The first week of school is officially in the books. As we all readjust to school schedules and routines, it is a good time to think about and set your intention for the year. What are your priorities? If you have children, talk with them about their goals, academic and otherwise, and how you can best support them. We at Spokane Public Schools have set a new districtwide goal – but it is one we cannot accomplish without your help.
As I enter my second year as superintendent of Spokane Public Schools, I share our students’ excitement for the new school year and believe strongly that all our students’ futures are filled with promise. Last year, I spent a great deal of time meeting with students, parents and the community because I wanted to learn firsthand what was working well in Spokane Public Schools, and what could be improved.
I heard a consistent theme: Our students must be prepared to compete in a global economy. To do so, they need to complete some type of postsecondary training and education. Graduating from high school is important, but it is no longer enough.
As a result of these conversations and convincing research, SPS is changing its “finish line” from high school graduation to completion of postsecondary education.
We call this new finish line “T-2-4.” Under T-2-4, we have the bold goal that all SPS students will successfully complete a technical program (“T”) or earn a degree from a two- (“2”) or four-year (“4”) institution. The “T” in T-2-4 is intentionally broad to reflect diverse training from military service to an apprenticeship to a technical degree or certificate.
This new goal is critical because, according to a survey from Georgetown University, 67 percent of all jobs in Washington will require postsecondary education and training by 2018.
While the community can celebrate the dramatic increase in high school graduation rates for Spokane Public Schools, we cannot rest on our laurels and be satisfied. According to the Economic Research and Data Center, 60 percent of our state’s high school graduates enroll in a two- or four-year institution. Of those high school graduates in Washington who begin a two- or four-year program, however, only 38 percent successfully earn a degree or certificate. These numbers require a change in focus and strategies if we are going to truly prepare students for success in this 21st century economy.
To move the finish line from high school graduation to completion of a postsecondary program, we will build on the strengths and gifts of each child. T-2-4 instills in every student the belief that they can achieve more than they think possible, while also assuring that every adult in the system is committed to seeing every child successfully complete some form of higher education. T-2-4 also recognizes the need to provide all of our students with the same opportunities.
For T-2-4 to be successful, our strategies must involve all of the segments of the educational continuum – elementary, middle and high schools. So we are putting in place a number of approaches, such as full-day kindergarten, AVID (a college readiness system) in middle schools, additional Advanced Placement courses in our high schools, and more offerings at our NEWTECH Skill Center, to name just a few.
We recognize T-2-4 represents a bold goal. It is a goal we will not achieve if we act alone. We are fortunate to have nonprofit community partners who have made education a priority, families who are invested in their children’s success, a community that has consistently supported bonds and levies, outstanding higher education institutions committed to postsecondary student success, and more than 3,000 employees who are committed and dedicated to all our students.
We have a responsibility to our students to ensure that each one leaves our schools with the skills and determination to find success in the technical or training program, military, college or university of their choice. Those students will then be able to join a skilled workforce able to compete in the global economy, and ensuring a strong and productive Spokane community.