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SKSD set to bolster Advanced Placement offerings

South Kitsap School District must do a better job of preparing its students for an evolving workforce.

That was the crux of the message superintendent Michelle Reid shared at last week’s Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Reid, who earned her bachelor’s degree in natural science/chemistry in 1980 from the University of Puget Sound, said she tends “to think a little more sequentially.” When she reviewed some SKSD-related statistics after she assumed her new position July 1 — Reid spent the previous 28 years in various teaching and administrative roles in the Port Angeles School District — she noticed some negative trends.

For several years, SKSD’s attendance has declined. In October, district officials released a report that stated 692 students who lived in SKSD boundaries choose to attend other school elsewhere. More local students migrated to the Peninsula School District (22) than any other. Based on conversations with parents that elected to send their children to neighboring school districts, Reid said many expressed concern about SKSD’s ability to prepare their students for post-secondary education.

That leads to data.

According to Reid, 60 percent of high-school graduates “successfully enter post-secondary education,” which she said means being “career and college ready,” in Washington. She said SKSD’s average is 46 percent. For the Class of 2020, Reid wants to increase her district’s average to 80 percent.

That means making strategic changes within the district. According to research she has read, Reid said eighth-grade students who take Algebra are “twice as likely” to attend college as those who do not. Reid wants to increase the numbers of eighth-graders taking Algebra during the coming years.

In addition to that, Reid said SKSD will increase the number of Advanced Placement courses offered at the high school. In September, South Kitsap High School will add 13 Advanced Placement courses, while the district’s junior highs will offer Advanced Placement Human Geography and Environmental Science for freshmen. Using the Bellevue School District as an example, Reid said 91 percent of its graduates took an average of 6.1 Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. Within SKSD, only 31 percent took at least one Advanced Placement class as a senior.

“Bellevue said we want all kids to be in Advanced Placement classes,” Reid said.

She said she has been met with some resistance when making comparisons between SKSD and Bellevue. Reid believes that stems from the perception that people have of that area, which she said is not supported when analyzing demographics. During her presentation, Reid noted that some schools in Bellevue have a much greater percentage of students who receive free- and reduced-price lunch than her district.

Reid said others have argued that SKSD graduates do not need to prepare for college because they can find a job at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. But she found that the average age of employees there is 28, which she said does not support the notion that there are an abundance of entry-level positions. She also described Olympic College’s four-year apprenticeship program, which traditionally has supplied PSNS with workers, as potentially more “rigorous” than college.

Reid, who told the Independent in March that she plans to have free, all-day kindergarten programs at every elementary school in the district by September 2016, said it is important for SKSD to evolve as the workforce continues to change. She cited a study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce that shows 68 percent of jobs will require a post-secondary degree by 2020. Given that data, Reid said it is imperative for the district to increase standards to better prepare its students for the future.

“With the right support, I think that can happen for all of our kids,” she said. “It doesn’t do any good to have high expectations without high support.”

 

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