Ninety schools received that honor and all of them deserve accolades for consistent high scores within such a robust measure of school performance. It should not be surprising, though, that the average Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) rate in those ninety schools is 23%, or half of the statewide average of 46%. Research has consistently pointed out a strong negative correlation between poverty and student achievement. In other words, schools with high levels of poverty tend to have lower achievement. As I pointed out in the Hotline article, there is good news in that regard within this Exemplary Tier of schools.
The following table includes the seventeen Exemplary Schools that have beaten the odds, demonstrating consistent high levels of student achievement in spite of high poverty rates. With the exception of the last three, they all have FRL rates that are higher, and in some cases, much higher than the state average. The last three on the list are high schools with FRL rates slightly lower than the state average, but their district rates are well above that average. Since under-claiming of FRL status is common among high school students, it seemed fair to add these schools to the list. In the table below, I have also included the state data on transitional bilingual and minority percentages because those factors are important considerations in our state’s achievement/opportunity gap.
Closing the achievement gap is the most important challenge facing our state’s educational leaders. In spite of remarkable results with our National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores and other measures of student performance, Washington State’s achievement gap has continued to grow. The district and school leaders in these seventeen communities have found a way to beat those odds, thereby, coming much closer to the vision of success for all students.
At this point, I don’t know how these schools did it, but we will focus more on that question in the future. In the meantime, if I were still leading a school district I would be asking these seventeen superintendents what led to their school’s success.