Bellevue School District

Updated May 15, 2019

Addressing equity issues

Bellevue, Washington

Serving 20,400 students, Bellevue School District is located 10 miles east of Seattle. According to Bellevue’s Superintendent, Ivan Duran, the student population represents 125 countries and 94 languages. Thirteen percent of the districts’ students are Latino, and three percent are African-American. The majority of students are either Asian (41%) or white (34%). Nine percent are multi-ethnic. Despite its status as an affluent suburb with median income over $121,000, 17% of the students are low-income and approximately 300 are homeless. After disaggregating district data based on race, socioeconomic status, attendance, attained credits, and graduation rates, according to an article in Education Week, the district found that

Eighty-two percent of black and Latino students graduated on time in 2018—that’s 10% lower than the district’s white students and 12% lower than its Asian students. The gaps in college enrollment among graduates is much starker: 56% of black students and 53% of Latino students who graduated in 2017 enrolled in college compared to 76% of white students and 89% of Asian students. Equally large disparities crop up in the state’s English and math test scores as early as 3rd grade.

More and more districts like Bellevue are beginning to acknowledge the inequities and are working to close the achievement gaps. For Shomari Jones, Director of Equity and Graduation Success at Bellevue School District, his mission is to ensure that “low-income, nonwhite students have the same opportunities to success as their more privileged peers.”

One of the many efforts Jones is implementing to combat equity issues in the district is the use of graduation success coaches, or grad success coaches for short. There are five grad success coaches total, one housed in each of the four traditional high schools in the district, and an additional coach housed in one of the district’s middle schools as part of a pilot program to help students transitioning from middle to high school. The grad success coaches use digital learning to personalize academic and social-emotional support systems to help students succeed. Students use a digital learning platform to recover credits and are asked to sign a contract when they begin to work with their coach. Each grad success coach is trained in racial equity, inclusion, social emotional learning, guidance counseling, and data analytics, and supports about 50 students. Grad success coaches have office space within their respective school and communicate regularly with their students and their students’ families. Coaches will either have students come to see them or they’ll go to the students’ classrooms and check in with them to see how they’re doing and what supports they need to stay on track.

In addition to the grad success coaches, the district uses digital learning for a program known as RISE to ensure students who are on long-term suspension (longer than 10 days) continue to progress in their learning. As Jones explains, “systemic barriers [are] in the way for lots of people, and my job is to remove them.”

This profile was developed through correspondence with Shomari Jones of Bellevue School District and with the help of a 2019 Education Leaders to Learn From article from Education Week.

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