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UW Grade Data Shows Poor Outcome for Highline District Schools

By Stuart Jenner

How well are Highline district graduates doing after high school? 

The current strategic plan update process is a great time to ask this question. We hope the plan is based on data and that implementation will include measuring growth and progress. 

There are several sources of data on what happens after high school. One is how grads do at the University of Washington Seattle campus.

The UW compares grades from high school with the grades of first-year students at the UW. They use this for context in admissions; a 3.5 student from one school may be much better prepared than a 4.0 student from another. 

UW data on grads of the Highline School District shows grads of most Highline schools in recent years have been near the bottom of first-year students. There are two data sets.

In one data set, out of 278 high schools:

  • Mt Rainier ranked 204th 
  • Highline: 261  
  • Tyee: 263
  • Evergreen: 264

Another way to look at this:

  • Mt Rainier is at the bottom quarter
  • Highline, Tyee, and Evergreen were in the bottom 5% of the state

This data source’s numbers are combined for all four years. The numbers are based on the GPAs of students who graduated from Highline schools in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. The UW does not publicly release this data: they stopped doing so over 15 years ago due to some changes to admissions. A friend obtained the data through a public records request. I confirmed this with an associate director of admissions in January. 

Grads of Raisbeck Aviation, which at the time had one-third of students from Highline feeder schools and two-thirds from outside the Highline district, did somewhat better; it ranked 139th, right in the middle of 278 schools. This was surprising, considering that at the time, US News was ranking the school as one of the best in the state, based on various metrics, including the number of AP tests taken divided by the number of students.

There is also some data from some of the smaller high schools, but it only changes the outcomes a little. Their grads also ranked very low, and there were not many of them who entered UW.

The second data set is for students who graduated from high school in 2019, 2020, and 2021. In this public records request, the UW only provided the data by individual year; they did not aggregate for an overall average. Because of privacy regulations, any school with less than 10 grades is excluded from the data set. So, for these years, there are only 156 schools included.

Comparing these grades is harder because Covid impacted high school and college grading standards. At a high level:

  • Raisbeck dropped from the 50th percentile to about 35th 
  • Tyee, Evergreen, and Highline HS stayed roughly in the bottom 5 percent, though there are year-to-year differences.

Bottom line: all these high schools are not doing well. Will the strategic planning process result in better preparation for college at the UW?  

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