Student Indicators – Cradle to Career
Community Indicators – Cradle to Career
KEY FINDINGS: Meaningful Standardized Measure Remains Elusive
In Tacoma, babies and young children may be screened for developmental delays and disabilities in numerous ways and places. They may receive screening at their pediatrician’s office by a social service agency, through TPS’ federally mandated ChildFind program, or as they enroll in a TPS preschool. Two confounding issues persist, however, as we attempt to identify a measure for this indicator: Efforts to raise awareness of the importance of early screening are not as pervasive as they could be, and a lack of standardized measures and coordination remain barriers to tracking and reporting.
Public health partners in Pierce County are beginning to track and measure developmental screening, but Graduate Tacoma has not had the capacity to collect or analyze that data.
There are bright spots:
- ChildFind offers free confidential screenings to all Tacoma families for preschool-aged children. The number of children served through this program has increased since 2014 thanks to a growing number of referrals from other agencies, such as Child Protective Services, faith-based organizations, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), physicians, and private child care programs. Together, these providers remain intent on increasing awareness of their services in the community, reaching a higher percentage of children in need of screening, and reaching them earlier.
- The Pierce County Early Intervention Program screens children from birth to age three.
- TPS preschools screen children on their own and may refer them to the more rigorous ChildFind screening if delays are suspected.
- Efforts are underway throughout Pierce County and across Washington state to build and support a more robust system of care coordination among healthcare providers to link, synchronize, and deduplicate services for families and children. Pierce County’s Project Child Success – and its backbone organization First 5 Fundamentals – are instrumental in these efforts.
Screening and evaluation services exist in our community and people are working to build a stronger network, but there remains a need here for a standardized developmental screening system for children ages birth through kindergarten.
- Identify local screening resources for families and children ages birth to three. Call 253.798.3790.
- Connect families and preschoolers to screening resources. Call 253.571.2610.
- Link families and children enrolled in TPS to in-school screening. Call 253.571.1224.
Participation in Quality Preschools
KEY FINDINGS: Enrollment Up, but Tricky to Track
Measuring, tracking, and improving preschool enrollment is a community-wide responsibility. There are about 9,000 kids ages three to five in Tacoma. TPS offers free half-day preschool in 30 of 35 elementary schools. We can easily measure TPS half-day preschool enrollment and can obtain basic data on licensed preschool enrollment through ChildCare Resources. However, we do not have a robust system for tracking universal preschool enrollment that tells us how many children are attending what types of preschools in Tacoma and for how long. Many children attend unlicensed child care programs or are in child care provided by friends and family. These are the children we are unable to track at this time.
- TPS continues to meet base capacity, with enrollment up 38% over baseline (2010-11) – a net increase of 445 students.
- As of 2016-17, two of every three TPS preschoolers are living in poverty, down 13 points from the earliest year of disaggregation: 79% in 2011-12.
- By race, the proportion of Black students enrolled in TPS preschools is down 15% (from 28% in 2010-11 to just 13% in 2016-17). Meanwhile, enrollment of Multi-racial students is up 18% (from 1.8% to 20%).
ChildCare Resources (CCR) tracks licensed child care providers in Tacoma, but we are unable to disaggregate the data or provide anything other than available slots (capacity) at this time.
*NOTE: Many factors contribute to childcare enrollment and capacity. Further investigation is required to determine the reason(s) for the dramatic decrease we see here in non-TPS preschool capacity.
- Spread the word to parents and families that preschool enrollment starts each year in early March.
- Connect parents and families to providers in Tacoma to make sure preschoolers are enrolled: TacomaSchools.org/preschool or ChildCare.org.
- Take the 5210 Healthy Incentive Challenge with Multicare and Project Child Success: Kids get 5 fruits and veggies, 2 hours or less of screen time, 1 hour of daily exercise, 0 sugary beverages.
For additional interactive information on this and other indicators, see our dashboards on our Data page.
Ready For Kindergarten
KEY FINDINGS: Rates Remain Flat, Gaps Widen
WaKIDS (Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills) is an assessment of all entering kindergarteners who demonstrate the skills typical of entering kindergarteners in all six domains: social-emotional, physical, cognitive, language, literacy, and math. We have not seen gains in the percent of children who are assessed as meeting all six domains, but our rate has remained steady, which is better than the volatility many school districts are experiencing. We are down 1.7 points from our new baseline* of 48%.
