New Program Increases Students' College Readiness

Feb 08, 2011, 16:30 ET from Federal Way Public Schools

FEDERAL WAY, Wash., Feb. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The number of students enrolled in advanced academic classes nearly doubled in Federal Way Public Schools this year.  And, for the first time, enrollment in advanced classes better reflects the ethnic diversity of the district's student population. All this is due to the start of the district's academic acceleration policy.

Beginning this school year, Federal Way Public Schools began the practice of automatically enrolling qualified middle and high school students in advanced academic classes such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge. Students' scores on the state's standardized tests determine the classes they are enrolled in.

Until this year, Federal Way allowed students to decide for themselves whether to enroll in advanced classes. Many qualified students chose not to enroll, giving a variety of reasons including the perception that "those classes" just weren't meant for them.

"We're working to break down perceptions that students and parents have about who should be in advanced classes," said Joshua Garcia, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching for Learning. "It's important that higher academic achievement is a goal for all of our students."

Purity Njuguna, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School, acknowledges she wouldn't have signed up for the International Baccalaureate American History course on her own. "I thought it was hard and too much work," says the native of Nairobi, Kenya. "But now I think it's kind of easy. When I ask the teacher for help, he explains it, and then I get it. And when I don't get it, I stay after school and ask for help."

Federal Way may be the only district in the state that automatically places students in advanced classes, according to Barbara Dettrick, advanced placement programs supervisor with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. "This is an ambitious effort that has huge potential to bring about dual credit opportunities for students," she said.

Because of the automatic enrollment, more than 65 percent of the district's juniors and seniors now take at least one advanced class. Only 38 percent were in advanced classes last year. In addition, the number of students of color enrolled in advanced classes increased by 43 percent.

Research shows that students strongly benefit from taking advanced classes. Among the advantages: They are better prepared for college course work and tend to earn better grades. They are more likely to graduate from college. Finally, competitive colleges are more likely to admit students who have taken advanced courses and to offer academic scholarships to them.

Federal Way Public Schools Academic Acceleration Program

By the Numbers

In May, 2010:

  • of 2,951 total 11th- and 12th-grade students in Federal Way Public Schools, 1,214 (41%) of them were enrolled in advanced classes
  • of 1,892 ethnic minority 11th- and 12th-grade students in Federal Way Public Schools, 670 (35%) were enrolled in advanced classes.

In October, 2010:

  • of 3,098 total 11th- and 12th-grade students in Federal Way Public Schools, 2,090 (67%) were enrolled in advanced classes
  • of 1,945 ethnic minority 11th- and 12th-grade students in Federal Way Public Schools, 1,178 (61%) were enrolled in advanced classes.

Put another way, the number of 11th- and 12th- grade students taking at least one advanced class has jumped by 72 percent since the implementation of the Academic Acceleration Program.  The increase is even higher – 76 percent – for minority 11th-and 12th-grade students taking at least one advanced class.

Among the district's four high school 11th and 12th graders, girls are taking advantage of the programs at a higher rate than boys. Junior and senior enrollment is 51 percent boys and 49 girls, but advanced program enrollment at the 11th and 12th grade level is made up of 48 percent boys and 52 percent girls.

The district also has 241 Running Start students that it is also tracking as part of its accelerated programs effort.

For more information on Federal Way Public Schools advanced programs, visit

*Because the Federal Government has changed the way it categorizes race and ethnic diversity from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011, the school district cannot show specific comparisons for separate ethnic/racial groups.

For more information contact

Chief Communications Officer Diane Turner or 253-945-2262

SOURCE Federal Way Public Schools