Success defines Tukwila’s schools | Supt. Nancy Coogan

So here’s what I want to say to each and every student and teacher: YOU ARE NOT A NUMBER. You can never be reduced to a number, and what makes you exceptional outshines any ill-conceived federal law. More than that— never start to let a label like “failing” define what you are capable of achieving. You are limitless.

  • Thursday, September 17, 2015 8:37pm
  • Opinion


Superintendent, Tukwila School District

Welcome to the 2015-16 school year! I have been out in schools and classrooms, and I need to commend our students for showing up with great energy and enthusiasm for learning and our staff for embracing this new beginning like they do each student — with full expectation of unlimited potential. I can feel the optimism and hope, and I know that everyone — student and staff alike — is ready to give their best. Furthermore, I have the data and experience to show that our students are turning that self-belief into action. They are making progress, and even leading the state and nation in their growth.

That’s why it’s so disheartening to once again start the school year by mailing a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) letter to each household. Almost every single family in the state with children at public schools received a similar letter. Quite simply, the requirements of NCLB are not realistic. If anything less than 100 percent of students — including those in subgroups like special education and English Language Learners — does not meet standard on reading and math tests, the entire school is deemed “failing.” The President, congressional members, education leaders, and parents almost universally agree that this does not make sense, and they are actively trying to change the law. (U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says, “As it currently exists, NCLB is creating a slow-motion educational train wreck for children.”)

At issue is the fact that actual student progress is not being considered, and it is nonsensical call a school a failure if only one student does not meet a uniform bar of achievement. This is particularly true in Tukwila, where students make tremendous growth but often begin at a place of significant disadvantage.

So here’s what I want to say to each and every student and teacher: YOU ARE NOT A NUMBER. You can never be reduced to a number, and what makes you exceptional outshines any ill-conceived federal law. More than that— never start to let a label like “failing” define what you are capable of achieving. You are limitless.

I invite Mr. Duncan, our own lawmakers, community members – heck, even the President! – to come to Tukwila to see what actual student growth looks like, not just a static benchmark of proficiency. I invite them to consider expanding their definition of student success to include artistic expression, identity development, resiliency, happiness, global and humanitarian engagement, real-world job skills, and more. For many of our students, just the act of making it here, to Tukwila, and to the schoolhouse every day has required unbelievable acts of courage and strength.

To be sure, we have a long way to go. We are constantly striving to improve and serve students better, and our Strategic Plan provides a clear roadmap toward the achievement goals that matter most for the Tukwila community. But I will say it again and again: Our district — our students, our educators, our families — are successes. Let me tell you about just a few of them:

• Foster High and Tukwila Elementary won the state’s highest award for student growth in math last year.

• Foster almost doubled the number of Advanced Placement tests administered last year compared to five years ago. On the AP Calculus test, our students had the highest median score in the state!

• Our preliminary graduation rate went from 55 percent to 69 percent last year. Our grads earned more than $3 million in scholarships.

• Our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) program is garnering local and national attention!

• 98 percent of elementary students averaged four months growth during summer school this year.

• Middle-school students with regular attendance doubled their math and reading scores on average.

• High school students completed more than 70 courses to earn credits to date, and others participated in an Advanced Placement boot camp where they got a jump start to prepare them for the rigorous, college-level courses.

• We have created a Balanced Literacy Framework for all teachers and have begun a comprehensive training program for elementary teachers that will serve as a foundation for all students’ learning.

• Cascade View has reduced discipline infractions from 69 in 2007-8 to just 4 last year.

• Each day we serve a free breakfast to every elementary student through our Breakfast in the Classroom program.

• Our Transportation Department earned the top efficiency rating in the state last year.

As we begin this new school year, please join me in raising our voices louder than any outside law or critic. We are Tukwila. We have unlimited potential.

In service, Supt. Nancy Coogan

Tukwila School Superintendent Dr. Nancy Coogan can be reached at 206-901-8006 or at


More in Opinion

Washington State Capitol Building. File photo
Editorial: Taxpayers deserve down payment on tax reforms

By The Herald Editorial Board Reform of the state’s tax system wasn’t… Continue reading

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and Page Carson Foster. Photo credit Washington State Legislative Support Services
Carson Foster serves as page in Washington State House

The following was submitted to the Reporter: Carson Foster, a student at… Continue reading

State Dems may abandons caucus chaos in time for 2020

Washington also is considering becoming more significant by moving its primary to early March.

Are sheriffs above the law?

Washington voters have spoken on I-1639. Sheriffs need to set the stage to follow their oath of office - and enforce the law.

Parking issues should be addressed now rather than later

So let’s have a little update on Tukwila Village. Construction on the… Continue reading

Two commissioner positions available this year

For The Reporter The Tukwila Pool Metropolitan Park District (TPMPD) is a… Continue reading

Especially in an election year, our elected should do better

At first glance, the reinstitution of the Hazelnut, Issue 1 — looks,… Continue reading

When tomorrow becomes today: King County cities must tackle affordable housing

Microsoft has started the regional dialogue, but will cities rise to the challenge?

Representation matters

By Flip Herndon Tukwila Superintendent During the month of February we may… Continue reading

Why public libraries matter more than ever in the Information Age

Occasionally, someone unfamiliar with King County Library System will say to me… Continue reading

Tukwila Pool welcomes new water aerobics classes

By Laci Jamison The Tukwila Pool is excited to announce that we… Continue reading

With city budgets, come tough choices

In a previous column, I briefly touched on how our new public… Continue reading