In Tukwila, 73 percent of students experiencing homeless graduated in 2015, compared with the overall district rate of 70 percent.
Tukwila’s Foster High School has made a dramatic turnaround since 2012, with a jump in test scores and graduation rates. The students, of which about 75 percent are immigrants and refugees, have been commended for that improvement.
This week, the district announced another accomplishment: The Class of 2015’s four-year graduation rate for students experiencing homelessness was 73 percent, three percentage points higher than the overall district average, and much higher than the state average for homeless students of 52 percent.
About 11 percent of Tukwila’s 3,000 students experience homelessness. While four other school districts had a higher graduation rate for homeless students, Tukwila is the only one of the five with a homeless population of more than 10 percent.
The Northshore School District, which has a homeless student population of 1 percent, had the highest graduation rate, followed by Newport, Oak Harbor and Spokane.
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There were about 35,500 homeless students attending Washington’s public schools in 2015, according to data from the state superintendent’s office. Under the federal McKinney-Vento act, the state receives $950,000 in funding each year to provide districts with liaisons who work with homeless students. The act defines homeless children as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”
In Tukwila, McKinney-Vento Coordinator Jonathan Houston’s goal is to know every student experiencing homelessness by name. He credited staff and community efforts to help the students as a reason for the high graduation rate.
“I truly believe that our outstanding graduation rate is due to the work of caring staff and community members, and their efforts have not only helped our McKinney-Vento students, but brought about a culture of care and support that helps all students,” Houston said.