Understand the School System

To understand the public education system, you should begin by taking a look at the big picture. Here is demographic information about the state of Washington and statistical facts about the public education system that can be helpful to you as you get involved in your child’s education. An informed parent is an involved parent.

Washington state population
Public education facts
Achievement gap

The Washington State Constitution says:

"It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex."

Washington state population

The total population is 6,549,224.

5,743,768 people live in urban areas.

805,456 people live in rural areas.

1,477,507 are children and 4,668,831 are adults.

There are 813,035 households with children under 18. (U.S. Census Bureau)

The federal poverty threshold for 2008 for a family of four with two children was $21,834. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Sixteen percent (approximately 226,000) of Washington’s children younger than 18 live below the federal poverty level. (Washington Kids Count, 2009)

Twenty-one percent of rural children in Washington live in poverty compared to thirteen percent of urban children. (Washington Kids Count, 2009)

Washington population by race/ethnicity, 2008 estimates
White 5,566,607
Hispanic 613,929
Asian & Pacific Islander 470,361
Black or African American 237,917
American Indian & Alaska Native 109,792

Source: Washington State Office of Financial Management

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Public education facts

1,031,846 students were enrolled in K-12 public schools in 2007–08. (OSPI)

Total student enrollment in Washington public schools (2007–08)
White 709,324
Black 56,719
Hispanic 151,410
American Indian 27,616
Asian/Pacific Islander 86,777

Source: Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)

Student participation in special programs (2007-08)
Free or reduced lunch 37.9%
Special education 12.6%
Transitional bilingual 7.9%
Migrant 1.8%

Source: OSPI

There are 295 school districts in Washington state. The largest is the Seattle School District, which enrolls more than 46,000 students. The smallest are Adams County’s Benge School District and Stevens County’s Evergreen School District, each with an enrollment of 6 students. (2007–08) (OSPI)

There are 2,279 public school buildings in Washington. (OSPI)

More than seventy-five percent of all Washington students are enrolled in Western Washington school districts that make up the Puget Sound area. Nearly one quarter of Washington’s public school students are enrolled in King County. (OSPI)

Student/teacher ratio in 2007–08 was 17:1. (OSPI)

88,000 students were enrolled in the State Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program. Among these students, 170 languages are spoken. (OSPI)

47.9% of public high school graduates enrolled in public higher education institutions in Washington in 2006–07. (Educational Research and Data Center)

strong>72.4% of all students from Washington public schools graduated from high school on time in
2006–07. (OSPI)

Student high school dropout rate in 2006–07 was 5.5%. (OSPI)

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Achievement gap

More than one quarter of all Washington school-age children are minorities, and this number is growing. (Washington Learns)

Student enrollment by ethnicity, 2008
White 66.2%
Hispanic 14.7 %
Asian 7.8%
Asian/Pacific Islander 14.4%
Black 5.5%
American Indian/Native American 2.7%

Source: OSPI

Percentage of 10th grade students meeting reading, math and writing standards in 2006–07, by ethnicity
Asian/Pacific Islander 61.6%
White 55.1%
American Indian 30.9%
Hispanic 25.7%
Black 22.8%

Source: OSPI

Annual dropout rate for low-income students (eligible for a free or reduced-price meal) is higher than the dropout rate for all students (2006–07): 8.1% vs. 5.5%. (OSPI)

Males dropped out at a higher rate (6.3%) than females (5.0%). (2005–06) (OSPI)

Student dropout rates by ethnicity in 2005–06, grades 9-12
Native American 11.2%
Hispanic 8.9%
African American 10.3%
White 4.8%
Asian/Pacific Islander 4.3%

Source: OSPI

On-time graduation rates by ethnicity in 2005–06, grades 9-12
Asian/Pacific Islander 76.5%
White 74.1%
Hispanic 57.5%
African American 53.6%
Native American 48.0%

Source: OSPI

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