Since the WaKIDS assessment is widely agreed to be a very subjective measure, it is worth looking deeper into the data. The number at top right represents children who demonstrate the skills in all six domains that are typical of a child entering kindergarten. When we look at how kids are faring in four or more domains (lower right), those assessed to be meeting expectations increases to 74%. View much more interactive data on this measure at GraduateTacoma.org/Data.
- Students of Color and those living in poverty trail far behind their White and non-poverty peers. Gaps range from 12% (Multi-racial) to 30% and 40% (for students in poverty and Native American students).
- The high percentage of students not meeting the standard in math weights down the overall assessment.
- Grant, Whitman, Boze, and NE Tacoma Elementary Schools have made gains of as much as 58% over baseline.
- Encourage parents of birth to five-year-old children to download and use the VROOM app. Help promote daily brain-building activities.
- Learn about the developmental domains and practice with three- to five-year-olds.
- Promote math concepts daily and help early learners count to 20 before they enter kindergarten.
For additional interactive information on this and other indicators, see our dashboards on our Data page.
Third Grade Reading
KEY FINDINGS: Literacy Rates Impacted by Poverty, Black Students Falling Behind
Overall third-grade literacy rates are up over the 2014-15 baseline since the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test was introduced, but still less than half are meeting standard. More than a reading test, the SBAC is a measure of English Language Arts (ELA) competency. It requires students to use reasoning, word meaning comprehension and language use, the ability to identify and retain key details, and to explain, tell stories, and express opinions in writing. This measure is considered a strong indicator of future student success since reading and language literacy are foundational building blocks across all subjects.
- Poverty persists as an obstacle to literacy: There is a wide gap between the 63% of students not living in poverty who are meeting standard and the 35% of students living in poverty who are doing so. This 28-point gap has closed by only 3% in recent years.
- There is cause for concern about the literacy rates of Black third-graders for three reasons: Less than a quarter are reading on grade level; they’ve experienced a 3-point drop since the baseline year; and we see a full 35-point gap between Black and White students. See left for steps Graduate Tacoma partners are taking to address this disparity.
- Tacoma’s third-grade literacy rates continue to lag behind the state by about seven points but we see that Tacoma’s numbers are in line with other like districts throughout the state (Spokane and Franklin Pierce are also at 46%; Highline is at 38%).
- Connect students to our public libraries using their TPS IDs.
- Read to children and have them read to you.
- Promote healthy attendance. It matters. What can you do in your neighborhood, family, organizations to promote school attendance?
For additional interactive information on this and other indicators, see our dashboards on our Data page.
Sixth Grade Achievement
KEY FINDINGS: Sixth Graders Keep It Up, Close Poverty Gap
Sixth graders continue to do well in terms of passing all or all but one class. Other good news for this indicator is that the gaps in achievement between White students and their Native American and Hispanic peers have closed since 2010-2011.
- The poverty gap – which was as wide as 21 points in 2012-13 – has been cut nearly in half since our baseline year. Today, there is just an 8-point difference between students living in poverty and those not in poverty.
- Though the achievement rate for 2016-17 is down two points* from the prior year, 89% of sixth graders are passing all or all but one class, which is 12 points higher than the baseline in 2010-2011.
- The ethnic and racial gaps in achievement for this indicator have shrunk dramatically since 2011-2012, when some groups of students lagged a full 46 points behind. This year, gaps range from three to 12 points between White students and Students of Color, with Hispanic students having narrowed the gap to just three points.
- TPS’ Jump Start program has been a step in the right direction for 6th graders, acclimating them to their new schools and connecting them with other students and teachers during this transitional time.
- Connect students to expanded learning activities offered by dozens of community-based organizations in Tacoma.
- Stress the importance of school attendance with families and students. Chronic absence begins to climb between elementary and middle school, from 18% to 29%.
- Download and Share Graduate Tacoma’s new middle school College Planning Ahead Toolkit, which is available at GraduateTacoma.org, beneath the video.
