In the “state-of-the-district” assessment, Superintendent Larry Nyland praised many of the district’s efforts to improve test scores and close gaps, but added there’s more work ahead.

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Seattle Public Schools continues to perform better than the state average on exams and progressed well to meet its three main goals last year, but its students still face significant achievement gaps, according to a district debriefing Monday night.

The district made progress in meeting its goals for ensuring excellence and equity, improving various systems districtwide and strengthening family and community engagement, Superintendent Larry Nyland said in his annual “state-of-the-district” report Monday evening at Franklin High School.

Highlights of the district’s achievements include 11 schools being named Schools of Distinction, with nine as repeat winners. Olympic Hills Elementary had the highest academic scores for students of color in the state, while Denny International, Mercer International and Aki Kurose middle schools had the highest math scores for black students in Washington, according to the district. The district was awarded the Schools and Family Partnership Award by the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University for its leadership and facilitation of school teams.

Nyland stressed the district’s equity goal, citing summer learning, relationship and school-climate training for educators and new race-and-equity teams for 30 schools. The superintendent has called eliminating opportunity gaps “the issue of our time.”

Among the district’s third- through eighth-grade students, 85 percent of white students were proficient in English-language arts, compared with 34 percent of their black classmates, according to state superintendent’s office data. The gap is the widest of the 15 districts with the highest number of black students in the state, in part because Seattle’s white students had a much higher percentage rate. In Federal Way, for example, 34 percent of the black students were proficient, compared with 60 percent of white students.

“Race matters, and we have got to figure out a way to close that gap,” Nyland said.

Two years ago, the district identified eight Seattle schools that were outperforming other schools with similar student demographics and looked at what those schools were doing differently than others. At those eight schools, Nyland said, the students felt like the teachers knew who they were and how they were struggling, and they felt included in their schools. That same mindset needs to be applied in other schools, Nyland said.

He brought up the success at Aki Kurose, which addresses barriers facing boys of color through an initiative called My Brother’s Keeper, launched by President Obama. Each student who was chronically absent is paired with a mentor, and the two meet weekly to discuss the student’s attendance and schoolwork. Since the initiative started at Aki Kurose, 50 percent of the students in the program have scored proficient or higher on their state exams for the first time.

“They (the school) made a significant difference in the lives of our students,” Nyland said.