Gov. Jay Inslee visited two Vancouver Public Schools buildings Wednesday morning to hear about programs for mentoring new teachers and improving the on-time graduation rate. And he took a slight detour for an impromptu hoops session.
At McLoughlin Middle School, Inslee and his wife, Trudi, chatted with teachers and mentors who are part of a districtwide program to assist new teachers. Released from classroom duties, each mentor meets with 20 to 25 new teachers regularly, offering teaching observations and classroom management tips.
“How do I clone you across the state of Washington?” Inslee, a first-term Democrat, asked the teachers.
Inslee credits knowing the value of teacher mentors to his father, who was a new high school biology teacher in Seattle in 1951. An experienced teacher showed his dad the ropes.
Inslee told the teachers he was “trying to get seed money so other districts can follow your lead.”
The governor also visited a U.S. history class and an art class to observe how teachers and students use iPad tablets in the classroom. This is the first year all McLoughlin students have used the handheld tablets as part of the district’s 1:1 technology initiative. District voters approved a technology levy in February 2013.
Addressing the need for businesses to have workers who are trained with the newest technology, he said, “The fact that we don’t have every student in the state of Washington with access to this technology is criminal.”
As the governor and his entourage were leaving the school, they passed a line of students filtering into the gym.
“Let’s have a P.E. session!” said Inslee.
He spun around and headed into the gym, where he grabbed a basketball and gave an impromptu free-throw lesson as the 50 or so students gathered around the key to watch.
“I’m told you have some of the best basketball shooting in the state of Washington,” Inslee said.
The governor then shot hoops with Norman Brown, 13. Final score: Brown, 3; Inslee, 1.
Next, Inslee headed to Fort Vancouver High School, where he met students identified as at risk of not graduating on time, but who are involved in a variety of programs focused on helping them graduate. The school’s diverse student population speaks about 40 languages.
The high school’s poverty rate — 72.9 percent of students qualify for free or reduced meals — is significantly higher than the districtwide 53 percent and the state’s 46.1 percent.
Fort Vancouver’s four-year graduation rate of 73.6 percent lags behind the state’s rate of 77.2 percent. The school adopted a new program this year, Freshman Academy, to help 100 ninth-graders make a smoother transition from middle to high school. At the end of the first semester, Academy students averaged a 6.4 percent failure rate compared with 11 percent for all ninth-graders in the school.
Inslee observed a Freshman Academy class in which teams of students were working together to solve a problem.
“You’re getting experiences that we never had in high school,” Inslee told the students. “You’re learning teamwork and leadership. This part of your life is really important.”
Then Inslee participated in a small-group discussion with seven students involved in programs focused on keeping students in school, graduating on time and planning for college.
Inslee said he is working on appropriations to aid high schools with these types of programs to keep students from dropping out and to encourage them to graduate.
“It’s simply unacceptable to have one of four students not graduating,” Inslee said, referring to the state’s drop-out rate of about 23 percent.