Eighth Grade Math
KEY FINDINGS: Gains Hold Steady, Gaps Widen
Last year’s math gains have remained steady as we measure the percentage of 8th graders passing algebra or geometry with a C or better. White and Asian students and those not in poverty have seen the largest gains and this has led to wider gaps for other Students of Color.
- The 8th grade math gap between poverty and non-poverty students has decreased slightly to 21% in 2016-17, with just 60% of students in poverty achieving a C or better.
- Looking at gender, it is notable that female students are still performing better than their male peers (73% vs. 65%). This disparity has persisted since baseline (2014-15) for this indicator.
- By race, we see students of color are 11 to 20 points below their White peers, except for Asian students. This has led to a gap increase for Native American (+8), Black (+7), Pacific Islander (+5), and Multiracial students (+5).
- By school, we see strong gains by First Creek, Truman, and Meeker (up 19, 17, and 14 points respectively). However, Stewart, Jason Lee, and Giaudrone have each seen large declines (down 33, 20, and 14 points respectively).
- Invite families and students to hands-on STEAM nights in schools throughout the school year.
- Link up with the eight Tacoma elementary, middle, and high schools participating in PLU’s Tacoma MESA (Math Engineering Technology Achievement) program.
- Engage in STEAM-related summer learning and recreation opportunities at GraduateTacoma.org/STEAM.
Ninth Grade Achievement
KEY FINDINGS: 3 out of 4 On-Track, Gaps Persist
Though 9th graders are up over our baseline of 72% in 2010-11, we’ve seen a marginal 2-point decline since last year’s high of 75%. However, we’ve moved steadily up from the big drop down to 58% experienced in 2013-14 in the last three years. We continue to keep our eyes on the number of 9th graders passing all or all but one class, and we remember not to look at one year’s numbers as a trend, since each year’s numbers represent a different set of 9th grade students.
- Gaps have increased for all ethnic groups (see Demographic Breakout, right), as well as for students in poverty, since 2015-16. The upward trend in the gap between Black and Pacific Islander students and White students has been growing for the last two and three years respectively.
- The wide gaps we see today are related to the sharp decline that many Students of Color and those living in poverty experienced between 2011 and 2014, coupled with the comparative stability for White, Asian, and Non-Poverty students over that same period.
- Help kids get to and stay in school. Chronic absence skyrockets to 45% in high school from 29% in middle school and 18% in elementary.
- Connect students to expanded learning programs that encourage school attendance, the importance of good study habits, and staying involved with peers and caring adults.
- Monitor student progress in real time. It’s online for all Tacoma students and families through the “Home Access Center” on the TPS website, or download the “eSchoolPLUS Family” app on your mobile device.
College Entry Exams
KEY FINDINGS: Participation Close to 100%, Score Gaps Persist
The increasingly pervasive college-bound culture at TPS includes free SAT college-entry exams offered during the school day (not on weekends, when it can be harder for kids to get to test sites). TPS has also made it possible for kids to take the test as early as the spring of their junior year. Those policy changes have given SAT participation a boost at TPS: This year, 98.7% of all seniors completed the test.
For the past four years, TPS has removed the financial and scheduling barriers to taking the SAT for all students, who also have more opportunities than ever before to take the test prior to their senior year. Across the board, students are taking the test more often; on average, increasing from 1.3 times taken among 2014-15 seniors to 1.7 times taken for the 2017-18 class.
We have re-established a baseline for College Entry Exams since the College Board significantly updated the SAT exam itself in recent years. Class of 2017 seniors had an average composite score of 1036, outperforming last year’s 1024. Though still below their more affluent peers, students living in poverty have seen a tremendous gain in both their average composite score and in total participation over the last year. Gaps have closed in the proportion of students meeting the standard for the Reading section. However, they remain wide for both the Math and Writing components (see right).
- Host a FREE SAT Prep Course. Start by visiting CollegeBoard.org.
- Visit CollegeBoard.org to take free practice exams and download SAT Prep tools.
- Challenge students with a word of the day or an equation of the week leading up to the free test.
