63% of students qualified for college, Seattle district now says
Seattle Public Schools is once again adjusting its calculation of how many students are qualified to apply for four-year colleges in this state. Once reported at 17 percent, then 46 percent, it's now 63 percent.
Seattle Times education reporter
Where the high schools now standSeattle Public Schools has again updated its figures on how many students have met the minimum requirements for applying to a four-year Washington state college.
Ballard: 60 percent, up from 39 percent
Center School: 89 percent, up from 62 percent.
Chief Sealth: 49 percent, up from 37 percent.
Cleveland: 48 percent, up from 29 percent
Franklin: 67 percent, up from 48 percent.
Garfield: 83 percent, up from 70 percent.
Ingraham: 57 percent, up from 41 percent.
Nathan Hale: 78 percent, up from 60 percent.
Rainier Beach: 43 percent, up from 20 percent.
Roosevelt: 74 percent, up from 67 percent.
West Seattle: 67 percent, up from 46 percent.
Source: Seattle Public Schools
Remember the embarrassing revelation that Seattle Public Schools had seriously understated how many students were qualified to apply for four-year colleges?
That it wasn't 17 percent, as the district originally reported, but 46 percent?
Turns out 46 percent isn't right either.
Four months after some high schools complained that the district still wasn't calculating the figure correctly, the district has revised it again — from 46 percent to 63 percent.
Yes, you read that right. More than three times the original report, and 17 percentage points higher than what the district reported in November.
Some school's figures increased even more dramatically. Last fall, for example, the district said that just 20 percent of Rainier Beach's students in the 2009-10 school year met the minimum entrance requirements for four-year colleges. Now that's been revised to 43 percent.
Ballard High's figure rose from 39 to 60 percent. And the Center School now has the very highest rate — 89 percent — higher even than Garfield, at 83 percent.
The change is welcome to many high schools, especially Ballard High, where staff members were the first to raise questions and push the district to take a second, deeper look at college-readiness figures that still didn't seem right.
"I am glad that the district did really listen to concern from the schools," said counselor Julie Chapman. "I think the lesson is just to be very, very careful with data. To really look behind the numbers and make sure they are accurately reflecting reality."
The original problem was that the 17 percent figure never meant what the district said it did. It was designed to be a prediction of how many students could succeed in a four-year college, but the district described it as a measure of how many students could apply.
The district tried to quietly amend the 17 percent to 46 percent last fall. But when The Seattle Times pointed out the big, unexplained increase, former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, at the School Board's request, made a public apology.
Brad Bernatek, the district's former director of research and evaluation, also made personal calls to dozens of policymakers who had used the number in newspaper editorials, in lobbying efforts and on the floor of the Washington House of Representatives.
The problem with the district's "corrected" number — the 46 percent — is that the district erred in calculating how many high-school seniors in 2009-10 met four-year colleges' entrance requirements.
Some of the biggest mistakes: Classes that qualified for a science credit weren't counted. Foreign-language classes passed in middle school were left out. The district also looked at students' grades in core classes only, when colleges consider overall GPA.
The final 63 percent figure reflects those changes, along with the district's decision that it would no longer exclude students who hadn't taken the SAT or ACT college-entrance exams. One reason was that some students don't take them because they can't afford a four-year college. Bernatek started to revise the numbers in December but didn't complete it by the time he left in January. Mark Teoh, who now oversees district data efforts, finished this week, shortly after the district started its open-enrollment period, when families can apply for schools other than the ones where their children would be automatically assigned.
Teoh said he's confident in the latest number. "It's the best measurement we can do," he said. Each high school, with help from central office staff, he said, did a thorough course-by-course, student-by-student review.
The new numbers were posted Thursday on the school district's website, under "school reports."
Ballard Principal Keven Wynkoop said his school's new number now feels accurate to him and his staff members. It's not as high as they'd like, but they can work to raise it — something that was hard to do, he said, when the validity of the number was in question.
Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or email@example.com