Feb. 7, 2017

20 percentage point gain in two years, growth across most subgroups

With a fierce focus on the success of each student, Foster High School for the second year in a row significantly increased its graduation rate for all students and many subgroups.

“I am beyond proud of the smarts and resiliency of our scholars and the dedication of our educators,” said Superintendent Nancy Coogan. “Graduation is the ultimate measure of learning and preparedness for life, and we are on a trajectory to fulfill that promise for each and every student. That is our most important work.”

The on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2016 was 75 percent, a full 5 percentage points higher than the previous year’s momentous leap; since 2014, Foster’s graduation rate has climbed 20 percentage points. Gains were made in the Pacific Island, Multiracial, White, and Low Income subgroups, with a significant 7 percentage-point jump for African Americans. Tukwila continued to increase its rate of homeless graduates to 75 percent, far exceeding the state in this subgroup.

Larson attributes the turnaround to purposeful “equity, access, and opportunities for all students.” She commends the Foster staff, as well as those who laid the educational groundwork before them, on their commitment to doing absolutely whatever it takes for kids.

“Staff members work extraordinarily hard providing extra time before, during and after school, working with individual students creating success plans for them,” Larson said. “This is definitely a team effort.”

Foster is the single high school in one of the most diverse districts in the nation, with students—many of them refugees and immigrants—that speak more than 80 world languages at home. About 75 percent of families live in poverty with 11 percent of those without stable housing. About 40 percent are English Language Learners.

One of the staff’s main jobs, according to Larson, is helping students from such backgrounds overcome their own formidable self-doubt to believe in their potential. Educators must often find solutions for teenagers’ survival needs—food, shelter, stability—before learning can even occur. The systemic increase in academic achievement at Foster has required purposeful changes in structures, instruction, and support.  Each academic department has developed and implemented rigorous, standards-based curriculum backed by meaningful professional development. Educators plan collaboratively within and between departments and grade levels with an aligned focus on literacy in all content areas.

At the district level, school board leaders have directed resources to add supports like an on-time graduation specialist, more college-level courses, and one-to-one computer devices at the high school.

Last year, Gov. Jay Inslee praised Foster High as a statewide model, and the Seattle Times and KCTS featured Foster’s story of exemplary growth. The Class of 2016 continued this upward trajectory.

Learn more about some of Foster’s outstanding programs and people: