OLYMPIA — Students graduated from public high schools in Washington at the same rate in 2019 as they did in 2018.
The story line varies from district to district across Snohomish County, with some recording an increase in the percentage of their students earning a diploma in four years, and others experiencing a slight drop.
Statewide, the graduation rate was 80.9% in 2019 among those who started the ninth grade at the same time and graduated four years later, according to data released this week by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Both districts improved on their performance from the 2018 school year.
“We look at it on a student-by-student approach,” explained Cathy Woods, director of college and career readiness and on-time graduation for Everett Public Schools.
“If a student is not on track to meet their graduation requirements, there are a lot of ways to get them back on track,” she said, rattling off options such as tutoring, mentoring and retaking classes. “It’s all hands on deck. Everyone on our team is looking for ways to help get them college and career ready.”
Arlington achieved a 90% graduation rate, a leap of nearly 5% in one year. It continues a trend of impressive gains. Just four years ago the district’s graduation rate was 77.9%.
A key to the success is the ability to keep students on campus and engaged, a top official said.
For example, Weston High School, a school of choice, offers access to online programs and opportunities for those who’ve left high school to return and finish their requirements.
Throughout the district, more students are taking classes which earn them college credits while in high school. Summer school is another avenue.
“It’s a whole package. The more you keep kids in school and learning, the more it helps,” said district spokesman Gary Sabol. “Keeping them in school is having a big impact.”
Snohomish recorded an 88.6% rate, up from 83.7% in 2018.
“We’re excited. It is one of the many indicators of success,” said Superintendent Kent Kultgen. “And the foundation for recognition of these numbers is our staff.”
Kultgen said their deployment of a research-based strategy for ensuring students are successful at each grade level is at the core of their effort. When students reach high school, the goal is supporting them on the graduation pathway of their choosing.
Several districts recorded a dip.
In Edmonds, it wasn’t much, only a 1 percent drop to 82.6%. Officials are digging into the numbers and note rates rose at three of the district’s high schools, with Mountlake Terrace reaching 92.6%.
“We have been doing some deep data analysis to better understand the numbers and come up with answers for the drop,” said Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab in an email. “Now that the numbers are finalized, we are preparing to do a report for the school board in January after we have had a chance to analyze the data for each of our high schools and to develop some theories about specific factors that have contributed to the drop.”
Lakewood saw its graduation rate fall from 92.1% in 2018 to 87.5% in 2019.
“We were aware the number has gone down,” said Superintendent Scott Peacock, who took the reins in July. He came from the Snohomish School District where he worked 26 years, the last as deputy superintendent.
This year, he said, they refocused the position of the district’s student success coordinator to be more proactive in helping ninth-graders discover the best pathway.
“It is about ensuring they learn the skills and build the capacity they need for life after high school,” he said. “It is not about jumping through hoops.”
Statewide, rates climbed for students who continued to a fifth, sixth or seventh year in pursuit to complete graduation requirements, according to state data.
“We are encouraged to see graduation rates for students who stay in high school past four years continue to increase,” said Chris Reykdal, the state’s superintendent of public instruction. “We know that for some of our students, the support provided beyond the fourth year is vital to their success after high school.”
That additional time enabled a greater number of students with special needs to graduate. The four-year rate for students receiving special education services was 62.1% while the 7-year rate was 75.6%, state data shows.