Strong leadership and collaboration make a difference for students

Proof that schools can do a better job of educating children from all backgrounds is hidden in plain sight.

In this case, we should look to Tukwila School District.

This from the Seattle Times:

A few years ago, Foster High was a chaotic place with dizzying staff turnover and students getting kicked out left and right. The school’s math scores were dismal, with fewer than one-fifth of students passing the state algebra test.

But over the past four years, the school has made a striking turnaround after major changes in staff, leadership, atmosphere and curriculum.

From 2012 until 2014, it made a greater leap in math than any other high school in Washington but one. Last year, the AP calculus kids outscored their peers around the state and nation. And graduation rates jumped from 55 to 70 percent — still below the state average of 77 percent, but vastly improved.

The list of changes made by Foster’s staff is long. To illustrate, Principal Pat Larson produced a spreadsheet with three columns and dozens of items in each, ranging from new discipline policies to improved internal communications to doubled enrollment in college-level Advanced Placement classes.

Stable leadership was crucial, too, which the school achieved two-and-a-half years ago, when Larson arrived with her strong listening skills and a deep commitment to the school. She graduated from Foster, as did her children, her parents and her grandparents.

While Foster isn't completely out of the woods in terms of student achievement, their example of strong leadership and staff collaboration should be a rebuttal to those who say student demographics explain poor outcomes.