Road Map partners acknowledge they are far from reaching their original 2020 goal and need more time to close achievement gaps for low-income youth and students of color.
Seven years after setting the goal of doubling the number of students in South Seattle and South King County who finish college or earn a career credential, the Road Map Project is increasing the target to 70 percent — and extending the deadline from 2020 to 2030.
Created in 2010, the Road Map Project is a regional partnership working to dramatically boost college-completion rates in seven school districts.
In the seven years since, the initiative has yielded some success: This past school year, high-school graduation rates for the first time reached or surpassed 75 percent in all seven districts. More graduates than ever before filed applications for federal financial aid to attend college.
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But Road Map partners acknowledge they are far from reaching their original 2020 goal.
“I might have been a little overly optimistic when we first began thinking about the rate of change that we could expect,” said Mary Jean Ryan, executive director of the Road Map Project.
“But we are starting to see now where people are really digging in and doing great work,” she added. “We’re starting to see the results come.”
According to Road Map’s latest annual report, released Thursday, only 31 percent of students in the Road Map region who entered high school in 2006-07 have earned a college degree or career credential by their mid-20s.
That rate inches up to 37 percent for white students and 40 percent for Asian students but plummets to 18 percent and 16 percent for black and Latino students, respectively.
Similar gaps persist in student discipline: The overall rate of ninth-grade students who were expelled or suspended dropped from 13 percent in 2009-10 to 6 percent last year. But 14 percent of black freshmen and 10 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native freshmen were expelled or suspended in 2015-16, compared with 3 percent of white freshmen.
The report states that students who have been suspended or expelled between ninth and 12th grade have a 36 percent chance of directly enrolling in college after high school, compared with 57 percent for students who were never disciplined.
“I feel proud that the region has made good gains,” Ryan said. “But I also feel sobered by the persistence of the race and ethnic gap …”
“We need to be very laserlike in our focus,” she added.
As Road Map shifts to the higher target and later deadline, Ryan identified where that focus might be.
That will include, she said, greater support for bilingual programs, building grass roots family engagement, increasing access to high-quality early learning and partnerships with community colleges to help black students in particular.
“There’s no getting around it: This is going to take longer,” Ryan said. “And it’s going to take everybody involved making the commitment to building the kind of system that will support kids and families.”
About 125,000 students are in the Road Map region, which includes the Seattle, Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton and Tukwila school districts. Of that group, 70 percent are students of color, 56 percent are low-income and 20 percent are learning English.