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Graduation and college rates trend up at Walla Walla Public Schools

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Walla Walla High School

Graduation rates, postsecondary enrollment rates and postsecondary remediation rates are trending in a positive direction for students of Walla Walla Public Schools, recently released numbers show.

The school district has also closed the graduation gap between Latino and nonLatino students to about 2%.

The Washington State Education Research and Data Center recently released postsecondary enrollment rates and postsecondary remediation rates for Washington schools.

The agency’s report on postsecondary enrollment rate tracks the percentage of students that leave high school directly for a two- or four-year college, university or trade school the following fall. Walla Walla’s rate is 60%.

Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Wade Smith said the report is meaningful to the district because it provides a way of tracking students’ success after they graduate high school.

“It’s kind of a lagging indicator of long-term success of students in our school system,” Smith said. “Because our vision is to not just get students across the stage at graduation, but to also make sure they are well-poised and well-prepared to be successful.”

The 60% rate is even with the statewide numbers. But where those students go differs a bit. Statewide, 35% of students go to a four-year school while 25% go to a two-year college or a career and technical education school.

In Walla Walla, 22% of students go to a four-year school while 38% go to a two-year college or a career and technical education school.

Smith said the school district’s close relationship with Walla Walla Community College helps keep these numbers up.

The report on postsecondary remediation rates tracks the number of students that have to take remedial — or below college level — courses at their postsecondary school to “catch up” to college level classes.

The recent numbers show a large improvement for Walla Walla schools.

Five years ago, the percentage of Walla Walla students needing remedial classes was 10% higher than the state average. Now, the percentage of Walla Walla students needing remedial classes is 5% lower than the state.

“That’s an indicator that as our kids walk across the stage at graduation, they are more prepared to take college-level courses than other kids in the state. When just five years ago, they were 10% less prepared,” Smith said.

These reports come after graduation numbers were announced last fall that showed that over 90% of Walla Walla students graduate in four years. This is 9.4% higher than the state average. In addition, the five-year graduation rate is 91.7%.

In 2017, a five-year goal was set to raise four-year numbers to 85% and five-year numbers to 90%. Both these goals were met two years early.

An additional number that Smith says he is proud of is the graduation rate of Hispanic and Latino students. The four-year graduation rate of these students is 88.8% and the five-year rate is 89.3%.

Five years ago, these numbers were 69.8% and 74.8%, respectively.

“We have closed the Latino/nonLatino graduation gap,” Smith said. “You always hear about the ‘graduation gap.’ There is no graduation gap in Walla Walla.”

Jeremy Burnham can be reached at jeremyburnham@wwub.com or 509-551-8896.

Reporter

Jeremy Burnham covers education and Columbia County for the Union-Bulletin. He is a recent graduate of Eastern Washington University, where he studied journalism, and is an Eastern Eagle fanatic.