The 200-plus people gathered at the Renton Pavilion Event Center on Dec. 12 constituted as diverse a crowd as you'll find in South King County. The assembled community leaders, education professionals and advocates were there for the Road Map Project's quarterly Education Results Network (ERN) meeting, giving project highlights for 2013.
The Road Map Project is a regional effort in South King County and South Seattle to improve student achievement from "cradle to college and career." Its goal is easy to remember: It aims to double the number of students in the region who are on track to graduate from college or earn a career credential by 2020.
The project serves nearly 120,000 students; 80,000 of them are students of color; 72,000 are from low-income families.
Seven different school districts participate in the Road Map Project: Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Tukwila and Seattle Public Schools (only South Seattle schools are project participants). They represent an ethnically and linguistically diverse student body. In recent years, poverty and homelessness have increased in the region. The region was featured as a case study in the book Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, published by the Brookings Institution in 2013.
By 2017, nearly 70% of jobs in Washington state will require some form of post-high-school credential, yet today, only about a quarter of students in the Road Map region achieve a two- or four-year degree by their mid-20s.
Launched in 2010, when more than 500 individuals and organizations committed to working together to close the region's achievement and opportunity gaps, the Road Map Project received a big boost at the end of 2012. That's when the U.S. Department of Education awarded the project $40 million in Race to the Top funds.
Though the Race to the Top funds can't pay for everything the Road Map Project hopes to achieve, they are being used strategically to align with the overall Road Map framework. The three areas of focus are: Start Strong (early learning); STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Strong; and Stay Strong (college and career-readiness).
Racial and ethnic disparities in student achievement start early, and it becomes increasingly difficult for minority and non-white children to catch up. For this reason, the project emphasizes early learning through its Healthy and Ready for Kindergarten initiatives.
"If we don't turn around math and science achievement for our kids of color in this region, they will be systematically shut out of opportunities," said Mary Jean Ryan, executive director of Community Center for Education Results (CCER), the nonprofit organization that oversees the Road Map Project.
Ryan said the region has seen strong gains in math proficiency, particularly among fourth-graders, but chronic achievement gaps in STEM learning persist in higher grades, with students of color consistently under-performing white and Asian students. Race to the Top funds are being used to implement Common Core and Next Generation Science standards, support teacher and principal STEM training, and mentor students in STEM career awareness and readiness.
In 2013 the Road Map Project launched the first annual Discover U week, a cornucopia of college awareness and readiness events, designed to inform and inspire students.
2013 saw improvements in student attendance, an important indicator of academic success. Forty-six percent of students in the Class of 2012 took academically rigorous Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge college preparation programs. And perhaps the best indicator of the Road Map Project's impact and shades of things to come? Twenty-eight percent of the Class of 2007 has completed college. Sixty percent of graduates of the Class of 2012 have enrolled in and are persisting in college.
In the spirit of the impending new year, everyone present at the meeting was asked to make and share a "new results resolution" — a commitment to change, improve or expand an effort to get better results for the region's students.
In the early months of 2014, the Road Map Project will host a number of community engagement events, including a Jan. 30 briefing on new ways the project will measure parent engagement and a series of "results" roundtables. In addition, the project can provide grants between $500 and $5,000 to fund parent-engagement opportunities.
On March 4, the Road Map Project will host its first annual awards ceremony at the Museum of Flight.
Learn more about these community opportunities on the Road Map project website.
Reflections: Entries from the Seattle PTSA Reflections Arts program are on display at Seattle Center through Jan. 4. A recognition ceremony will be held at the Center on Jan. 5. Details are available on the Seattle PTSA website.
Climate Change: Seattle Public Schools will be seeking feedback on schools from staff, students and families. Students and staff will be surveyed in early to mid-January. Families will be contacted later in the month.
Math Feedback: Community members are invited to review and provide feedback on K-5 math curriculum materials on display at the John Stanford Center library until Jan. 8. The building will be open during Winter Break. More information at www.seattleschools.org.