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Education report shows region making progress but more work lies ahead

For the Reporter

The Road Map Project's annual results report shows significant progress being made on important education milestones in the South Seattle and South King County region, but more work must be done to help all students succeed.

The report card shows data on 33 indicators of student success, which are important measures related to student achievement, such as proficiency in third-grade reading or enrollment in postsecondary education. Several new indicators are unveiled in the report in the areas of parent engagement and student motivation. WaKIDS data (kindergarten readiness) is also shown for the first time.

The Road Map Project is a region-wide collective impact effort aiming to dramatically improve education results in one of the county's areas of greatest need. The Road Map Project's goal is to double the number of students who are on track to graduate from college or earn a career credential by 2020, and to close opportunity gaps. Seven school districts – Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Seattle and Tukwila – are among the hundreds of partners working together toward the Road Map Project goal.

The 2013 results report is not focused on one type of institution or sector – it is a community-wide accountability tool. The report takes an honest look at education results – the good and the bad – and is meant to help focus attention and spur continuous improvement.

The report documents much progress but also places particular emphasis on opportunity gaps. Regionally, gaps are large and persistent along the entire education continuum. For example, students not reading proficiently in third grade tend to be overwhelmingly students of color.

Gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing racial/ethnic student subgroups have been increasing in seventh grade math and eighth grade science. These gaps are at 46 percentage points and 45 percentage points, respectively. Gaps of this magnitude will effectively shut these students out of great opportunities in our STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-intensive economy. Discipline rates are also noted in the report. Overall, these rates have declined but very significant racial disproportionality remains.

Progress in some areas

The 2013 Results Report also shows significant improvements being made from cradle to college. For example, big gains have been made in the percent of students in South Seattle and South King County taking advanced courses in high school, most notably with Hispanic/Latino students increasing from 34 percent in 2012 to 52 percent in 2013. The region broke its own record earlier this year when 94 percent of eligible students signed up for the state's College Bound Scholarship.

Many positive trends are also evident in the early learning realm, where districts are adding full-day kindergarten slots and many more licensed child care centers are participating in Early Achievers, the state's quality rating system. These developments are expected to help the region accelerate progress over time and eliminate the opportunity gap before it ever develops.

As the region reflects on its education results, it should be noted that poverty is continuing to rise in our communities. According to the Brookings Institution, South King County cities experienced big jumps in poverty in the first decade of the 21st century, including a 92-percent increase in Auburn and 89-percent increase in Renton. The trend toward the suburbanization of poverty has continued unabated since the Road Map Project started in 2010. The number of homeless students has increased from 1,882 in 2009-10 to 3,156 in 2012-13. Currently, there are almost 72,000 low-income students in Road Map Project region schools, which is up even since just last year.

"I am inspired and encouraged by the work going on in the Road Map Project region. When we focus on something, we can move the needle. The data show that students are taking more challenging courses in high school. I think this will eventually lower the percent of students needing to take remedial courses in postsecondary, and help more students stay in college and earn their degrees," said Randy Nunez, College and Career Family/Community liaison for the Kent School District.

To read the report, please visit www.roadmapproject.org.

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