September 15, 2017 Policy Brief

Back to School Edition


While the 2018 Legislative Session is still months away, K-12 students returning to class last week was a reminder that the work to support our state’s kids is a year-round effort. With that in mind, we are looking ahead to policies that will be key debates in 2018.

Our policy brief will follow a bi-weekly schedule until the 2018 Legislative Session when we will return to our weekly schedule.

The Horizon: Key Dates

  • October 24: Oral Argument in McCleary Court Case
  • November 7: Election Day
  • January 8: First day of 2018 Legislative Session


We are currently preparing our policy priorities for the upcoming legislative session focused on how the state can best utilize the increased funds in the 2017 legislative session to make progress on high school graduation rates and other outcomes. Please stay tuned here for announcements on how we will focus our efforts to help move the needle on key metrics for student success.

Key Numbers 

  • Washington State ranks second-worst in the nation, after only Alaska, in chronic absence rates; in 28 percent of Washington schools almost a third students are missing weeks of classwork
  • 4 percent – freshman failure rate on Mercer Island (defined as failing at least one core course in an academic year)
  • 38 percent – freshman failure rate in Tukwila
  • 20 percent – statewide freshman failure rate

Social Media Chatter

@nealtmorton, education reporter for the Seattle Times, points us all to the great resources OSPI has put together to help understand the State’s new education plan. Via @Twitter: “Aw yeah that's the good stuff: @waOSPI launches new website dedicated to the *maybe* McCleary fix/K-12 budget … #WAedu”

What We're Reading

West Seattle High tutor says part of her job is helping students believe in themselves – Seattle Times

“In a story published this past weekend, Education Lab wrote about schools that are working to boost graduation rates by focusing more on their ninth-graders. Seattle’s West Seattle High is one of those schools, and tutor Sarah Ziker writes about her experience there.”

Shawn Vestal: Mentoring lifts the grades of foster care kids failing school – Spokesman-Review

“Halfway through the last academic term, Rayanne was failing every one of her classes at Lewis and Clark High School. All six of them. Then she began meeting with Brittany Wells in Room 205. Now she’s heading into her junior year with high hopes and a determination to go to college.”

Schools in Washington rank second-worst in nation for chronic absenteeism – Seattle Times

“…when large numbers of students miss lessons, it affects more than their own performance because high levels of ‘churn’ make it ‘almost impossible for even a very good teacher to figure out how to move forward,’ said Hedy Chang, executive director of the national nonprofit Attendance Works. This is particularly true for science labs and other lessons that span more than one day.”

How high schools break up the ‘ninth-grade bottleneck’ to help students graduate on time – Seattle Times

“Traditionally, high schools offer students a sink-or-swim scenario: Those with poor grades are expected to catch up on their own through repeat classes, summer school or online courses. But a growing body of research suggests the grades students earn in their freshman year are a strong predictor of whether they’ll ever graduate — stronger than their test scores or even family income.”

Thank you for reading our summary. Please share any questions or feedback you may have with Katie Gustainis,

We look forward to hearing from you.

Share This Page