District moves to empower West Hill/Skyway elementary schools to create new pathways for student success
March 1, 2016—Teachers and staff at Bryn Mawr, Campbell Hill and Lakeridge elementary schools have always been committed to the education and well-being of their students. Now, they have added weight behind those actions. Renton Schools District recently kicked off a new initiative called West Hill Now! to create action plans and timelines to work to dramatically increase student achievement at the three West Hill/Skyway schools. Staff from the three schools have been meeting over the past weeks to discuss plans and ideas that could be implemented at their individual school to strengthen instruction and improve student achievement.
The West Hill/Skyway area resides in unincorporated King County; not within any city limits. There has been no significant public or private investment in the area in more than 40 years. While health problems in the area—such as strokes, diabetes and lower life expectancy—continue to increase, there are no heath care service providers in the immediate area. Likewise, there’s been little or no emphasis by public or private agencies to bring in businesses or otherwise advance infrastructure or to improve the quality of life for area children and families.
To assist in being a catalyst for change, Renton School District has committed through the West Hill Now! initiative to do more, beginning immediately, to dramatically improve the quality of education in schools, and thus the outlook and hope for a better future for West Hill children.
Last school year, staff from West Hill elementary schools began collaborating to develop individual school plans and strategies for the transformation. With assurance from the district that schools will be provided with the freedom to operate under their own operational flexibility, the groups are developing plans that will pursue achievement outcomes to enable success for all children. Using the highly-successful Lakeridge Elementary School outcomes as a blueprint for success (read more about that success below), West Hill staff could look for ways to have more teacher training and collaboration time to learn better ways to reach students and impact success. The schools will soon present their plans to the district, and work together to refine the plans. The district is committed to helping create budgets and timelines for implementing the plans.
Lakeridge teachers and staff, under the guidance of principal Jessica Calabrese-Granger, have been recognized in The Seattle Times, The New York Times, and other media for their work over the past few years to transform a school once identified as an underperforming, to among the top 50 percent of schools statewide. In just two years, fifth grade math scores increased by 35 percent and reading scores went up 25 percent. The hard work and results were so impressive, principal Calabrese-Granger recently won the coveted Golden Apple award which recognizes individuals and programs making a dramatic difference in Washington state education.
Elementary schools on the West Hill/Skyway will use this success as a blueprint to create their own individual plans for student success. Soon after, the district will provide a process to allow other schools in the district this kind of creativity and operational flexibility.
Lakeridge Elementary School 3rd-grade teacher, and Renton School District's 2016 Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year, Laretha Todd, demonstrates best practices for teaching mathematics.