With the adoption of a new set of benchmarks, Tacoma Public Schools promises to monitor student academic performance, school safety and other measures from preschool through high school.
The School Board last week agreed to annually review its progress toward goals that go beyond state test scores although those scores are also part of the new benchmark system.
This says to the community that we are serious about educating our children, and we are not going to accept any more excuses, board member Karen Vialle said.
In addition to looking at test scores, the district promises to measure the percentage of students enrolled in extracurricular activities, plus graduation and dropout rates as well as the percentage of students who drop out and return to school.
The district will capture data on the percentage of students enrolled in rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, as well as students who take college courses while in high school.
It will also keep tabs on students who fail a single class or multiple classes. And it will track where students go after high school colleges, the military or apprenticeships.
For its youngest students, the district will log the percentage of children eligible for district preschool programs and compare it with the actual number enrolled. Kindergartners will have their literacy and math skills as well as their social learning reported.
Students and parents will take surveys reporting on their schools climate, and disciplinary statistics will be correlated with academic performance such as failing a class or being below grade level.
Data will be broken out by ethnicity, poverty level, geographical region, student mobility (moving from school to school), gender, special education or English Language Learner status.
Superintendent Carla Santorno said the district sought feedback from community members to lay out the plan. The district worked on the system over the past year.
The board heard more public feedback at its Thursday meeting. Several speakers said they are working to help the citys minority and low-income kids, who frequently fall behind in school. Most supported the boards new benchmark plan, but said they will remain vigilant to see that its carried out.
Lori Goodrich has taught in Tacoma for more than 30 years and is in her 11th year teaching at McCarver Elementary School, a high-poverty school. She said shes happy the benchmarks are designed to measure student outcomes at multiple points during a school year.
But she said significant gaps remain between the achievement of white and minority students.
The No. 1 goal is closing the gap, she said. I commend the board for accepting this challenge.
Trevor Kagochi, from Peace Community Center, said the plan moves a step closer to closing the achievement gap for minority kids. His center offers tutoring and other support for Tacoma students.
He said he wants to ensure that the school district continues to monitor indicators. He wants to see actions linked to the goals as well as regular reports to the community.
Sally Perkins, who tutors at Peace Community Center, said the district should add a measurement of whether students feel safe around adults in their school. She said a parent told her that adults from the school district can be abrupt and mean when talking to kids. And a student she tutors was allegedly told by an authority figure that he is not cut out for algebra.
Comments to students about their ability are more common than I wish they were, Perkins said.
Board member Debbie Winskill said she, too, sees a need for improved attitudes toward children in schools.
I feel customer service is important, she said. She wants the district to ask more about that when it surveys students and parents.
Jonathan Johnson, from the Tacoma chapter of the NAACP, said that high standards must be matched by a school environment in which children feel like respect is a two-way street.
He said that if children are told at school that they will not be successful, that is a culture of failure.
We can do better, he said.
And Terrance McGehee, father of two Tacoma Public Schools students, said the community must join with teachers to make success happen. He said he would welcome a discussion about how the district can make success at school more important to the community.
Kids really want to do well, he said. But in our community, they are not always (living in) the best circumstances.