The Northshore School District (NSD) is gearing up for their 2018-2019 school year. In a district that is rounded with superior education, excellent resources, and an astute staff that is determined to provide the absolute best educational experience for all their students, the resounding theme that is proudly voiced loudest is that of equity.
Executive Director Carmin Dalzeil of the Northshore Schools Foundation (NSDF) reported that young women’s access to coding was one of the major successes throughout the district. Every middle school and high school established a Girls Who Code team to encourage girls and young women to get involved and excel in the computer science fields. Schools across the district participated in “Hour of Code” as a way to introduce students to coding so they could get a taste of what a future with a technology career could be like. Dalzeil stated that, “17 schools had 100% participation.”
Tech and computer science careers are not the only way the NSD is spreading their ability to cater to every student, no matter their family’s economic situation nor their diversity. Like many of the “gifted” programs or highly capable programs in many school districts, Northshore has traditionally seen a lack of diversity in the students enrolled. “Of the current 1,734 students in HiCap across Northshore schools, fewer than 10 are African American and 63 are Hispanic/Latino. In addition, just 11 are ELL, only 28 are low income, and only 106 receive Special Education services,” said the Director of Communications of the NSD, Lisa Youngblood-Hall. The Strategic Plan’s focus on equity in education for all students caused immediate changes that were made in identifying eligible students in the 2017-2018 school year. This was the first year the 2017-2022 Strategic Plan was implemented.
Previously, Northshore relied on referrals to determine who underwent assessment, and testing was done on a Saturday in a large-group setting. The difficulties scheduling a likely nerve-racking and high-stakes test for families on a weekend are evident. Combining those with transportation concerns, financial difficulties, or other pitfalls that could trip up a potentially gifted student are plentiful. What happens when a potential gifted child, essentially, is caused to miss their bus to accelerated success? What if they never got a referral to begin with?
The District’s newly implemented structure contains a two-step process that is going to continue to open doors for many more students. To begin, students are screened at their own school during a regular school day. Youngblood-Hall outlined the process as, “In phase 1, every student in grades K-8, approximately 16,000 in all, was screened for potential success in HiCap using a culturally and linguistically accessible test. This screening measures cognitive ability and had never been done before in Northshore. Students who achieved in the 85th percentile or higher on the screening were moved to phase 2 for assessment.”
In addition to this new system, the assessment contains a section on critical thinking to allow students the opportunity to exhibit their intellects in different and exciting ways.
The NSDF and the NSD had numerous successes that are setting the pace for an exciting 2018-2019 school year. Dalziel reported that the NSDF logged more volunteer hours than ever before with the help of student volunteers, Foundation ambassadors at individual schools, and an incredible turnout at Girls who Code. The NSD was overjoyed to nix fees related to Elementary Band by working with the NSDF and Music for Life to have instruments donated. “The number of students engaged with elementary band and orchestra skyrocketed,” commented Youngblood-Hall.
With such a successful year and a growing district, Northshore does have some challenges in the 2018-2019 school year. Dalziel shared that the NSDF, “will be introducing a crowdsourcing donation platform that will allow us [NSDF] to be more nimble in meeting the needs of the classroom. Donors will be able to directly fund projects that are close to their heart.” She thinks this is an excellent way for teachers and donors to watch their projects and dreams come to life.
Another challenge Dalziel is facing concerns educating people with what the Foundation does. Dalziel said, “We still have schools who don’t have an ambassador. Having that ambassador connection really helps us stay in tune to what’s happening in schools. We need to grow our infrastructure, so we can be a better partner with the district. We are grateful for the support of our local businesses, and we are hoping to find a way to engage many of the larger corporations in our community.”
Youngblood-Hall thinks the biggest challenge facing the NSD will be meeting the needs of a continually growing and diverse student population. She said, “Families move here because they are aligned with our goal of providing excellence in education, and they see our great outcomes. The District continues the work to educate and develop all students to be well-rounded individuals. Our goal is to ensure every child and family has access to an educational experience that will prepare our students to be productive citizens in the world, ready to solve issues and problems that we’ve yet to imagine.”
Dalziel is excited to announce that NSDF will be having focus groups at the end of September to check in with the community. Everyone is highly encouraged to attend and voice their opinions. “We are grateful to be a part of this community,” concluded Dalziel.
Youngblood-Hall is proud to announce that the NSD will be celebrating its 60th birthday in the early months of 2019. In addition, the new NSD website and reports will provide additional transparency into the way the District spends taxpayer dollars.
NSDF: www.northshore schoolsfoundation.org/