State of Education Address 2017

  • “The work of our community and families is to do two things: believe in our children and act upon those beliefs”, remarked Dr. Tammy Campbell, superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS), at the Jan. 4 annual state of education address hosted by the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce.

    With approximately 200 attendees including public officials, community members, business leaders, higher education administrators and FWPS scholars, Campbell highlighted successes, areas of growth and how the district is measuring goals in its new strategic plan.

    Campbell shared how the district is holding all schools accountable with the five goals and signature tactics identified in the plan. She noted that each school will be focused on two goals over the next several years, including the district-wide goal two, with specific metrics to measure progress.

    Mastering core subjects — identified in goal four — is the heart and soul of the strategic plan. The district will track the percent of scholars meeting grade-level standards in core subjects, as measured by state assessments. Campbell relayed that to close the achievement gaps, we need to create common district assessments to allow teachers to assess student progress in real time and to make adjustments in instruction based on what these assessments tell us about student performance.

    The district is paying close attention to scholar persistence to graduation by monitoring the percent of ninth graders who acquire six credits, an indicator they are on track. In addition, to get scholars thinking about life after high school early on, each student will complete a Career Plan Letter starting in middle school. The data is clear that 80 percent of jobs will require scholars to have education beyond high school, whether that is college, military, trade/technical training, industry certification etc. The district wants to make sure scholars are thinking about where they want to be early and often.

    A high point of her remarks, Campbell shared the FWPS graduation rate has increased four years in a row and most recently rose to 80 percent in 2016. This is one of the highest graduation rates in the region. While Campbell celebrates this accomplishment, she acknowledges more work needs to be done to ensure more scholars achieve this important milestone to prepare them for post-secondary education and careers.

    She also highlighted specific work starting with the importance of student attendance. This year, the district embarked on a robust attendance campaign including efforts such as billboard ads, yard signs and a social media campaign.

    Campbell said the district is focused on equipping scholars with 21st century skills in science, technology, engineering, arts and math, otherwise known as STEM/STEAM. Woodmont K-8 and Nautilus K–8 are on the path to becoming STEM lighthouse schools with innovative project based learning. In order to make these options available to more students, the location of TAF Academy — that was recently recognized for the fifth year as a school of distinction — will be relocated to Saghalie Middle School to provide more scholars with project-based STEM learning, building upon this award-winning model.

    Capital projects are a high priority with 19 of the 39 school sites being over 40 years or older. Buildings of this age require a lot of maintenance, and they are not designed to meet modern day learning standards. The other challenge is meeting the growing population demand. The district has elementary schools that were built to hold 9,160 scholars, but current student enrollment at those schools is at 10,263. By 2026, the district anticipates the need to accommodate 11,000 elementary scholars.

    As a result, the district convened a facilities planning committee recruiting over 100 parents, community leaders, public officials, staff and scholars who are tasked with drafting a recommendation for the 2018 facilities modernization/expansion bond package. In the spring, this draft will be presented to the superintendent and at community forums for review before a final superintendent recommendation is made to the FWPS’ board of directors.

    Being the most ethnically diverse district in Washington state, Campbell relayed a pledge to equity. ”If we can’t have conversations on these topics we won’t close achievement gaps,” she said. FWPS staff and the school board are committed to equity and Campbell called on the whole Federal Way community to embrace an equity stance to help each scholar succeed.

    Campbell also called on the community to, “Mentor, volunteer, donate time and resources and most importantly, believe in the positive possibility of our school district.” Schools cannot do it alone and the importance of community engagement was clear in Campbell’s presentation.

    Finally, noting that every child is one caring adult away from success, Campbell stated that it is the whole community’s responsibility to ensure Federal Way has the best school system in the nation. She said, “It starts with the belief that each scholar can succeed. It is in everyone’s interest to lift up and lean into our schools. The fate and prosperity of Federal Way is bound to our schools.”