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    Seattle Public Schools: Better Together
    Posted on 11/21/2017
    Image of students and guests signing together

    Seattle Public Schools 2017 State of the District
    Better Together

    On Tuesday, Nov. 14, Seattle Public Schools hosted the annual State of the District: Better Together. Throughout the evening, speakers and attendees shared what they love about Seattle Public Schools and how together we can realize our collective vision of excellence in education for every student.

    The evening featured an overview of last year’s strategic plan progress and a number of student performances and speakers. The district’s Executive Director of Organizational Development and Equity Keisha Scarlett moderated the event. Keisha asked attendees to take a learner’s stance by leaning in and learning from student and partners’ stories of challenge and hope.

    Chief Sealth International High School student poet and artist Lashaunycee O’Cain opened the evening with a powerful spoken word performance titled “Let’s Be Realistic.” She shared the challenges many young people face and offered a future she believes is possible if we work together. (Watch Lashaunycee's performance)

    Image of Dr. Nyland

    Our Progress

    Superintendent Larry Nyland then took the stage to celebrate our progress over the past year and introduce the work to come. Thanks to our outstanding educators, partners and families, the 2016-17 progress report includes exciting evidence of gains across the district:

    • Seattle Public Schools continues to outperform peers across the nation by nearly a full grade level.
    • On average, our students consistently outperform the state in English Language Arts and Math.
    • In the last four years, graduation rates have increased for most of our students and 12 percent for African-American students. 
    • Suspension rates are down across the district; and
    • In 2016-17, 23 schools won achievement awards. 

    This year we also opened five new or modernized buildings, adding 2900 seats helping us address unprecedented enrollment growth. Watch Dr. Nyland's address

    Looking Forward: Story, Strength and Need

    photo of signsWhile we are proud of the gains we have made, gaps continue to persist for our students of color. We are actively learning from schools and staff that are closing gaps and replicating best practices.

    We are learning from schools like Rainier View Elementary and Olympic Hills Elementary that rank in the top one percent of urban schools nationally for achievement of students experiencing poverty. We are also learning from Mercer, Denny, and Aki Kurose middle schools who have the highest math proficiency rates for African-American studentsin the state.

    In addition to replicating academic practices that have proven to work, our research demonstrates that student success is dependent on positive student-adult relationships. Students’ response to “I know that an adult at school cares about me” is highly predictive of academic success. This is especially true for students of color and something our community has been asking for. In schools closing gaps, staff are actively cultivating positive relationships; they hold positive beliefs about students and coordinate authentic family engagement aimed at student success.

    Together we are better. Eliminating opportunity gaps and ensuring opportunities for greatness will require our entire community to work differently, to align and coordinate our efforts. Together with Seattle Education Association (SEA), Principals’ Association of Seattle Schools (PASS), the Seattle Council PTSA (SCPTSA), the City of Seattle, community partners and others we are committed to knowing each student’s story, strength and need. We are committed to listening and learning. Moreover, we are committed to creating learning environments that honor and celebrate every student’s personal and cultural identity ensuring each student thrives.

    image of student dancingLearn more about students’ stories, strengths and needs, and how we can be Better Together. (Watch the SPS student voice video)

    Better Together: Commitment in Action

    Mr. Ron Sims, former King County Executive and co-chair for the City’s Education Summit, spoke about how a teacher identified his own strengths and charged the audience to support the dreams of our students. He spoke of the continuing partnership between the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools as we seek to best serve the students in our collective care. (Watch Ron Sims' address)

    Ms. Boo Balkan Foster, Šǝqačib Teacher in Native American Education, illustrated what identify safety looks like in her classroom and how each student is honored and empowered to use their voice. We heard the importance of this from student Juan Betancourt-Old Chief, who also performed a dance of the Northern Cree Tribe. (Watch performance of Juan Betancourt - Old Chief)

    Finally, the event was closed out by the Ingraham High School Concert, Vocal Jazz, and Treble choirs. They performed a traditional Yoruba song from Nigeria celebrating the sunrise and the hope of a new day, “Ose Ayo.” The audience joined the choirs singing in unity and celebrating hope for the coming year. (Watch closing performance)

    Thank You

    Thank you to the many staff, families, students and community members who joined us for the event! A special thank you to Directors Sue Peters and Stephan Blanford whose four years of service on the Seattle School Board and commitment to public education, our students and community were honored at the State of the District.

    Photo of Dr. Nyland, Sue Peters, and Dr. Stephan Blanford


    State of the District was generously supported by Kenny Alhadeff, a Franklin High School graduate who has served the district for more than 50 years and was awarded the 2017 SPS Citizens’ Service Award, and Albert Rossi, former district attendance director, as well as a school administrator for Lincoln, West Seattle and Rainier Beach high schools. A final thank you to our guest speakers, students and the central office staff who helped host the event for our community.

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    More Photos and the State of the District Full Video

    View more photos from the 2017 State of the District on the SPS Flickr page.

    View the full video of the 2017 State of the District.