For Students Who Want to Attend College, Federal Way Is Forging a Pathway

Apr 25, 2012, 13:53 ET from Federal Way Public Schools

FEDERAL WAY, Wash., April 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This fall, Federal Way Public Schools will roll out another innovative program to make sure that all students in the district have the opportunity to go to college or get other post-high school training, and to be successful once there.

The district has been working with the CollegeBoard, the organization responsible for Advanced Placement courses, to implement their "College Readiness Pathway," an integrated series of assessments designed for 8th through 12th graders. Those assessments begin with ReadiStep, a low-stakes middle school assessment that measures skills students need in order to be on track for college success. At 9th and 11th grade, students will continue taking the PSAT. At 10th grade, students will use a personalized college and career planning tool to help develop their High School and Beyond Plan. In 12th grade, they will take the SAT.

All of the testing, 8th through 12th grade, will be paid for by the district. Also significant, the testing will take place on a weekday -- even the SAT, which is traditionally offered on a Saturday. The testing date will be October 17, 2012.

By offering testing in this way, access is increased for students who work on the weekends, who may not have transportation to get to a testing site on a Saturday, or for whom there are financial barriers.

Providing this comprehensive approach to college testing during the school day at the district's expense is unheard of in the state, and is possibly unique in the nation. The College Board itself says it is not aware of any other district with this approach.  "By implementing this program, we will be investing back in the community. All families and students will benefit through this comprehensive approach. In addition, we will relentlessly continue to address the opportunity and achievements gaps," Assistant Superintendent of Teaching for Learning Joshua Garcia says.

The importance of college readiness testing

Federal Way Public Schools Assessment Director Dave Davis notes that, when students take PSAT or SAT prep classes, their scores often jump significantly. "It can mean thousands in scholarships," Davis noted, pointing out that the National Merit Scholarship program is the largest scholarship program in the world. 

By implementing this program, the district is hoping to assist parents and remove another barrier to post-secondary education for students. College testing will be the norm in Federal Way Public Schools; instead of 50% of seniors taking the SAT, the number will be closer to 100%. It will provide systemic exposure to a post secondary education-bound culture beginning in 8th grade.  As students take the test and receive the results, they will be provided with the support to improve skills that need to be bolstered. Teachers may also be able to use these test results as assessments for grading in the standards-based system. Additionally, Federal Way students will have access to free on-line test preparation for the SAT.

Moreover, students will learn about career options for their aptitudes, find out how and where to get a degree or training in those areas, and receive literature from post-secondary institutions. "There's nothing like getting college catalogs in the mail to get a kid to start thinking, 'maybe I CAN go to college,'" Davis remarked. This process will empower students, he added.

Putting all of the pieces together

The College Board's "College Readiness Pathway," is an integrated series of assessments designed for 8th through 12th graders. The assessments allow staff and parents to measure, monitor, and direct their student's progress from middle school through high school, with a goal of ensuring college and career readiness.  The assessments are aligned to measure a vertical progression of state and federal academic standards, including the Common Core State Standards, which the district and the rest of the state is transitioning to over the course of the next three years. 

The testing date is Wednesday, October 17, 2012, when all 8th through 12th graders in the district will take assessments or participate in activities that measure where the students are in regard to the skills and knowledge they need in order to be college and career ready.

  • 8th graders will take ReadiStep, a "low-stakes" middle school assessment which measures skills students need to be on track for college success.  It provides insight into students' academic progress and also equips educators with tools they can use to make informed instructional decisions in the classroom.
  • 9th graders will take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), a diagnostic assessment which provides SAT practice, skills feedback, and access to college and career planning tools.  The PSAT measures critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills, and writing skills.
  • 10th graders will use "My College QuickStart," a personalized college and career planning tool to help develop their "High School and Beyond Plan," which is a graduation requirement.  Students will review their previous PSAT scores and the questions they got wrong and why; access practice SAT questions; save college searches; and take a personality test to identify possible majors and careers.  
  • 11th graders will also take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT).  For 11th graders, this is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), which allows qualified students to enter competitions for prestigious scholarships and recognition programs.
  • 12th graders will take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which measures college readiness.  The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test that lets students show colleges what they know and how well they can apply that knowledge.  Almost all colleges and universities use the SAT to make admission decisions.  In addition, taking the test enables students to connect to scholarship opportunities and access college planning tools.

Historical Context:

Following the work of the district's Equity and Achievement Task Force a decade ago, Federal Way Public Schools has worked to develop programs to give students from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds the support and information they need to prepare for and access a post-secondary education. This includes:

  • Making sure rigorous academic classes are accessible and manageable by students from all socio-economic backgrounds, by rethinking how elementary students were selected for the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, providing pre-AP classes, and implementing the Academic Acceleration policy.
  • Walking students and their parents through the process of planning out a general career path and what classes to select in order to achieve that career. This planning happens in class, during student-led conferences, and at High School Planning Night events.

For more information, please contact Chief Communications Officer
Diane Turner at 253-945-2262 or

SOURCE Federal Way Public Schools