With a commitment to increasing educational opportunities for students after they graduate from high school, the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) has awarded Chehalis School District $1,050,000 over the next 18 months to implement parent and family engagement and dual generation strategies in the Chehalis community.

District leaders learned about this incredible financial award December 16, 2022 and were eager to share the news with their partners: The Chehalis Foundation, Centralia College, and The BERC Group.

Once WSAC introduced the competitive Regional Challenge Grants in September, district leaders immediately began developing a proposal, which was due in late October. With a desire to grow innovative programs to support students and families, a team of educators, researchers, and advisors worked together to draft and submit the 10 page application narrative on behalf of the school district and partners.
The Student Achievement Initiative

The district has been focusing on systemic support for career and college readiness for 11 years by developing relationships and partnerships with education and business leaders throughout the country. In 2014, the district partnered with the Chehalis Foundation to implement a comprehensive K-16 career and college readiness initiative – the Student Achievement Initiative (SAI).

The SAI partnership set a goal for 60 percent of Chehalis graduates to receive a meaningful post-secondary degree or certification within eight years of graduation.

Over time, Chehalis has grown a reputation for career and college readiness. “The Chehalis SAI stands out as one of the most comprehensive and thoughtful community efforts in the nation to support students as they move toward college and careers,” says Michael Meotti, executive director of the Washington Student Achievement Council.

Indeed, Chehalis staff should be proud of the growth shown over the last decade. Since 2010, W. F. High School has increased the percentage of student meeting course requirements for admission to a Washington four-year college by 25 percent.

“With our partners, we have celebrated successes and milestones along the way,” says Dr. Christine Moloney, Chehalis School District Superintendent.“However, there continue to be opportunities to improve outcomes related to our goals. Specifically, the SAI has lacked the necessary support and resources around early childhood awareness and preparation.”

“As we embark upon the next strategic phase of the SAI,” says Moloney, “We intend to grow our efforts to communicate with segments of our population not succeeding at the same level of success. We will create a communication campaign to ensure we reach all Chehalis families. We also intend to develop an early warning intervention tool so that no family ‘falls through the gap.’ We are grateful for this opportunity to meet the needs of all our students and families.”

The district will do more work focused on early childhood awareness and family engagement with this money– focusing on reaching out to families with at risk students. This work is not funded through local levy tax dollars or state basic education funding. The district will use these targeted funds to work to increase career and college preparation for children and families who can use extra support to achieve the American dream.

Details of the grant

The Washington Student Achievement Council received 80 applications for the Regional Challenge Grants, requesting a total of $69.4 million. To determine awardees, WSAC used evaluation criteria which includes:

● Authenticity of the regional partnership
● Focus on equity
● Strength of strategy
● Resourcefulness of the partners

With $5.5 million available, the council approved grant agreements in six counties across the state:

Foundation for Tacoma Students (FFTS), Pierce County $1,200,000

City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), King County $1,250,000

LaunchNW, Spokane County $850,000

Chehalis School District’s Student Achievement Initiative (SAI), Lewis County $1,050,000

The STEM Foundation, Benton County $125,000Yakima Valley Partners for Education, Yakima County $125,000

With the additional funding provided in this grant, Chehalis will focus on early learning so that the efforts at the secondary level can have its full effect. To fortify early career and college awareness, the district will strategically create two new SAI programs, design a custom built communications plan, and create an early warning intervention system to support this work.

  • To implement a Children’s Education and Career Program, a new coordinator will be hired to spend most of their time on CSD campuses and in the Chehalis community ensuring early educational awareness and expectations set by both the family and schools.
  • To implement a P-8 Family Engagement Program, a new coordinator will be hired to team with an existing counselor currently serving at the middle school to ensure engagement of parents and community members with their local schools through meaningful involvement. With a focus on both students and their parents, the coordinator will use a dual-generational approach to building relationships and providing support.
  • An SAI Community Communication Campaign will allow the district to provide enhanced communications and marketing responsibility to target low income families, particularly Hispanic or Latino, as well as homeless, foster families, and those in special education or with 504 plans.
  • Critical to the success of new SAI components is the use of an Early Warning Intervention System (EWIS) used to identify off-track students in middle and high school and to design and assess interventions to keep them on track to graduate. This tool will also identify and improve data use among early childhood education program staff so they can better inform, plan, monitor, and make decisions for instruction and program improvement.

Increasing impact

When it comes to preparing students for post-secondary opportunities, the CSD has a track record of strategic planning, implementation, and success. “There is no more impressive career and college preparation story in public education in this state today,” says Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable. District leaders have studied student data for years with a focus on what appears to be working, as well as areas for improvement.

While Chehalis has seen incredible success with some families, there are sub-groups within the community in which attitudes about college are less than positive. The district wants to change that culture for all families.

“We continue to rely on research and best-practices to develop an effective and fiscally responsible plan with clear objectives and outcomes,” says Director of Student Achievement Rick Goble. “With this grant we will be able to respond to the needs of our community. We believe, with full implementation of a PreK-16 system of support within 5 to 10 years, we will see improved participation of all families – especially those currently less engaged or unaware of their opportunities, and a substantial increase in the number of students going on to earn a post-secondary credential.”

Career and college readiness and post-secondary success will remain the primary vision in the Chehalis School District. District leaders remain committed to the goals of the Student Achievement Initiative, and the partnerships forged along the way.

With the support of the WSAC Regional Challenge Grant, the district plans full implementation of a P-16 system of support. Within 5 to 10 years, district leaders hope to see improved participation of all families – especially those currently less engaged – and a substantial increase in the number of students going on to earn a post-secondary credential.