4 Year On Time Graduation
Reaching Record High, Gaps Closing
For the seventh consecutive year, the four-year on-time graduation rate has climbed to new record-setting highs. To put this 86% in context, think of it this way: The difference between 55% and 86% is an additional 565 graduates. That number is twice the size of most TPS high school senior classes.
One thing we try to keep in mind, amid this good news: Let’s not lose momentum. The rate is up one point from last year. As graduation rates have reached record highs, our challenge is to keep them there – year after year – while maintaining our focus on reaching hundreds of students who still aren’t walking across that stage. In the meantime, as we disaggregate this year’s data and look at each demographic group, we get a clearer picture.
- We have surpassed the Washington state average graduation rate for the fourth year in a row.
- The gap between our Black and White students has shrunk to 3%.
- A highlight is the 12-point gain made by Pacific Islander students, who are graduating at a rate of 95% (n=38). The gap between Pacific Islander and White students has closed by 35 points since baseline.
- The rates for Asian, White, and non-poverty students continue to climb to 93%, 88%, and 97% respectively.
- Though we see steady graduation rate gains across all Tacoma high schools, Oakland High School is notable for its exceptional gains over 2016 – up 18% to 54%. Foss High School has also made significant gains over the last two years, from 70% to 82%.
- Poverty is a major, persistent barrier to 4-year graduation. The gap has closed only one point since baseline (currently the gap is 17%) and though graduation rates increased from 2013 to 2016, they have stagnated for students in poverty.
5 Year Extended Graduation
Class of 2016 Up 30 Points to 89%! We’ve Topped Our 2020 Community Goal!
When Graduate Tacoma began its work, our community set a bold goal to increase, by 50%, the 5-year extended graduation rate by the Class 2020 – from a low of 58% to 87%. We’ve reached our goal! The Class of 2016 not only hit the goal, but surpassed it with a record-high 89% – a 52% increase. This is the sixth consecutive year of gains and the second year we’ve exceeded the state. Our increase here, since 2010, is two and three times the growth of similarly sized school districts and more than four times greater than the gains made by the state as a whole.
Equally as important to our community’s original goal around equity: The gaps between White students and Students of Color have closed dramatically across every demographic, with all races graduating at rates above 75%, and most above 85%.
- For the first time, the graduation gap between Black and White students has been erased, with Black students (92%) graduating 3% higher than White students (89%).
- The gap has narrowed to 3% for Hispanic students and 4% for Pacific Islander students and it has been cut in half for Native American students.
- Though the gap has decreased for students in poverty, socio-economic status continues to be a barrier.
- The gap between students in poverty and those not in poverty has increased over baseline, but is trending back down since 2013.
- The gap between Multi-racial and White students has been cut by 75%.
KEY FINDINGS: 2-Year Declines; 4-Year Increases
College enrollment overall has declined slightly from our baseline in 2010, though there are some data points that bear more attention (see below). Our baseline has changed this year because, for the first time, National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data allows us to more accurately track the students who graduated TPS, enrolled in college within one year, and persisted to completion. This is another example of how our increasing data capacity is helping us get to better numbers that are more reliable and sustainable over time. Sometimes we must shift baselines to incorporate the new data. NSC gives us student-level insights to drive programmatic change; however, we can still explore Education Research and Data Center (ERDC) reporting for a more comprehensive assessment. As we gain data capacity, more robust student-level analysis will be possible
- When we look at all high school graduates (not just the cohort that began in 9th grade), enrollment in two-year institutions is down regardless of socioeconomic status, exhibiting a drop of 12 points from 34% to 22% (NSC).
- Though there has been some volatility year to year in the enrollment numbers for Black students, the percentage enrolled has declined seven points overall since baseline (NSC).
- Looking at ERDC data, trends emerge for all graduates:
- Among all students enrolling in Washington schools, public 4-year enrollment is up 16% over baseline (now 39%) while public 2-year enrollment is down 12% over the same period.
- Young men are making bigger gains (24% to 31%) in 4-year enrollment than young women (31% to 35%).
- Enrollment in 4-year institutions has increased for both students in poverty (+8%) and those not in poverty (+6%).
- Tacoma has the same proportion of students enrolling in college as Spokane and is just three points below the state average (59%). However, we are well behind Seattle (75%).
