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Highline Academics: Prepare to be Disappointed

By Stuart Jenner. 

Are you curious about how your neighborhood school is performing in English and Math? Be prepared for disappointment: 14 of the 17 elementary schools in Highline are below or far below state averages. In this election season, common buzzwords include  “alignment with the Strategic Plan”, “SEL is going to fix everything”  or “we need to use the Equity Lens.” Hopefully this story broadens readers’ perspectives by pointing to the very real challenges for our kids and their parents. 

The Highline School District sends out lots of emails and some postcards, but none we’re aware of so far this school year have mentioned academic results. None point readers to overall  Highline data at the OSPI data portal that is now available on the state web site. We’ve also not seen postcards this year like the ones in the past that have pointed readers to a district-provided subset of the state data.  From what we can tell, this performance data has yet to be discussed or reviewed in school board meetings by the directors.

This article, and others to follow, are designed to give all audiences a better handle on the current situation with the primary purpose of public schools: academics. Intended audiences include parents, voters, the school board and candidates, school district employees and other elected officials in the area.

The state definition for “meeting standard” is when a student has a 3 or 4 on the SBA test taken in the spring. This story about individual school results builds on a previous story about  overall disappointing district 2023 test results and the challenges of recovering from Covid. Other foundational stories include data sources for schools provided through the Washington State report card and how graduation rates have risen but not test scores

Key takeaways about elementary school data:

  • Highline scores are far below state averages
    • State English percent meeting standard is 49.7.  Highline at 30.9 is 18.9% below. 
    • State Math percent meeting standard is 46.5. Highline at 28.9 is 17.5% below.
  • Out of 17 elementary schools, only three are above the state average: 
    • North Hill is 5.7% above in English, and 11.8% above in Math.
    • Marvista is 3.9% above in both English and in Math.
    • Shorewood is barely above at 0.1% over in English and 0.3% above in Math.
  • The gap is 20% to 37% at eleven (11) of the schools.
  • Just three schools have gaps of less than 19.6% on English and Math: 
    • Gregory Heights (-8.6 and -7.4)
    • Des Moines (-9.1 and -12.1)
    • McMicken Heights  (-16.1 and -13.6)
  • The lowest scores in the district are really, really low:
    • For English, Bow Lake has only 15.2% meeting standard. That is 34.5% below the state average.
    • For Math, Madrona has just 9.0% of students meeting the standard. That is 37.5% below the state average.
  • The Dual Language schools are at the bottom of the district rankings. 
    • Of the five lowest schools in the district for English and Math, four are dual language schools.
    • One of the sales pitches of dual language was “it will help children learn English better.”  This is hard to know. Maybe the students “are” doing better than they would have otherwise. We don’t know because students at each “dual language” school are likely spending 50% of the school day in a non English language.  But still, these results are very low.

Comparison of Elementary Test Scores: Highline and State Averages

English Math
State District % Below Average State District % Below Average 
Grade 3 47.7 29.6 -18.1 50.3 31.9 -18.4
Grade 4 49 32 -17 48.2 32.5 -15.7
Grade 5 52.5 31 -21.5 40.9 22.4 -18.5
Average: 49.7 30.9 -18.9 46.5 28.9 -17.5


Highline District Elementary Math and English Percent Meeting Standard

The state average for comparison is grades 3, 4 and 5 from the table above. Example: At Cedarhurst, 24.4% of students are meeting the English standard. The state average for grade 3,4 and 5 is 49.7. The table thus shows 25.3%, which is 49.7% – 24.4%.

School (link is to state report card) with comment about Dual Language English Above or Below State Average Highline Rank Math Above or Below State Average Highline Rank
Beverly Park at Glendale 23.5 -26.2 12 23 -23.5 9
Bow Lake 15.2 -34.5 17 15.6 -30.9 16
Cedarhurst 24.4 -25.3 9 21.2 -25.3 10
Des Moines 40.6 -9.1 5 34.4 -12.1 5
Gregory Heights 41.1 -8.6 4 39.1 -7.4 4
Hazel Valley
DL Spanish
18.2 -31.5 13 15.8 -30.7 15
DL Spanish
17.4 -32.3 15 17.3 -29.2 14
DL Spanish
16.3 -33.4 16 9 -37.5 17
Marvista 53.6 3.9 2 50.4 3.9 2
McMicken Heights 33.6 -16.1 6 32.9 -13.6 6
DL Spanish
17.5 -32.2 14 18 -28.5 13
Mount View
DL Spanish
24.4 -25.3 10 19.3 -27.2 12
North Hill 55.4 5.7 1 58.3 11.8 1
Parkside 26.9 -22.8 7 19.4 -27.1 11
Seahurst 23.9 -25.8 11 25.4 -21.1 8
Shorewood 49.8 0.1 3 46.8 0.3 3
White Center Heights Several DL choices** 26.2 -23.5 8 26.9 -19.6 7


**According to the Highline District dual language page:
White Center Heights: Grades K-5, Spanish, Somali (K), Vietnamese, or English-only. 

To close, as mentioned at the start, in this election season common buzzwords include  “alignment with the strategic plan”, “SEL is going to fix everything”  or “we need to use the equity lens.” Hopefully this story broadens readers’ perspectives by pointing to the very real challenges for our kids and their parents who want them to have a chance for the future of their choice.

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