Education Summit Advisory Group, comprised of 32 representatives from Seattle Public Schools, the City of Seattle, community leaders, parents, business and philanthropy, presented a set of recommendations aimed at ensuring all Seattle students are set up for academic success, post-secondary education and future careers, with an emphasis on improving outcomes for African American/Black students. These recommendations reflect the mission laid out by Mayor Ed Murray earlier this year to address the opportunity gap in our schools, and the Advisory Group’s “north star,” which envisions “a city where all children of all races and ethnicities can thrive and succeed.”
The Mayor’s Education Summit Advisory Group was developed to formulate recommendations in response to feedback from over 1,300 people from 20 community conversations, nearly 200 online survey responses and 500 attendees of the day-long Education Summit held in the spring.
“The Advisory Group delivered ambitious recommendations and we will develop an equally aggressive action plan to ensure every one of our students has access to opportunity,” said Mayor Murray. “We will need collaboration to address these disparities, which is why the relationship being built between the City, the School District and the private sector is so important. By forming this partnership and implementing an action plan together, we can make real progress in making sure every student will graduate ready to thrive in our growing economy.”
The Advisory Group recommendations include a variety of programs for students of all ages, from early learning through high school and beyond. The group concentrated its work in four areas: improving access to high quality learning opportunities and programs; creating positive, supportive and high quality teaching and learning opportunities; providing authentic family and community support and engagement; and strengthening post-secondary access and attainment. They have identified criteria for prioritizing the recommendations, including those with the greatest potential impact on the opportunity gap facing African American/Black students and other students of color, those that can be implemented in the short-term and those where the City can have the greatest impact.
“Seattle Public Schools and the City of Seattle are committed to eliminating gaps in educational access, removing barriers to success and improving academic outcomes for students who have been historically underserved,” said Dr. Larry Nyland, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. “Eliminating opportunity gaps is the issue of our time and together, we are committed to this vision. As a district we can’t do it alone. Working together, we can ensure every student thrives and succeeds.”
When Mayor Murray first issued the challenge at the Education Summit this spring, he called on the group to develop solutions that would address disparities for African American/Black students and other students of color. A recent Stanford University study ranks Seattle as having the fifth-worst gap in achievement between African American/Black and White students among major cities. Several recommendations addressing this need are already reflected in investments in the Mayor’s 2017 budget proposal. Those include:
- Expanding the My Brother’s Keeper mentoring program for African American/Black male students from Aki Kurose Middle School to five additional middle schools.
- Expanding the innovation school model, which has been successful addressing disparities in middle schools around attendance, behavior and curricula, to a high school.
- Broadening the City’s Summer Learning Program to serve an additional 200 students, with an emphasis on programs offering culturally specific curriculum.
- Investing in post-secondary programs that ensure students who graduate from high school remain engaged during the summer and successfully enroll in college.
“Melinda Gates put it best when she said, ‘Education is the key to opportunity, and the opportunity is not equal,’” said Council President Bruce Harrell. “In order to close the achievement gap and build a pathway to success for all children, especially students of color and those from low-income families, we need to make direct investments at three levels. My goal is to be able to tell every child in Seattle they can go to preschool when early brain development is critical, have the tools and mentoring to graduate from high school, and the opportunity to attend a college even if they can’t afford the tuition. The work of this Education Summit has been unprecedented in bringing all stakeholders together to achieve a common purpose of helping our students, teachers, parents, and administrators.”