The Lake Washington School District is organized into four regional learning communities, comprised of schools feeding into each of the four comprehensive high schools. Eleven small choice schools, developed by teachers and/or parents, serve students from throughout the district who are admitted by lottery.The district’s vision is Every Student Future Ready: Prepared for College, Prepared for the Global Workplace, Prepared for Personal Success. The Student Profile lays out the knowledge, skills and attributes every student needs to be future ready. It serves as the end goal for a teaching and learning framework that provides teachers the tools they need to ensure their students leave the district prepared for their futures. The district’s on-time graduation rate is 94 percent, and over 78 percent of students enroll in post-secondary education after graduation.
The district uses data extensively to improve instruction. A data dashboard allows principals and teachers to view and analyze all the data collected on a specific student, groups of students or a whole school. The district recognizes that teacher professional learning is key to improving student learning. Each Wednesday afternoon students are released an hour and a half early so teachers can collaborate, plan using data, and determine how to best meet the needs of all students, including those who are struggling and those who need additional challenges. Technology integration to enhance student learning is a priority for the district. Teachers in all grades use various technologies to engage students in learning. Elementary students utilize mobile devices in the classroom. All secondary students are issued their own mobile device to use both at school and at home. Innovative learning environments are a focus district-wide, and a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math high school opened in the fall of 2012.
The district uses a defined process for Planning, Learning, Implementing, and Evaluating (PLIE) when planning for new initiatives aligned with strategic goals. This process begins with research and ensures that capacity development is done before a project is implemented. Data informs the direction of planning at the start of the project. Data also informs decision-making about the effectiveness of implementation and can result in refining the approach. It is also used to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the initiative.
For example, the district recently added a two-year world language credit requirement to its graduation requirements, aligning with minimum college eligibility requirements. Therefore, the district embarked on a process to expand world language offerings for students in high schools. A process began with research into current offerings at all high schools. Surveys of parents and students documented their interests, both across the district and in specific schools. Further work went into determining the current capacity at schools for teaching additional languages, including availability of teachers in languages not currently being offered. Working with the project leads, each school developed a plan to add languages based on their community’s interests and capacity.
Engaging the community through public participation
The district is working to increase its public participation efforts, and has chosen the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) framework as a model for engaging communities in decision-making. A simple tool based on the IAP2 planning process enables district staff to identify the purpose for public participation, the stakeholders involved, and the issues around the initiative. Staff selects public participation levels and techniques to use during the PLIE process and then develops a communication plan to inform the community and recruit participants.
Many members of the district’s leadership team have been trained in this process and expanded training efforts are under way. As a result, district-wide initiatives such as the K-6 literacy adoption, the high school world languages expansion, and bond and levy efforts all involve public participation processes designed to engage communities.
Dr. Traci Pierce