Tacoma Public Schools Winner of NSBA 2016 Urban School Board Excellence Award

October 1, 2016

Alexandria, Va. (Oct. 1, 2016) – The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is pleased to announce Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma, Washington, winner of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) 2016 Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

Much has changed since 2007 when all five of Tacoma’s comprehensive high schools were labeled ‘dropout factories.’ In just the last five years the district’s graduation rate climbed 27.3 percentage points, and enrollment in post-secondary education programs and college completion rates are climbing.

“Leadership plays an important role in fostering change and instilling a culture of success,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO, National School Boards Association. “Tacoma’s innovative initiatives and programs created an engaging and supportive learning environment that resulted in a significant positive impact on student achievement throughout the district.  The work of the district’s leadership was truly a game changer and one that can provide great inspiration for producing tangible results in other urban districts.”

The CUBE Award for Urban School Board Excellence was created in 2004 to recognize the leadership of urban school districts where effective school board governance has an impact on student achievement, and this year’s winner has more than demonstrated its leadership in reshaping the academic program and the success of students in Tacoma.

Tacoma Public Schools adopted a renewed focus on programs that are directly tied to student achievement and raising student expectations. The district expanded its summer school and afterschool programs to increase student learning time, added on comprehensive wraparound services targeting student’s social and emotional well-being, and launched a number of small innovation schools with unique programs. Preschool programs were opened at 32 locations across the city in addition to several early learning centers. The district has also re-examined its disciplinary policy and launched a reengagement center for students who have dropped out or fallen far behind their high school peers.

Today, more students are taking advantage of summer school programs, advanced coursework, and innovative career-based programs, and the racial gap in academic performance and graduation rates has closed dramatically. In 2015, Lincoln High School, one of the earlier labeled ‘dropout factories,’ graduated 94 percent of its black students and 84 percent of its Hispanic student population.

“It’s an honor to recognize district leadership of Tacoma for their progress in improving the educational outcomes of students,” says Verjeana Jacobs, chair of the CUBE Steering Committee and a school board member in Prince George’s, Maryland. “They are an outstanding example of the impact that school leaders can and must have in providing access to quality educational opportunities that yield continuous and sustainable results in academic achievement for urban schoolchildren.”

The CUBE 2016 Award for Urban School Board Excellence is supported by NSBA’s corporate partner, Sodexo. In addition to receiving a $2,500 award check, Tacoma Public Schools is featured in the October issue of American School Board Journal, and highlighted throughout the year in CUBE programming. More information about CUBE and past district winners is available on CUBE’s webpage

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The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school board associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. 

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