Preparing Every Student to Graduate High School

In 2021, 2/3 of Washington jobs available will require some level of postsecondary education or training.

A meaningful high school diploma is critical to success after graduation. But nearly 1 in 5 students aren’t graduating high school at all. And only 31% of Washington students currently go on to attain a post-secondary credential by age 26.

Washington is ranked 44th in the country for graduation rates, and our students of color and low-income families graduate at persistently lower rates than their peers.

Our students deserve better, and we can do something about It.


A Plan to Improve Washington Graduation Rates

We are proud to be a member of the High School Success Coalition, a group of organizations in Washington asking lawmakers to prioritize high school success. Learn more about the coalition at

We recommend these strategies proven to boost high school success be adopted by the 2019 Washington legislature.

Implement Freshman Success Strategies in Every District

Preparing students to graduate on time starts by supporting them as they make the transition from 8th to 9th grade. Students across every race and income-level are 3.5x more likely to graduate on-time if they pass every class their freshman year.

Goal: Provide every district resources and support to develop and adapt a Freshman Success Strategy for their student populations.

Create Equity in Advanced Classrooms

Students who take advanced courses are more likely to graduate and enroll in post-secondary programs, but half of qualified black and latinx students are not taking those classes (College Board). In Washington, 41 districts have improved or achieved equity in their enrollment after implementing Academic Acceleration policies that automatically opt-in students to the next most rigorous course they’re qualified for.

Goal: Establish the expectation of an Academic Acceleration policy in every district and eliminate financial barriers for low-income students in advanced classes.

Ensure Middle & High School Students Have Access to Sufficient Counseling

The recommended counselor-student ratio is 1:250, but in Washington they are funded at 1:355. In order to create capacity for counselors to effectively build relationships and guide students as they transition to high school, allocated funding should be set aside for districts to provide sufficient services to every student.

Goal: Direct state funding to invest in counseling services at the middle and high school level.


Who's Talking About It?

Invest in Ninth Grade On-Track program
Seattle Times Editorial Board, April 10, 2019

"As education researchers have already discovered, success in the 9th grade is already positively connected with improved graduation rates. School districts across the state should be studying this OSPI program and doing their best to embrace its recommendations."

Guest essay: We need to stop gatekeeping advanced classes
Seattle Times, Nate Bowling - 2016 WA Teacher of the Year, March 15, 2019

"Fixing our education system so that it focuses on helping every kid succeed no matter where they go to school will take work from all of us — parents, teachers, students, administrators and policymakers. More than 50 districts in Washington already have Academic Acceleration; it works and it should be uniform statewide.

Encourage your elected officials to support SB 5343, the High School Success Bill
Lake Chelan Mirror, Brad Wilson - Chelan HS Principal, February 27, 2019

"A coalition of organizations that is diverse in mission but united in the common belief that we must help Washington’s students stay in and finish school is supporting the High School Success Bill that is currently underway in Olympia. The bill is data-tested and the programs it supports are succeeding across our state and elsewhere in our country. I know, because the programs are working at my school."

Invest in programs that boost high school graduation
Seattle Times Editorial Board, December 12, 2018

"Getting every Washington student to graduate from high school prepared for college and career opportunities is the state’s No. 1 goal. More attention must be focused on the high school experience. The Legislature should follow the lead of Stand for Children and put more money and energy into helping more students graduate."

Washington superintendent pushes for more school counselors
KING5, November 1, 2018

"Only one in four Washington state schools has a counselor. The state superintendent says middle schools are the most "starved" for counselors...The state’s Prototypical School Allocation formula provides funding for those positions, based on those ratios, but districts are not required to use the funding to hire counselors."

Ninth-grade failure rates reveal much to state, local educators
The Columbian, May 14, 2018

"The freshman academy [at Evergreen High School] is one of several programs launched in recent years by area school districts to offer incoming freshmen who may have struggled in middle school extra academic and social support through their first year of high school."

State lawmakers advance legislation to encourage schools to make better use of student data
Seattle Times, February 23, 2018

"At high schools in places like West Seattle and the Franklin Pierce School District in Pierce County, have started reinventing the freshman year, using data to prevent more students from ever becoming at risk of dropping out. At Washington High just south of Tacoma, for example, the graduation rate has climbed to 87 percent since the school started paying more attention to freshman success."

First-generation college students face extra challenges in high school, too
Education Week, February 8, 2018

"Forty-four percent of the students with college-educated parents earned college credit through Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, compared to 18 percent of first-generation students."

How high schools break up the 'ninth grade bottleneck' to help students graduate on time
Seattle Times, September 2, 2017

"As research increasingly shows that ninth grade is a make-or-break year, educators around Puget Sound are reinventing the freshman experience to help all students early and often."

Why It's Needed

  • Washington currently ranks 44th in the country when it comes to high school graduation rates. Nearly 1 in 5 students aren't graduating on time. We can do better. (NCES)
  • Students who take advanced courses are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. (Columbia University)
  • 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. (College Board) White students are twice as likely to take dual-credit courses as Latino or African-American students (U.S. Dept. of Education).
  • Research shows that students who are on track by 9th grade are 4 times more likely to graduate. If we provide students the proper supports, they can achieve their dreams. (University of Chicago)
  • 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. (OSPI)
  • Washington has the 2nd highest number of chronically absent students in the country - 17% miss 18 days or more each year. (Attendance Works)
  • 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. (Washington Roundtable)
  • Only 31% of Washington students currently go on to attain a post-secondary credential by age 26 (Washington STEM). 

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