every child. Test scores are just one part of the data collected by the state, said Catherine Carbone Rogers, Highline School’s director of communications and community relations.
In the analysis of the relatively new data, the Washington Policy Center in Seattle said 42 percent of the state’s 871 K-12 schools were ranked as “fair” or “struggling,” while 23.5 percent were “very good” or “exemplary”.
Numbers show that of the Highline district’s 36 schools and state education board rated three schools in the “exemplary” category and another three in the “very good” category. (See the complete list below.)
There are 15 schools in the middle “good” category, 13 schools in the “fair” category and only one school – Odyssey High School on the former Tyee campus in SeaTac – in the state’s lowest rating, “struggling.”
About five years ago, two high schools were split up into smaller facilities located on the former Tyee and Evergreen campuses, “so that students can interact more in a smaller group where teachers and students know each other better and that teachers know each other better and can coalesce.” Odyssey is one of the resultant schools.
School officials “know that if a student is struggling in a certain area a teacher in one class can collaborate with a teacher in another class to bring that student up to grade level.”
But the low rating prompted changes in the Odyssey’s operation, Rogers said.
“The idea is that if a school is struggling, you don’t want to keep doing the same thing you have been doing,” she said.
Odyssey was once a school for nearby residents.
“It is now a district-wide choice school . . . and it uses a different model. Instead to talking about credit hours, they measure students in terms of competency and they are doing more with technology. They are piloting what they call ‘blended learning’ where there is more use of technology as a teaching tool to provide learning opportunities for kids.”
Highest rated schools
Three Highline schools were rated “exemplary” by the state. Two are Aviation High School and Southern Heights Elementary School. The third is on the same Tyee campus with “struggling” Odyssey – it is Global Connections.
“They focus on a personalized education with a small school model,” Rogers said. “They are very much about college preparation (and) they have made big improvements in their student achievement and that is what earned them that ‘exemplary’ rating.”
She said almost all Highline schools are formed around service areas and the Highline School Board has a policy of neighborhood schools. A few, like Odyssey and Aviation High, are open to any student in the district (Aviation is also open to some from outside the district).
“If you live in the SeaTac or the Tyee Service Area, you would have a choice of attending Global Connections, the Academy of Citizenship and Empowerment, Odyssey, Aviation or other alternatives,” she said.
She said the district is continually working to improve its educational mandate, but noted there are no simple fixes.
“We celebrate our improvements, but we realize we have a long way to go and we keep working at it,” Roger said.
Highline Schools and State School Board Accountability Index Scores: