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Guest commentary / Graduation rates

Monroe School District takes one for the kids

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By Nancy Truitt Pierce
I joined the Monroe School Board in November of 2011. Since then, I have been thrilled to discover a school district doing an excellent job for youth in our community. In fact, they are so kid focused in their decisions that they have allowed themselves to look bad instead of being bad. Let me explain.
In tables of graduation rates published by The Herald online May 24 and in print May 27, the Monroe School District is listed as having an on-time graduation rate of 55.5 percent, even though our one and only high school is listed as 85.8 percent. So, you should ask, how could our graduation rate as a district be listed as 55.5 percent, when we are really graduating many more at our only high school?
There are several reasons, but the biggest one is related to our dedication to offering options for all our kids based on our belief that there is no such thing as "one size fits all." Toward that end, Monroe offers five different paths for young people to earn a high school diploma. One of those helps dropouts get back into school and is operated in partnership with two local community colleges -- Shoreline and Everett.
Monroe accepts students from all over the region, including school districts like Seattle, Everett, Lake Stevens, Shoreline, Snohomish and Northshore. If a kid is a long-term dropout, then he or she is eligible for this Youth Re-engagement Program, which offers a way to a better future through a high school diploma, a GED or other technical/professional certificate program.
Monroe Public Schools hosts these programs as the "school of record" even though the vast majority of the students don't come from Monroe. Kids transfer to our student rolls so they can attend those programs. Given the nature of the Youth Re-engagement Program, the young people are nearly always listed as a dropout even when they successfully complete this program.
The statistics published in The Herald included the students participating in the Shoreline Community College program, thus the difference between the district graduation rate and that of Monroe's traditional high school.
And the Youth Re-engagement programs have excellent outcomes! Due to a well-developed curriculum with a rich set of services and lots of support, Shoreline CC reports that not only are students successful but about 70 percent continue on to postsecondary training.
It's a huge win for this region and for these young people, but one that is not reflected in the state's graduation rate printed in The Herald.
I think it's remarkable and admirable that the Monroe School Boards that came before me, and staff at Monroe Public Schools, made these decisions in spite of the fact that it makes our graduation rate look bad. They did it because it's the right thing to do for the kids. I'm proud to be associated with people like that!

Nancy Truitt Pierce is a member of the Monroe School Board.

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