In 2013, student performance in Highline Public Schools (located outside of Seattle, Washington) was improving, but achievement gaps persisted among low-income students and students of color. The district brought stakeholders together around an ambitious strategic plan that included bold goals to counter the low expectations often placed on students in high-poverty districts.
The district cultivated a culture that revolved around the strategic plan by enabling everyone in the system—from central office staff, to principals, teachers, and support staff—to see their work as integral for achieving the goals for students. This shift in culture enabled the transformation of central office structures, staffing, and school planning.
Since 2013, the graduation rate across all student groups has increased 18 percentage points, including 28 percentage points among black students and 23 points among Latinx students. The district has also supported goals for students by hiring teaching staff who share students' identities: In 2018-19, 45 percent of the district's new hires were people of color.
Access tangible materials—such as templates and tools—that leaders in Highline Public Schools used to build school support for strategic planning.
Click the links below to explore other case studies in the Districts at Work series that accompany Highline Public Schools: Leveraging Strategic Planning for School Improvement by either audience role or by topic.
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School districts across the country struggle with systemic challenges, such as increasingly rigorous academic standards, more varied student needs, and persistent achievement gaps. The Districts at Work series of case studies shares specific examples from districts that are taking a new approach to these types of systemic challenges—and seeing exciting results.
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