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Originally published November 12, 2013 at 8:27 PM | Page modified November 12, 2013 at 9:39 PM

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Seattle school chief cites progress in his ‘State of the District’ address

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda reviewed district progress over the past five years and outlined goals for the next five years in his “State of the District” address on Tuesday at Wing Luke Museum.


Seattle Times education reporter

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While the Seattle school district showed progress on many goals, including graduation rates, it met the target in only one of 23 academic measurements.

Those were among the results that Superintendent José Banda shared at his “State of the District” address Tuesday at Wing Luke Museum.

He reviewed progress on the Seattle district’s current five-year strategic plan, which is in its final year, and outlined some of the goals for the next five years.

The district also released its annual report marking progress on district goals as well as individual data reports for each of the district’s 95 schools.

Seattle Public Schools showed progress with graduation rates over the past five years.

In 2008, 62 percent of students graduated from high school within four years. Last spring, 72 percent did and 81 percent of students graduated in six years or fewer.

Other findings include:

• Five years ago about half of the graduates had taken a college-level class during high school (Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate), but last school year, 72 percent of graduates did.

• Children who receive free or reduced-price lunches, an indication they come from low-income homes, have also made headway. Five years ago, just 35 percent of those students passed the state math test. This past spring, 53 percent did.

• The percentage of third-graders passing the reading test bumped up 6 percentage points over the past five years to 79 percent.

Despite those gains, the district met its target in only one of 23 measures, with 91 percent of sixth-graders passing all classes (the goal was 90 percent).

Banda also noted persistent gaps in achievement between white students and minority students.

“We still have unacceptable achievement gaps between our students of color and our white students, and we’re not making steady progress with our Native American students. We simply must and we will do better,” Banda said.

Banda was speaking about achievement gaps in state math exams for grades three to eight.

Over the past five years, white students moved up 7 percentage points from 76 percent passing in 2008 to 83 percent passing in 2013. Also in 2013, 81 percent of Asian students and 46 percent of Pacific Islander students passed.

During the same period, African-Americans moved up 11 percentage points — from 30 to 41 percent — and the gap with white students narrowed.

Hispanic/Latino students’ passing rates improved 16 percentage points — from 38 to 54 percent — again tightening the gap, though not eliminating it.

Native American students didn’t fare so well in those math tests over that period. In 2008, 48 percent of them passed the math tests. The rate dipped to 39 percent in 2012 and ticked back up to 42 percent in 2013.

Those results may be difficult to decipher because American Indians comprise just 1 percent of Seattle’s school population, and smaller sample sizes can produce larger statistical swings.

Banda said gaps were closing faster in the district’s southeast region, especially since the 2009-2010 school year. He credited more intensive use of student performance data in those schools to guide instruction and evaluate teachers.

The next five-year plan, approved by the School Board last summer, outlines three broad goals: ensuring educational excellence and equity for every student, improving districtwide systems to meet that goal, and strengthening relationships with families and communities.

The new plan also will set a new starting point for measuring progress from year to year. The baseline data will be established in January, and the district will identify new five-year targets in May.

John Higgins: 206-464-3145 or jhiggins@seattletimes.com On Twitter @jhigginsST



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