Zero-out policy is Highline schools goal by 2017

By Shakira Ericksen

The Highline School District has set bold goals for 2017 and plans on aiming even higher.

Highline Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Susan Enfield presented the district’s strategic plan at the last Des Moines City Council meeting.
One of the most ambitious plans is a zero out-of-school suspension policy.

“We have made some serious inroads on reducing our suspensions,” said Dr. Enfield.

Out-of-school suspension is dropping rapidly going from 3,193 suspensions in 2007-2008 to only 887 in the 2013-2014 school year.
Dr. Enfield said the goal is to get to zero out-of-school suspensions by 2015. Exceptions will be made when critical for student and staff safety.

The leading reason for suspension is defiance followed closely by truancy. Defiance is no long a suspendable offence.

Most of the credit goes to staff who hard at turning tough moments into teachable moments, said Dr. Enfield.

“The reality is if we don’t get them into school we can’t teach them,” said Dr. Enfield. “We don’t think a young person’s unwise decision should result in lost learning time or ultimately the loss of a diploma. “
The district is currently expanding in-house suspension resources in middle and high schools. The hope for in-house suspension is that while it minimizes lost learning time it also deprives students of the social aspect of school which will hopefully encourage students to follow school policies.

Dr. Enfield said that the school district was also concerned with their current graduation rate of 60 percent. The Highline School Districts graduation rate has hovered around 60 percent for the last several years.

To reduce dropout rates some of the school districts goals are to identify incoming freshmen who are at risk for failure and to connect every freshman with an adult in the school.

Their goal is that at least 19 out of 20 students entering Grade 9 in 2013 will graduate prepared to choose their future.

Dr. Enfield said that the school district is in particular focusing on their 6th and 9th graders in regards to algebra and sees a strong algebra foundation as critical.

The District has purchased 6th grade Math in Focus materials and training for teachers and has an Algebra Success Specialist supporting teachers and students.

The goal is for at least 19 out of 20 students entering Grade 6 in 2013 will pass Algebra by the end of Grade 9.

Additionally elementary teachers now can specialize in the subjects they teach instead of having to be masters of all content.

“They will have fewer content areas to prep for and they can teach subjects that they love and are passionate about, “said Dr. Enfield. “It makes a big difference,”

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