Focusing on Freshmen in Washington

College & Career Readiness, High School Success | 07/17/2018

Libuse Binder
Executive Director, Stand for Children Washington

Although classroom seats are empty and the sun warms quiet playgrounds, the hard work to improve public education in Washington continues all summer long. At Stand for Children, we believe in a comprehensive approach to change. Although we work closely with lawmakers to advocate for important legislation, we also partner with educators and administrators to ensure that the implementation of promising education policy is well-supported at the district level.

In June, as part of our investment in this work, we inaugurated the first cohort of the Washington Freshman Success Network (FSN).

The WA FSN is a professional learning community that Stand for Children Washington is facilitating with partner districts to support the implementation of research-proven Freshman Success strategies in these communities. The 2018-19 cohort includes 17 school staff and district leaders from 7 different schools across the state.

With FSN, we want to build a strong feedback loop between the policymakers who write law and the educators and communities who are directly impacted by it. In early 2018 we launched our campaign to improve High School Success in Washington. We supported legislation that would provide resources for every district to implement their own version of an early warning data system and a tiered student intervention model (known together as a Freshman Success strategy).

Although that legislation did not pass in 2018, we have continued our work on the ground by partnering with these school districts who are already seeing success with their own approaches to Freshman Success.

The FSN structure is centered around an intensive professional development training hosted by the University of Chicago’s Network for College Success. Known as the Freshman Success Institute (FSI), the 7-day program is split up into three sessions throughout the 2018-19 school year. The Washington cohort attended their first session of the year at the end of June in Chicago.

The objective of the FSN is to provide school districts with the knowledge, tools, and guidance they need to more effectively implement their own Freshman Success strategies.

At the Freshman Success Institute, participants were introduced to the res­­earch behind Chicago Public Schools’ dramatic increase in high school graduation rates and the Freshman Success programming that contributed to it. They were then directed to dig into the details of how to implement a “9th-grade on-track” program in their own schools and districts.

Educators in our cohort from across Washington learned the protocols behind forming and sustaining Freshman Success teams in their schools, skills to collaborate with their colleagues on the work, and how to ground the work in real-time student data and research on adolescence development. Chicago educators shared their stories about how they developed Freshman Success programs, the challenges along the way and the improvements the work brought to their graduation rates, student grades, and the school culture. 

Now that the cohort has returned from the first of three FSI sessions, we will be working closely with school staff in these partner districts to provide guidance on implementing Fr­eshman Success strategies, solicit feedback on lessons learned, and collect success stories about best practices. As we continue our campaign to improve High School Success in Washington on a broader scale, these school districts will continue to serve as the case studies – and the leaders – for expanding this work to benefit every student in our state.

If you would like to support the 2018-19 Freshman Success Network, donate $20 today and your gift will fund travel to Chicago and Freshman Success coaching for our partner districts.

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