From an Everett Public Schools News Release.
English language learners enrolled in the Everett School District graduate at a higher rate than those in any other Washington State school district.
“It’s not just one thing we are doing in this district to help English language learners (ELL) graduate; it is many things together we do to help each student graduate,” shared Dr. Cynthia Jones, Director of Categorical Programs at Everett Public Schools.
“We specifically support ELL students in several ways."
"We have an ELL Advocate at each high school who works to be sure that students are in the most appropriate classes and receiving the extra support they need. The Advocates also help new students and their families adjust to their new school."
"We provide push-in para-educator support in some of our classes as well as tutoring after school in the students’ native languages as much as possible."
"Our ELL teachers use the same English Language Arts curriculum with additional scaffolding for students who are just learning to read and write in English. We continue to develop our tools and resources to support students who are beginning language learners."
"We have increased the number of summer school classes intended to provide additional opportunities for ELLs to gain language skills and earn credits,” added Jones.
Five years ago Everett Public Schools enrolled 200 ELL students in its high schools. This year the Everett School District anticipates starting the year with about 300 high school ELLs in addition to 2,200 English language learners at elementary and middle schools.
Five years ago, students spoke 60 different languages; now they speak 85.
Spanish is spoken by one-third of the high school ELL students. Another third speak Russian, Arabic, Marshallese, Vietnamese or Korean. The remaining third speak languages from all parts of the world, ranging from Bosnian to Swahili to Khmer to Mixteco.
ELL students aren’t the only ones getting extra support. Everett Public Schools has developed a culture of supporting each student.
Flashback to June 2003 when Everett’s graduation rate was only 53 percent. The percentage of students who qualified for free and reduced lunches was only 26.6 percent. Transitional bilingual students made up 5.6 percent of the district’s student population.
Flash forward to 2015 when the district was recognized for its high graduation rate. The percentage of students who graduate in four years was 90.2 compared to the state’s graduation rate of 78.1 percent.
The percentage of students who graduate in five years was 94.5 compared to the state’s rate of 81.1 percent. Nearly 40 percent of students qualified for free and reduced lunches and 12.6 percent were listed as transitional bilingual.
How did it happen?
“It was accomplished strategically, and in some cases, student by student,” shared Dr. Jeanne Willard, College and Career Readiness and On-Time Graduation Director at Everett Public Schools.
After the district recognized in 2005 that it needed to do something more to help students cross the stage, it began implementing more strategies, including forming an on-time graduation task force.
The on-time graduation task force began efforts to reach out to students, sometimes one by one, to re-engage them in school and provide support to individual students. Some staff would track down students on social media to reconnect with them and invite them to finish their high school credit
“That’s when the focus on all students shifted to each student,” noted Willard.
Today, staff members still work with students individually to re-engage them in school, sometimes through meet-ups at local Starbucks.
For those students who are still enrolled, but struggling, they can receive support in academics during Saturday school and other supplemental sessions taught by their teachers.
Many students elect to follow an alternate educational program to graduation such as online high school.
Students who graduate from Everett Public Schools, ELL students or not, may benefit from many other interventions and support programs by the time they receive a diploma, including:
- Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) (grades 7-12).
- 100 percent enrollment for College Bound Scholarship (grades 7-8).
- Free-for-students summer school opportunities.
- Support from success coordinators and counselors.
- Free-for-11th-graders SAT given during the school day.
- Credit retrieval and competency-based high school credit options.
- Job-embedded instructional coaching.
- Natural Leaders Program for parents and guardians.
- FAFSA completion support.