I’m the proud principal of Chelan High School. High school principals are facing a rapidly changing environment that can affect our classes and our teachers. Most importantly, there are things that affect kids that we are aware of, and other times there are things that keep kids from succeeding in school that we miss.
I’m asking my lawmakers to support SB 5343, the High School Success Bill, because our current model for facilitating high school success in Washington is simply not good enough and must improve.
Only thirty-one percent of Washington students earn a post-secondary diploma, which shouldn’t be acceptable to any of us. The important work that must get done on behalf of kids often takes place in a very personalized manner. Changing the paradigm for underserved students by ensuring their success as freshmen and their enrollment in advanced coursework over the course of their high school career cannot happen with our current system. Preventing dropouts, ensuring freshmen stay on track, raising enrollment in dual credit classes, and ensuring that we have on time graduates ready to earn post-secondary diplomas is going to take additional school counselors, and capacity building throughout the system.
At Chelan High School, we had 96% of our students graduate last year. Our goal is 100% with 80% of those going on to post-secondary education. Additionally, we want to raise the bar by increasing the percentage of our graduates with a 3.0 GPA. We want lawmakers to support SB 5343 because of students who we know by name, who walk our hallways every day. I know of a young man who had passed his Smarter Balanced assessments, earned the required credits his first three years, and also found some very gainful employment locally. But he had also quit coming to school and was on his way to locking himself into low paying jobs in the restaurant industry for the rest of his life. Because our online learning coordinator was able to track him down, meet with him repeatedly, and put together a personalized plan, he is now back at school with a schedule that will allow him to earn credit to graduate and work a job in a manner that allows him to support his family. Thankfully, he is also considering post-secondary education.
We need lawmakers to think about our program for at-risk freshmen coming to us from 8th grade. We allocate 3 adults to one period of the day with 18 at-risk freshmen and upper-class peer mentors. One of these adults is levy-funded, another federal grant funded, and one Learning Assistance Program (LAP) funded. The findings of research on the importance of freshmen year cannot be argued with. As the federal grant ends, and levies are capped, difference-making programs like ours are at risk.
For me and my staff, this work is personalized and time-dependent. I hope everyone reading this will urge their lawmakers to give SB 5343 their strongest consideration so that Washington high school students have the human support they need to not just meet the bare minimum, but to become productive citizens who are supported in realizing their full potential.
Principal, Chelan High School