Washougal School District surveys grads

Former students give their alma mater mixed reviews

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Math instruction and money management skills are two areas graduates of Washougal High School cite as needing improvement.

Students in the classes of 2000 through 2012 were recently surveyed as part of a district outreach focus to past WHS graduates.

The School Board regularly holds linkage activities, such as meetings in local schools, to encourage staff, parents, volunteers community agencies and others to give input and feedback about the effectiveness of district programs and educational opportunities.

Typically, WHS graduates are invited to give input at meetings, but after several years of just a few students showing up, the district decided to use an electronic survey, sent through e-mail and social media sites.

“I was pleased with the level of participation that was received and the willingness of former students to invest the time in giving feedback,” said Dawn Tarzian, superintendent. “Responses came from as far back as 2000, though the majority of input was from more recent graduates.”

Of the 101 graduates surveyed, teachers were rated as the most supportive group for students. As far as skills learned in high school, two-thirds of the respondents rated writing as the top category.

In addition, half or more of students in all years reported bullying was an issue, but 35 percent from the class of 2012 considers it a problem.

Awareness of drug and alcohol use appears to be increasing, with only 10 percent of the class of 2012 reporting it was not an issue, compared with nearly 34 percent from a few years prior.

Regarding quality of education, more than half of the class of 2012 were “satisfied,” with the quality of instruction and opportunities in high school. The highest ranking of 75 percent went to fine arts. Motivation was consistently reported as the largest problem students faced in high school.

Of those surveyed, an average of 42 percent are currently working toward a four-year degree. Approximately 28 percent are working toward a two-year degree. Others have finished a two-year degree, attended vocational school or serve in the military.

“The District is reviewing the information with the School Board, administration and staff,” Tarzian said. “In many cases, the information confirms what the district has also identified and it is reinforcing to know that the programs developed are addressing issues that former graduates identify.”

She cited the district’s work to address drug and alcohol use through the Washougal Community Coalition.

“Based on the input of former graduates, this has been the right work to do and we need to continue to be very vigilant in working with students and families on issues of alcohol and drug use,” Tarzian said. Another area identified for improvement was math curriculum. A teacher-led math leadership team led to the purchase of new curriculum, which was implemented this year.

Graduates also indicated that they wished that they had received more money and time management skills. This is an area that was identified as a priority through the district community visioning process conducted during the 2011 – 2012 school year.

“WHS currently has a very effective Financial Fitness class but not all students take this class,” Tarzian said. “We will be implementing a program to target all students during their four years in high school to cover money and time management, likely involving banking and financial businesses in the community that have offered their support and involvement to address this need.”