SEATTLE — The Road Map Project’s latest report on the state of education in King County’s areas of highest need shows some progress, but much more work needs to be done to close race and ethnic opportunity and achievement gaps. The project focuses on students in South King County and South Seattle, where 92 percent of the county’s high-poverty schools are concentrated and where the homeless student population has more than doubled from 2,000 to 4,500 since the project began in 2010.
As the greater Seattle area experiences historic economic growth—about 740,000 job openings are expected in the next five years—many of the Road Map Project region’s families are not sharing in the prosperity. Poverty has shifted out of Seattle as housing prices continue to climb. What’s more, the Road Map region’s students are not being adequately prepared for the local knowledge-based economy: among students who entered ninth grade in the 2006-07 school year, only 31 percent have earned a postsecondary credential by their mid-twenties—far shy of the project’s goal of 70 percent by 2030.
“The biggest challenge for our region is making sure our greatest assets—the diverse young people who are growing up here—are set up for success,” said Tony Mestres, president and CEO of the Seattle Foundation, a longtime Road Map Project partner. “We need to give students the opportunities and supports they need to reach their full potential and to access the jobs being created right in our own backyard.”
The Road Map Project brings together partners in and outside the classroom to improve outcomes for the region’s students from cradle through college and career. Work is under way to build stronger systems of support for the Road Map region’s students, including improving early learning programs, reforming school discipline approaches, and helping those who have dropped out of high school return to education.
The 2016 Results Report shows many areas of good progress:
- More rigorous coursetaking: Seventy-six percent of the Road Map region’s students took one or more college-level courses before graduating high school, compared with 70 percent in 2015. Renton School District showed much improvement: 62 percent of its class of 2016 completed coursetaking requirements to apply to a four-year college, compared with 47 percent of the class of 2015.
- Better on-time high school graduation rates: The region overall continues to make steady progress in graduating high schoolers in four years, with rates up again in 2016. Highlights include Tukwila School District (75 percent in 2016 versus 63 percent in 2011) and Highline Public Schools (75 percent in 2016 versus 62 percent in 2011).
- Early data on College Bound Scholarship shows promise: The scholarship helps low-income students pay for higher education. More than 30,000 Road Map region students have signed up since the program began. Among the region’s high school seniors, those in College Bound directly enrolled and persisted in college at rates slightly higher than students not in the program, a positive finding that challenges the opportunity gap for low-income students.
Despite the gains, there are still major challenges:
- Chronic absenteeism is on the rise: Twenty-seven percent of the region’s high schoolers were absent 20 or more full days this past year, compared with 23 percent in 2013.
- Racial/ethnic gaps are widening for college persistence: The region’s students face many barriers once they enter college. When comparing the percentage of students who move on to a second year of college by race and ethnicity, there is a 38 percentage point difference between the highest and lowest performing groups, an increase from 30 points in 2010.
- The region is in need of high-quality early learning: Only 20 percent of South King County’s low-income children were in a formal early learning program, compared with nearly half of all low-income children in Seattle. Additionally, only 35 percent of the region’s low-income kindergartners met all criteria for school readiness, compared with 54 percent of children who are not low-income.
“This year’s Road Map Results Report is a strong call to action for all who care about the future of our region and its children. We must redouble efforts to dismantle institutionalized racism and build effective, equitable systems that open up opportunity for all students,” said Jenn Ramirez Robson, director of resident services at King County Housing Authority, another committed Road Map Project partner.
To read the full report, visit www.roadmapproject.org/2016ResultsReport. For more data at the school, district and regional levels, plus information on how outcomes and demographics have shifted over time by race/ethnicity, income, housing status, gender, language and ability status, explore the data dashboard: www.roadmapproject.org/dashboard.
About the Road Map Project
The Road Map Project is a regional collective impact initiative aimed at dramatically improving student achievement from cradle through college and career in South Seattle and South King County. The project is working to make large-scale change and has created a common goal and shared vision to facilitate coordinated action, both inside and outside schools. Started in 2010, leaders and activists from many sectors are committed to working together as part of the Road Map Project to include education outcomes in our communities. For more, visit www.roadmapproject.org.