- Enrollment in private and out-of-state institutions has remained relatively flat.
- By high school we see a wide spread in enrollment rates, ranging from ~15% (Oakland) and 51% (Mount Tahoma) to ~67% (SAMI and Stadium).
KEY FINDINGS: Rates Flat, Gaps Wide
This indicator requires community-wide attention. Our Graduate Tacoma partnership goal calls for a 50% increase in college enrollment and completion for the TPS Class of 2020, so we’re looking ahead to post-secondary degrees attained within six years, by 2026. Just over one-third (35%) of the TPS Class of 2011 went on to complete a 2- or 4-year degree within six years, down slightly from 37% in 2010.
We’ve moved to National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data as a new and more consistently available data source, which changes our baseline to the Class of 2010 (instead of Class of 2005). The NSC data is in line with Washington Office of Financial Management (OFM) trends reported in years past.
We see college persistence (either attainment of a degree or continued enrollment in a postsecondary institution) as an early indicator for long-term success. Among students who enroll in a 2- or 4-year program within one year of graduating TPS, the proportion of those who persist to their second year is declining, from 85% (in 2010) to 78% (in 2015). This is a clear warning and an opportunity for action before we see resulting declines in 6-year graduation.
The graph below shows college persistence from two to six years. We can see clearly here that if students are going to leave college, they are more likely to do so within the first two years. To most meaningfully impact college completion rates, community and higher education partners will need to redouble efforts and focus strategies during this critical time.
KEY FINDINGS: Students Rising to a New Bar
The proportion of juniors and seniors taking at least one academically rigorous course is up six points over last year and up 38 points over baseline. Hidden in the numbers are two encouraging points: First, if you raise the bar for students, they will rise to meet it. Also, students’ apparent level of enthusiasm for these classes didn’t surge and then wane after TPS instituted the policy in 2012-13 by which students are automatically enrolled in college-credit eligible classes and must opt out on their own. They’re staying in the classes and are doing well in them across all high schools.
- There have been 25+ point gains over baseline across every race and ethnicity and among students in poverty.
- The opportunity gap for students living in poverty is still about two times greater than it was at baseline (8% vs. 15%), but these kids have also seen gains, from 29% to 63%.
- By ethnicity, we see strong gains for Students of Color, but still not at the level of White students, resulting in a widening of the gap.
- The level of participation in rigorous classes at Oakland High, where such classes became available just two years ago, has jumped from 1% to 45%.
Out of School and Summer Learning
KEY FINDINGS: Building Data to Inform Practice
Though we are still making improvements to collection and reporting capacity, an increasing number of our out-of-school and summer learning partners are collecting student-level data. That allows us to deepen our understanding of program participation, but there is more work to do. The data on this page reflects only a portion of Tacoma program providers – those who are collecting and sharing their data with us. This is the first year we have been able to use student-level data to disaggregate according to measures other than race and poverty; we can now begin looking at characteristics of summer learning such as duration, quality, and relation to in-school academic performance.
The student-level data not only allows us to identify the students we are reaching with summer opportunities, but more importantly, the students we are not reaching. The data has provided a clear roadmap to the needs of South End and Eastside students who have fewer accessible opportunities and are less likely to be enrolled in any summer programs at all. The result:
Partners have targeted and refined their efforts in those geographical areas and have collaborated to provide a guide to all summer programming at SummerLearningTacoma-Pierce.org. Plans are afoot to expand the website to include out-of-school programming throughout the year.
- More than 300 programs from upwards of 32 out-of-school and summer learning providers can be found at SummerLearningTacoma-Pierce.org.
- Students of Color had, on average, 2.5 more days, and low-income students received an additional 10 days more of summer programming compared to their White and higher-income peers.
- Nearly two-thirds (63%) of students served last summer were K-5th grade, with middle and high school students representing just 30% – potentially a needed area of expansion.
- Students living in poverty represent 56% of TPS student program participants.
- On average, TPS program participants were enrolled in 1.5 summer programs for a collective average of 16 days of their summer.
