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Posted on Dec 10, 2015

QHS seeks remedy for low freshmen grades; graduation rates on the rise

Administrators at Quincy High School have begun an intensive tutoring program this fall for freshmen who failed math and science courses during the first quarter.
A total of 96 freshmen recorded Fs in those subjects for the initial grading period. The goal is to reduce that by 25 percent at the end of the first semester in late January.
Money from a GEAR UP grant is being used to pay for staff and college tutors to help certificated staff with the tutoring, which is held 3:15 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday in the high school library. Students’ grades are checked weekly, and those with D or F grades are required to attend the sessions.
“Over the summer we worked on it and developed a good feeding mechanism to get them there,” said Principal David Talley. “(Semester grades) will tell us how well it’s working.”
From 100 to 115 QHS students are tutored on an average day, Talley added.
The poverty rate for the district’s students is about 75 to 80 percent – significantly higher than the state rate of 40 to 45 percent, Talley said. That presents challenges, including students who come to classes with limited English language ability. At the same time, Talley emphasized, education is more important today than it ever has been.
Gone are the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, when a high school dropout could earn a living in occupations such as logging, Talley noted. Now, even such professions as automotive repair require computer knowledge.
“Education opens doors, but you still need to have passion for something and have a good work ethic,” Talley said.
Despite freshmen students’ first-quarter academic problems, Quincy has increased its graduation rate over the past few years. It lagged behind the state average in 2010-11 and 2011-12, but soared to an 88.4 percent graduation rate in 2013-14 and 83.1 percent in 2014-15 while the state rate remained in the mid-70s.
Talley couldn’t pinpoint a single reason for the upswing in graduation, but he’s happy about the trend. Talley wants to see the graduation rate hit 90 percent or higher.
“Our restructured counseling will play a large role in this effort, providing more services to students and families,” according to a report he wrote.
Another tool being used at the high school is an academic help program called AVID. It’s aimed at students with Cs and Bs, particularly those who would be first-generation college students, said Vice Principal Mike Carlson.
The AVID curriculum includes an intensive focus on vocabulary as well as hints about how to study effectively and other tips.
Superintendent John Boyd called education “the golden ticket” for success in life. He made it clear during an interview that college isn’t for everyone, and options such as career technical education provide a post-secondary path for other students.
Whatever direction graduates go, he said, it is educators’ responsibility to have prepared them adequately for further study or training.
In addition to the tutoring program, high school officials are also examining grading practices. Another QHS schoolwide goal this year is to begin aligning grading practices using educational research as a base.
“This will be a multi-year process that will engage parents and the community as we work to possibly move toward standards-based grading at the high school level,” according to Talley’s report.
At Mountain View Elementary School, educators are emphasizing the need for growth in student literacy and math. But that’s not all.
“MVE is teaching the whole child, not just academic achievement but the social, emotional and behavioral well-being,” Principal Kathie Brown wrote in a report. “The perception is that if we focus on anything other than academics our schools will begin to slip. The reality is if we don’t focus on the whole child … many of them will fail.”
Brown noted that Mountain View has been working with the Washington State University Collaborative Learning for Educational Achievement and Resiliency Trauma Center for the past two years.
“It’s allowed us to become proactive, instead of reactive, and to think outside the box,” Brown wrote.


— By Steve Kadel,