Graduation rates celebrated in Renton School District

March 2, 2012

By Christina Lords

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Hazen High School receives Washington Achievement Award three years running

Lack of parent involvement. Low state test scores. Poor study and organizational skills.

These things are just a handful of key indicators that a student won’t graduate from high school — indicators Hazen High School Principal John Kniseley said the school aggressively seeks to overcome with students each year.

“There are things we can control in the classroom and things we can’t control,” he said. “We know we need to really look at the things we can. We need to do everything we can do to help all of our kids be successful.”

And for the third year in a row, Hazen will receive the Washington Achievement Award for improvements to its extended graduation rates.

The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education created the award to recognize achievement of top-performing schools statewide.

The school’s extended graduation rate for the class of 2010 was 95 percent. The term “extended graduation rate” means the rate includes students who take more than four years to graduate.

While Kniseley said the award is tangible recognition of changes taking place at the school — and, on a wider scale, within the Renton School District as a whole — Hazen staff members, teachers and administrators are conscious of more ways to improve.

He said counselors at the school closely monitor those key indicators for students most likely to drop out before graduation to try to get them back on track. That means not just for graduation day, but beyond, Kniseley said.

“We know not every kid goes to college, but what we believe in … is that every kid should have the opportunity to go to college,” he said. “Our job as educators is to make kids that are graduating college ready. It shouldn’t be that when you graduate it’s sink or swim.”

Hazen has begun to work with Seattle-based Equal Opportunity Schools, an organization that identifies students of every socioeconomic background and whether they have access to coursework that will prepare them for college, such as participation in Advanced Placement classes.

“We are taking a hard look at how to make those classes more closely representative of our demographics of our school,” he said. “If we have a student population that is 16 percent Hispanic, then 16 percent of our AP classes should be made up of Hispanic kids.”

Washington Achievement Awards are given in several categories, including graduation rate, language arts, math and science.

The graduation rates, measured by the state’s accountability index, take into account rates for low-income and nonlow-income students, improvement from the previous year and how graduation rates compare to other schools with similar student demographics.

The accountability index was created to be a comprehensive snapshot of a school’s performance at the state level.

The Renton School District’s graduation rate was 93 percent in 2009 and 2010, while its class of 2011 extended graduation rate increased to 94 percent.

The inaugural Washington Achievement Award ceremony, held in 2010 at Hazen, yielded an award for extended graduation rate and for overall excellence for the school. Hazen also received the award in extended graduation rate last year.

A statewide awards ceremony to celebrate winners will be April 25 at Mariner High School in Everett.

Hazen joins 17 other schools in the district to be recently recognized by the Renton School Board for its inaugural Educational Excellence Awards based on data collected throughout the last two years.

Those awards will be held annually beginning this year.

The board recognized the school for its performance on state tests in several areas, including reading, writing, math and science, as well as its improved graduation rates.

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