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High School Success Bill Summary

February 14, 2018 UPDATE:

Although Senator Mullet’s SB 6209, which would require Academic Acceleration and Early Warning Data Systems statewide, received a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on February 1st, it did not receive a vote in time of for the policy cutoff the next day. While supportive of the concepts, some valid questions about the logistics of implementation came up from Senators—especially in connection to funding as districts adjust to the new state funding structure.

The level of support the concepts received, however, garnered enough attention that Senators Wellman, Rolfes, Mullet, Rivers, Zeiger, and Palumbo all collaborated to ensure that these policies saw progress this session by amending Senator Wellman’s bill, SB 6135 to do the following:

  • Expand the existing grant program to allow individual high schools (not just districts) to apply for an Academic Acceleration grant. This means that schools interested in pursuing this program will now be able to apply for more resources to do so directly, instead of hoping that their district will adopt it.
  • Create more flexibility within Learning Assistance Program (LAP) funding so that schools may now use their LAP funding to implement an Early Warning and Dropout Intervention System. This means that schools interested in creating an Early Warning System that benefits every student will be able to use existing funding to do so.

The results we’re seeing so far this session are very promising and expand the opportunities for schools across Washington to pursue programs that are already working in numerous communities.

SB 6135 was passed unanimously off the Senate floor on Tuesday, February 13th. It is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee before moving through the rest of the legislative process and hopefully to Governor Inslee’s desk in early March.

For more information about these policies, check out our resources below for an explanation of each, blog posts highlighting why they’re needed, and related news articles.



Our priority during the 2018 legislative session is to support Senator Mark Mullet's High School Success bill, SB 6209. The companion bill in the House is HB 2868, sponsored by Representatives Drew Stokesbary and Eric Pettigrew. Here is a brief description of the High School Success bill and the impact it will have for Washington students:

What it is:

The High School Success Bill will take two existing programs that are already working in schools around the state and expand them to every school in Washington. The programs are:

  • Academic Acceleration: This policy automatically enrolls every qualified student in advanced courses (such as dual-credit, AP, Cambridge, and/or IB). It's a change from the current "opt-in" system that disadvantages students who might not normally seek out or be selected for these classes - but nevertheless are still capable of the work – to an "opt-out" system that removes barriers.
    • This bill would also allocate funding to cover the dual-credit AP, IB, Cambridge, and PSAT test fees for all low-income students in Washington, eliminating a significant financial barrier for these students.
    • Want to learn about Academic Acceleration? Check out our recent blog post and this Seattle Times article for even more context.
  • Dropout Prevention and Early Warning Systems: Research has shown repeatedly that students who are on track by the end of 9th grade are four times more likely to graduate on time. The bill will give students the resources they need to support students now so they can succeed later by requiring schools to implement research-proven Early Warning Data Systems and Dropout Prevention programs that prioritize following the ABCs:
    • A – attendance (flag chronic absenteeism)
    • B – behavior (identify behavioral patterns)
    • C – course performance (support progress toward graduation)

For more information about Early Warning Systems and Dropout Prevention, check out this blog post about Spokane School District and this one about Highline. This Seattle Times article also profiles a similar program in West Seattle.

Why It's Needed

  • Washington currently ranks 40th in the country when it comes to high school graduation rates. We can do better.
  • Students who take advanced courses are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college.
  • We’re missing students of color from advanced classrooms. Half of Black, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander students who qualify for advanced classes are NOT enrolled in them (Source: College Board)
  • Research shows that students who are on track by 9th grade are four times more likely to graduate. If we provide students the proper supports, they can achieve their dreams.
  • ½ of students who dropped out in 2016 did so for an “other or unknown reason”. Many families report not receiving calls from school when they’re child is absent. We’re losing track of kids.
  • Washington has the 2nd highest number of chronically absent students in the country - 17% miss 18 days or more each year. 
  • In 2018, almost 2/3 of available jobs in the nation will require at least some college education, and most of them require a bachelors degree. But only 1/3 of Washington students will go on to complete a post-secondary degree. 

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