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    Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland presented the annual State of the District at the Group Health Headquarters, 320 Westlake Ave. N., Suite 100, on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014.

    At the event, which was sponsored by the Alliance for Education, Dr. Nyland gave an overview of the district’s successes and challenges, and highlight progress on the district’s five-year strategic plan: "Every Student. Every Classroom. Every Day."

    Dr. Nyland's Address at the State of the District 2014

    Dunlap Elementary School Students Recite 'Why Did You Come to School Today'

    Four students from Dunlap Elementary School closed out the State of the District with an impressive recitation of the poem "Why Did You Come to School Today?" by Julia Ansley. See how great they were!

    District Scorecard Released

    Seattle Public Schools has achieved significant improvements in student learning during the past five years, with reading, math, and science scores consistently above state averages. High school graduation rates rose ten points over the past five years. And, the number of schools designated as “high performing” has grown significantly.

    “This progress is a tribute to improved teacher and leadership practice,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland during the annual Seattle Public Schools State of the District address at Group Health headquarters in South Lake Union last night, Nov. 17. “I continue to be very impressed with the quality of instruction as I visit classrooms.”

    At the same time, the district faces great challenges – particularly in improving systems to support learning and closing the achievement gap. In the coming year, Seattle Public Schools will refocus efforts on four key priorities identified by staff and the Seattle School Board, seizing the opportunity to create a strong foundation for success.

    The address told a story in three chapters: great successes, great challenges and great opportunities.

    Great Successes

    While year-to-year data fluctuates, Seattle Public Schools have been on an upward trend over the past five years in school-wide and individual student achievement.

    Every year the district segments schools based on their absolute performance and year-to-year growth. This performance ranking — from Level 1 (low) to Level 5 (high) — allows the district to design customized support for schools and students, and to provide clear measures of success for families and community members.

    In 2008, 41 percent of schools were Level 1 or 2. In 2014, only 21 percent of schools are a Level 1 or 2. Conversely, in 2008 only 33 percent of schools achieved Level 4 or 5 status; today, 50 percent of our schools are Level 4 or 5.

    Other areas of success Dr. Nyland highlighted included: implementing a professional growth and evaluation system; aligning student learning and teaching with the Common Core and Career Standards; strengthening reading and writing strategies into district classrooms; providing teacher collaboration time; and using interim assessments to improve student learning.

    “Despite the great recession and dramatic budget cuts, teachers and principals are implementing strategies that work in boosting student achievement and preparing Seattle Public Schools graduates for college, career and life,” Nyland said.

    Dr. Nyland also noted strong partnerships with Seattle Public Schools have supported improvements in teaching and learning in our schools, including the City of Seattle Families and Education Levy, the recently passed Seattle Preschool Program, the Alliance for Education business and community support, and more than 130 community partners.

    Great Challenges

    Dr. Nyland noted when he began his service as interim superintendent last summer he promised the Seattle School Board that he would listen, learn, and lead, and that he would work with the board to set key priorities and measurable plans for maintaining momentum.

    “In my four months in Seattle, I have found great successes. And I have found great challenges,” Dr. Nyland said. “While there have been positive upward trends in achievement, we are not meeting the district commitment stated in our strategic plan of ‘Excellence and Equity for Every Child.’”

    Nyland added, “Looking beneath our achievement numbers we find some disturbing trends showing that too many of our students of color are not benefiting from those trends. For example, African American male students are five times more like to be suspended, three times more likely to be placed in Special Education, and half as likely to be achieving at grade level in comparison to their peers. We will not be successful until EACH and EVERY student achieves well. More of the same will not get us there. New and improved strategies, and continued hard work are needed.”

    Nyland also noted work must be done to improve district-wide systems, which is Goal 2 in the district’s Strategic Plan. Specifically, Seattle’s Special Education department is on the federal watch list and it is a School Board Governance Priority to turn the department around. Other district systems struggling include customer service, human resources, enrollment, technology services, and transportation.

    Great Opportunities

    In the coming year, Seattle Public Schools will re-think, re-prioritize and re-commit. The Seattle School Board has worked with staff to identify four key focus areas for the year ahead:

    • Excellence and Equity for every student, including better understanding and meeting the needs of African American students, Native American students and students with special needs.
    • Addressing district systems, starting with Special Education while also addressing human resources, enrollment, Title IX and others.
    • Reviewing bell times.
    • Creating a culture of customer service, starting with a 100-day improvement plan
    “Seattle has incredible potential,” Dr. Nyland said. “Never before have I seen such strong partnerships with civic leaders, philanthropic leaders, community partners and our dedicated parent groups. Seattle is poised on the edge of greatness – doing what no other urban district has been able to do – close the opportunity gap for EVERY student.”


    Nyland reaffirmed the district’s commitment to addressing the issues ahead to strengthen Seattle Public Schools. “I am dedicated and committed to finding better ways to reach Every Child,” Dr. Nyland said. “By working together – we can go farther and faster. I invite you to join me in that most rewarding and exciting endeavor.”