Among 2017 Highline graduates, the rates among students of color in the King County district increased the most. Pacific Islander students had the biggest jump, with an increase of 31 percentage points since from 2013.
Highline Public Schools’ graduation rate for the Class of 2017 was 78.8 percent, an increase of 4 percentage points from the year before and an increase of 16.5 percentage points in just four years.
That rate is far below the district’s target of 95 percent, but district leaders say it represents an encouraging step toward that goal. And among Highline graduates, students of color saw the greatest gains, according to results released Monday by the district.
The four-year graduation rate for Pacific Islander, Hispanic, black and Native students all increased by at least 21 percentage points since 2013.
The rates broken down by other ethnic groups, income level and special-education and English-language learners also show increases.
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Pacific Islander students had the biggest jump, with an increase of 31 percentage points from 2013 (47.9 percent) to 2017 (78.9 percent). Hispanic students graduated at a rate of 76.3 percent, an increase of 25 percentage points from 2013. The graduation rate for black students was 76.3 percent, compared with 54.6 percent in 2013. Native students’ rate increased by 21.2 percentage points, to 60 percent. The graduation rate for white students was 84.3 percent, up from 72.8 percent in 2013. Asian students’ graduation rate was 79 percent, compared with 72.1 percent.
At 59.1 percent, special-education students had the lowest graduation rate among those in the Class of 2017, but that was another one of the biggest gains since 2013, when the graduation rate was 29 percent.
The 2017 graduation rate for English-language learners increased by 18.8 percentage points from 2013 to 59.1 percent
Superintendent Susan Enfield said she’s proud that the district now has seen four years of steady improvement in every group of students.
“You might see a fluke of 10 percent one year, but it’s not going to happen every year,” she said. “We are steadily making real change in the lives of our students.”
Enfield attributed the increases to several factors, including the Graduate! Highline initiative, more advanced coursework options and lower discipline rates.
The district launched the Graduate! Highline initiative last year to stress that all members of the community should play a part in ensuring student success. Parents might read more to their children, for example, while business leaders can offer on-the-job experience to high-school students. About 3,000 Highline students have completed internships, Enfield said.
Providing on-the-job experience shows students that they have options after graduation if they earn a diploma, Enfield added.
Highline has also started offering more advanced courses for students. Last year, 1,075 students took one or more Advanced Placement course, compared with 848 students the year before.
The district has also added more computer-science classes and other technology-focused courses.
“Sometimes students will say, ‘I don’t want to come to school; I’m bored,’ ” Enfield said. “But when you offer coding classes that kids find engaging, they’re going to show up.”
Enfield also credited the district’s effort to decrease the number of out-of-school suspensions as a reason for the graduation-rate increase. When students remain in school, she said, they don’t fall behind with their schoolwork.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction will release state results in early 2018, spokesman Nate Olson said, so it’s too early to tell how Highline’s numbers compare with those in the rest of Washington. But the numbers alone show the district is moving in the right direction, Enfield said.
“This sends a message that our kids are capable of the best,” she said. “We have the best kids anywhere. Now the world is getting to see it.”