The following is a letter sent by high school principal Triscia Hochstatter to her Senator, Judy Warnick, in support of expanding the Ninth Grade Success program that has been piloted in Washington state since 2019. Support Triscia and educators like her by sending your Representative an email right now to urge their support of this effective program that sets students on their path to graduation starting in ninth grade.
Dear Senator Warnick,
I’m writing to ask for your support of the budget proviso that would expand the OSPI Ninth Grade Success pilot to $8M and to 80 more schools in Washington State. Moses Lake High School has been a participant in the pilot since 2019 and we have reaped many benefits as a result. Overall, the work of this organization has resulted in an average increase of 13.9% of freshmen on-track to graduate across all the pilot districts. While Moses Lake High School's on-track to graduate statistics are not seeing an increase YET, the strategies introduced to us regarding how to look at data to make informed decisions has uncovered areas of concern that are now being addressed. For example, grading practices can sometimes be taken for granted and have become a focus of Moses Lake High School as a result of the coaching we have received through the support of our 9th Grade Success Coaches. We have been able to dig into the difficult work of examining harmful versus productive grading practices that lead to student learning. In tandem, we continue to develop data analysis protocols, making systemic changes that improve the culture for learning and empower our teaching staff to become solution-oriented and I have no doubt with this strong foundation that we will see increased rates of 'freshmen on-track to graduate.'
I have been involved in education for over 30 years and have seen programs come and go. As a participant in the pilot, I can say that I have no regrets about entering into a partnership with the Center for High School Success. Because this organization is about providing coaching and working alongside a school team, the practices schools embrace to improve the on-track to graduate statistics are championed by teachers themselves creating an invested interest for success. With a staff of approximately 170 people, it is a slow process to create change, however, the staff buy-in this organization promotes by their very coaching method and structure of support accelerates implementation of research-based practices leading to student success.
It is true that COVID has created many challenges for schools. Being a part of this pilot gave us the support we needed to move forward with the implementation of embedding academic support for all freshmen within the school day. In addition to the time allotted for academic support, students were given social-emotional support and the opportunity to interact with one adult and a small group of other 9th grade students. This has been instrumental in connecting freshmen with our school and each other during this challenging COVID time.
And lastly, efforts to target freshmen to implement practices that lead to their academic success are working. Focusing on freshmen success is cost-effective as it leads to increased attendance, increased earned credits, and thus eliminating the need to spend resources on truancy issues and credit retrieval.
As a principal, I urge you to support this program so we can continue to be proactive and create less of a need to be reactive. Thank you for your time. I'd be more than happy to discuss this further if you have any questions.
Triscia Hochstatter, Principal
Moses Lake High School