Edmonds School Board asked to expand support for after-school tutoring

Edmonds School DistrictTwo members of the community approached the Edmonds School Board Tuesday night to ask for additional support for their work to help students who are struggling.

One current program, called PATH to College Success, opens study tables after school for sixth- through ninth-graders one day a week. But Jan Link, former principal of Hazelwood Elementary and the now-closed closed Evergreen Elementary, told the board that she wants to establish a new program called STATS: Students Taking Actions to Succeed, which will allow study tables to open until 6 p.m. every day of the week.

“A big part of this is having an environment conducive to work,” Link said. “A majority of the low grades that I see are due to students not turning in assignments.”

Parent volunteer Bill Henning, who coordinates tutoring efforts at Edmonds-Woodwy high School, brought the question of equity to the discussion. During the winter holiday, Henning told the board, he put together charts showing that the numbers of low-income students at lower levels have actually increased from 2012 to 2013, and that these students tend to do worse as they get older – from 3rd grade to 10th grade.

“They are losing faith in themselves and their ability to learn,” Henning told the board. He asked the board to consider reallocating some of the district’s Title 1 and Title 3 funding to after-school programs.

The school board then hosted a celebration recognizing the Verdant Health Commission,for funding a significant portion of the Edmonds School District’s 2013 Back to School Health and Resource Fair, which donates school supplies, backpacks and health services to students and families in need. This year’s program served 700 students in the district.

A report by Assistant Superintendent Patrick Murphy, Director of STEM and Career and College Readiness Mark Madison and three middle-school College and Career Specialists highlighted some of the improvements and ongoing struggles for the Career and College Readiness programs.

For example, Julie Lyderson Jackson, College and Career Specialist for Meadowdale Middle School, noted that she has had success promoting a college-bound culture among her students and increased self-awareness of what her students want to do and what would make them happy. Those attitudes have possibly been sparked by more discussions at home about the students’ possible careers, she said.

Ellen Conley, College and Career Specialist for Alderwood Middle School, said that for many of her students, there is what she called an “information gap,” meaning that students don’t completely understand the concept of college and career. Some of Conley’s students aren’t aware of the financial aid opportunities available to them, or the difference between a two-year and four-year college and what it takes to attend these schools, she said.

“What I think is keeping them from getting there is study habits,” she said. “Many of my students are unaware of how they are doing in their classes, they’re not checking Skyward (the district’s online grading tool), and they’re not studying for tests.”

Conley did say that she has been successful with the use of “study club” for first-generation, college-bound students. In this setting, the students support one another and can use Conley as a tutor if they need additional help. Part of what makes this setting unique is that only five of the “study club” members are Conley’s regular students. The other 14 come just because they want to be there.

“It uses very little of my time but also has been very effective,” she said of the program.

Madison emphasized that a major part of college and career readiness for middle schoolers is to get students into good study habits so that they are prepared to take higher-level courses in high school. He also noted that in this case, “college” can be defined broadly to encompass any student’s career choices and that the program focuses on inspiration, information and guidance.

Murphy reported that there are currently about 1,000 students from the Edmonds School District signed up for the College Bound Scholarship, which when combined with outside financial aid can help students who graduate high school and maintain a certain GPA, cover the cost of attending college.

He also reported that among failing students, there seems to be a lack of urgency when talking with their counselors. A major factor in getting students to graduate is just having someone that believes that the student can do it.

“If you’ve failed so many times, it just starts becoming the norm,” he said. “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It’s not an achievement gap, it’s an expectation gap.”

Executive Director of Student Learning Lara Drew reported that 1,000 Chromebook laptops have been purchased by the district for district-wide use for a Standards Based Assessment later this year. Logistics of sharing the computers across many schools and programs throughout the year are still being sorted out.

The board unanimously passed a construction budget for the exterior replacements at Edmonds Elementary and the replacement of soffits and gutters at Chase Lake Elementary.

“This is long overdue and this will be nothing but improvements for these schools,” School Board Member Diana White said.

The board also unanimously passed the following:

– An inter-local cooperation agreement with Sunnyside School District allowing the Edmonds School District to purchase Apple Computer products.

– An inter-local agreement with Snohomish County Public Hospital No. 2 to accept grant funding from Verdant Health for a three-year district student support program.

– Declaring as surplus 1,664 square feet of district-owned property for the City of Lynnwood’s 204th Street Southwest Roadway Improvement Project.

The board also unanimously passed a revised version of the student conduct on school buses policy, ensuring that it fits with student rights as discussed at the last school board meeting.

The meeting closed with Superintendent Nick Brossoit reading a proclamation by Gov. Jay Inslee declaring January 2014 as School Board Recognition Month and presenting an award to Board Member Ann McMurray for her service as School Board President in 2013.

— By Natalie Covate

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