Opinion

Smaller high schools, greater success | GUEST OPINION

Afew years ago the talk of the town was the size of Marysville-Pilchuck High School — about 2,800 students on the only high school campus. Not many were happy with so many students in one school.

There were concerns about student safety, but just as unsettling was the knowledge that many of the students could go through school without really being known by school administration, counselors, and many teachers. There was very little in the way of personalized education focused upon the individual student. Counselors were swamped with the sheer numbers of students that they were expected to monitor toward graduation. The graduation rate hovered at just over 50 percent.

The school, which had received a grant to learn about smaller high schools, implemented a study of what schools should provide for each and every student.  Through the work of teachers and staff at the school and district level, a set of guidelines were developed (Guiding Principles for Secondary Schools). It states that a school should be relationship driven; that each student should be known, valued and engaged. Curriculum should be rigorous, meeting district and state standards. Schools should have a relevant identity, one that is connected to relevant career pathways, and that they should partner with the community providing students real life experiences doing real work. Schools need to be accountable to their students, parents, guardians and our mission and vision. That mission states that every student will be proficient in literacy and math; that they will graduate on time, and be prepared for success beyond high school.

As a result, the development of smaller high schools within the large high school campus began to take shape, and was implemented. In 2006, with an assist from the Marysville community in the passing of a successful bond, Marysville-Getchell High School campus was created, and four of the smaller high schools moved to the new campus. Now instead of one gigantic high school, we have eight smaller high schools. Marysville-Pilchuck, the largest, has fewer than 1,200 students. Marysville Getchell is really four small schools, each with less than 400 students. Marysville Mountain View, Arts and Technology High School, and Heritage High School complete the high school picture, all with fewer than 400 students, and all with unique focus.

Each school provides a state accredited comprehensive high school education. Teachers and counselors, using the guidelines mentioned above, are better addressing each individual student’s needs. Accountability to student learning is at an all time high and district on time graduation rates have grown to over 70 percent.

The time is upon us for our next group of eighth grade students to choose what they want their high school to offer them. If you have one of these students, I urge you to engage in learning about the schools, and making an informed decision. In Marysville, even though we are a large school system, your student will get the individual and focused help they need as they navigate high school. The system is designed for them, not the other way around. For information on scheduled dates for the upcoming high school information fairs go to www.msvl.k12.wa.us.

Pete Lundberg, District Director No. 3, Marysville School District Board of Directors, can be reached at 360-653-0800 or via email at peter_lundberg@msvl.k12.wa.us.

 

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