Bellevue, WA

Bellevue, Washington

Tell Our Story

Reading at grade level by the end of third grade is the gateway to academic and life success. In Bellevue, we’re working to ensure that every child successfully accomplishes that milestone, especially children from disadvantaged households. Over the past seven years, the Bellevue School District has focused on making sure that every child in this community has the opportunity to succeed in school, in work and in life.

The district has been joined in this work by Eastside Pathways, a community-based organization formed in 2011 with the mission of supporting every child, step by step, from cradle to care, by uniting families, providers, schools and cities around common goals, measurements, and strategies to maximize each child’s opportunity for a productive, fulfilling life. The organization’s partners include community volunteers as well as representatives from the school district, Bellevue Schools Foundation and the City of Bellevue.

It all adds up to a focus in Bellevue on achieving by 2016 the goal of 100% of children reading at grade level by the end of third grade (compared to 85% currently, up 2 percent since 2012).

What is working?

Taking a collective impact approach, we have three active collaboratives (or working groups) focused on School Readiness, Attendance and Summer/Extended Learning. Each group includes partners in the community such as the school district, City of Bellevue, public library, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA and the majority of the community-based organizations working with kids in our community.

Each collaborative is setting its own sub-goals and plans. The collaboratives have spurred the formation of new partnerships and a closer alignment between “the work” and “the goals and mission.”

What have you accomplished?  

  1. School Readiness:

    1. Partners offered a Professional Development Training Series that creates a bridge from Early Learning to Kindergarten. P-3 Alignment efforts have included outreach to Bellevue Early Learning professionals from all venues (private child care, preschool, Family Child, Family, Friends and Neighbor, school district programs).

    2. Various partner organizations have shared and aligned their action plans.

    3. The number of play and learn groups in our community has grown from one to four.

  2. Attendance

    1. Analyzed attendance data to drive a strategy focused on tardies rather than absences, since tardies proved to be a main issue.

    2. Rolled out an attendance campaign “Right Place, Right Time, Ready to Learn” in seven languages to 16 elementary and middle schools. It includes posters, banners and postcards that were sent home. Anecdotal feedback shows that tardies have been reduced in schools with both low-income and high-income populations.

  3. Summer and Extended Learning

    1. Created the Summer Reading Rangers program to serve 65 free and reduced lunch and English Language Learners children who, otherwise, would not have been in a summer program because they didn’t qualify for the school district’s summer school. This was created via a partnership between the YMCA and School district. It was held at a local elementary school and managed by the Y. During the six-week summer program, kids participated in literacy and camp activities. They also received breakfast and lunch. This pilot program came about after the collaboratives identified this need and the Y stepped up to help. There will be a lot of learning to strengthen the program.

    2. Partners offer the Library summer reading program, rather than developing their own, so as kids moved from program to program their progress could be tracked on one sheet. The City of Bellevue also added 30 minutes of summer reading to as many of its summer camps as possible.

Which barriers have proven most challenging?

Data is the biggest challenge. We have and/or can get data around outputs – how many children served, etc. But we are very challenged when it comes to getting data about outcomes in all areas. How do we define school readiness? Who collects that data? What data can be shared? There are similar data challenges with summer learning. Six weeks is very short period in which to get reliable data regarding the effect on “the summer slide.”

What have been the biggest surprises? Disappointments?

Attendance data was a surprise. When we looked at kids who weren’t reading on grade level in 3rd grade, their attendance patterns were no worse than their peers, and in some cases were better. So we have to look deeper. This demonstrates how important it is to use data to drive strategy.

Also, the evaluation of the programs is considerably more difficult than we anticipated.

What have you learned?
Action is better than inaction through analysis. We have a philosophy of continuous learning and improvement on our projects so were able to launch some activities like Summer Reading Rangers and see how it went.

What is the biggest take away?

Partners have been very happy and supportive of the collaborative work. We were in a meeting the other day and to paraphrase what one partner said, “In 20 years of working here, I have never sat down with all these partners at one time to have a meaningful discussion about what we can do together in out of school time to help kids.”

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  • Thanks Lourdes - I'll forward your comments to the folks in Bellevue!

  • Hope this helps with the data and outcomes challenge:

  • The summer and extended learning opportunity in partnership with the YMCA sounds great! I noticed it was free to participants. What funding was used to pay for this six week summer program? Keep up the great work!

  • Really interesting work and insights - thanks for sharing with us here and at the GLR gathering in Seattle in November!

    - Betsy (the GLR Campaign's community manager)

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