KEY FINDINGS: Absence Rates Call Attention to Disparity
o track attendance, we measure chronic absence (missing 10% or more of the school year, excused or unexcused). The overall rate of chronic absence has remained stagnant since 2013-14, inching up one point this year to 28% since 2016. When we start to pull apart that percentage, patterns become clear.
First, chronic absence levels for elementary and middle school students are relatively low – 18% and 29% on average, respectively. Not until high school does the chronic absence rate start to skyrocket – driven by unexcused absences – to an average of 45%. That is especially true for students living in poverty, who are nearly twice as likely (55%) as their more affluent peers to be chronically absent.
Chronic absence gaps by race and poverty begin to widen in high school: In elementary school, Students of Color post as “chronically absent” from 5 to 14 points more often than their White peers. By high school, the gap in chronic absence among Students of Color expands to 14 to 26 points,
nearly double the middle school levels. Chronic absence rates for Black and Pacific Islander students have risen across the district in nearly every grade since 2014-15 (on average, up 3% and 5% respectively). Elementary students in poverty lag behind those not in poverty by 12%. That gap has almost doubled by the time those students are in high school (22%).
Parent and Family Engagement
KEY FINDINGS: Engaged Families at the Heart of Student Success
A community of supporting adults sharing responsibility in fostering the success of every child.
As their children’s first teachers, families who are engaged in their children’s lives contribute to and strengthen the efforts by schools and programs offered by community organizations to help students realize their potential. Creating a fertile environment in which that collaborative relationship between families and their children’s educators can flourish is a main focus of Graduate Tacoma’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC).
Established in spring of 2016, the PAC is made up of ten parent leaders from across the city, including some from schools with a majority of students coming from families living in poverty. Their charge is to advance a cultural shift in how Tacoma families, schools, and the community view engagement. That requires dedication, communication, and a consistent focus on reaching families where they are. Working with the TPS Community Partnership Office, the PAC provides the district with recommendations for enhancing its family engagement practices.
After having adopted a definition of parent and family engagement last year (see above, in blue), the PAC has set its sights on helping to coordinate and promote events such as family STEAM and reading nights in schools. Using feedback gathered from district families, they also have proposed recommendations for the district’s Parent Involvement Policy to the TPS Community Partnership Office. If adopted, the recommendations would identify measurable outcomes in parent and family engagement, helping both TPS and the community track improvements. As yet, there are no measurable outcomes for this community indicator.
KEY FINDINGS: Tacoma’s Motivated about SEL
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children, adolescents, and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Inspired by Tacoma’s Whole Child Initiative (TWCI), Tacoma was chosen as one of just eight communities in a highly competitive national selection process by the Wallace Foundation. The community-wide efforts, coordinated by TPS and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, are scheduled to launch in September 2018 in six TPS pilot elementary schools and their associated expanded learning opportunity providers.
What follows this selection is a five-year study and investment in social and emotional learning around the central question: “If urban schools and their afterschool partners work together to improve and align experiences and climate to foster children’s social emotional learning, will students benefit?”
The vision for the initiative is that Tacoma students will experience connected SEL environments throughout the day to support the whole child. TPS educators and staff are working with expanded learning opportunity providers to align systems, raise awareness, craft curriculum, and identify measurements of success that – by the time this report is published next year – should give us a baseline for this indicator.
Safe & Healthy Environment
KEY FINDINGS: Bringing Student Needs to Homelessness Conversation
This indicator is also one for which the partnership has yet to identify a measure with reliable data for tracking. In the meantime, Tacoma has declared homelessness a public health emergency, with an estimated 250 families with children experiencing homelessness daily. Lack of affordable housing, poverty, and unemployment are the chief causes of homelessness for adults and their families here. The majority of homeless youth report the cause as either being kicked out of their homes or leaving them as a result of abuse. Shelter options for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness in Tacoma are extremely limited and the need continues to increase (see below).
At TPS, the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act ensures that students experiencing homelessness receive educational stability, supplies, food, tutoring, and transportation.
We know that homelessness and its considerable residual effects can lead to academic and social-emotional issues that can become significant barriers to graduation and future success. Graduate Tacoma networks must work to understand the crisis and continue to elevate youth in the larger conversations about homelessness in Tacoma.