Issaquah graduates fare better at the UW

October 26, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Issaquah Dawgs are earning better grades than their counterparts at the University of Washington.

From 2004 to 2008, the average grade point average of an Issaquah student at the university was 0.07 points higher than the average student.

During those four years, the average university student got a 3.17 grade point average, while the average Issaquah School District student at the university earned a 3.24 grade point average.

“I was not surprised to see that, in general, Issaquah School District students do better, with regards to grade point average, than the general student body at the University of Washington in their freshman year,” district Executive Director of Secondary Education Patrick Murphy said. “That also proves to be true when compared to the state in other areas, like SAT scores, ACT scores and other measures.”

The district does not collect grade point average data about its graduates at other colleges because the trend data would be too small, Murphy said. About 10 percent to 12 percent of Issaquah graduates attend the University of Washington, amounting to 120 to 140 students per year.

Issaquah students outscored the general student in 19 of 21 majors. Issaquah students had the biggest difference in the major of business management and administrative services, scoring an average of 0.22 better with an average 3.5 grade point average. Issaquah students scored slightly lower than the university’s average grade point averages in the majors of engineering and conservation and renewal natural resources.

University of Washington Director of News and Information Bob Roseth called the trend “interesting,” but cautioned against attaching too much significance to a student’s grade point average. Instead, he said it was important to look at the student’s class load and other achievements.

Recent Issaquah district graduates said they had learned critical educational strategies in Issaquah’s classrooms.

Jenna Tollefson, a 2009 Issaquah High School graduate now studying engineering at the UW, said taking Advanced Placement calculus and English helped her learn how to take multiple-choice exams.

“Before all the AP tests, our teachers would go through multiple choice and what was the best thing to do,” Tollefson said. “I think AP classes really helped me, not just in those classes I took in college, but just to have the more rigorous coursework, so you’re more comfortable taking tests when you get to college.”

Lindsey Kim, a 2009 Skyline High School graduate, credited the International Baccalaureate program for her success at the university.

“In the IB classes, it was pretty rigorous and you had to work a lot harder to get a good grade,” Kim said. “You had more homework and the concepts were more in depth than the normal classes would be.”

Yet, she learned that college exams require a bit more study time.

“In high school, you could study one or two nights before hand and still be OK,” she said. “In college, you have to start studying a lot earlier.”

Both she and Tollefson said their grades improved after spending office hours with teaching assistants and professors. Kim said she improved her score a whole letter grade after reviewing chemistry material with her teaching assistant.

Liberty High School teacher Kris Daughters said she teaches her students to think critically about their writing and interpretation of literature, which helps them in college.

Daughters, who teaches AP language and composition, American literature and journalism, said she stresses critical thinking with every assignment. For instance, after she asked the students to write a memoir, she overhead one student tell another not to use contractions.

When she asked the student why he should avoid contractions, he said because another teacher had told him. Daughters encouraged him to think about how contractions change the tone of the piece.

They agreed it made the writing more conversational.

“You can have a conversational tone when you’re writing about yourself,” she said. “We’re trying to get them to learn about their audience and make choices that are effective for that audience.”

She also asks students to analyze how authors write, and to think about how it affects the tone and the reader.

“We do a lot of discussion,” Daughters said. “Every day, there is some discussion on something. I think you do a lot of that in college, particularly in upper-division classes and at smaller colleges.”

Peter Brook, a 2009 graduate from Issaquah High School, said participating in the robotics team helped prepare him for college, teaching him about math, physics, engineering and leadership. Through his work with the club and an internship he just finished in Palo Alto, Calif., he said he learned that, “Projects are finished by the people who stay to finish them, not by people who put in so many hours and leave.”

Brook said his teachers at Issaquah, especially robotics coach Jared Fernandez, inspired him to work hard, too.

“He kept on believing in us and working with us,” he said.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

By the numbers


All UW GPA ISD GPA Difference

Architecture & related programs 3.74 3.82 0.08

Area, ethnic & cultural studies 3.33 3.34 0.01

Biological & biomedical sciences 3.08 3.26 0.18

Business management & administrative service 3.28 3.50 0.22

Communications 3.25 3.40 0.15

Computer & information sciences 2.84 2.84 0.00

Conservation & renewal of natural resources 3.3 3.19 -0.11

Engineering 3.58 3.57 -0.01

English language & literature/letters 3.38 3.47 0.09

Foreign languages & literatures 3.39 3.50 0.11

History 3.19 3.22 0.03

Liberal arts & sciences, general studies & humanities 3.54 3.54 0.00

Mathematics & statistics 2.94 3.10 0.16

Multi/interdisciplinary studies 3.29 3.33 0.04

Philosophy & religious studies 3.15 3.19 0.04

Physical sciences 3.02 3.13 0.11

Psychology 3.07 3.10 0.03

ROTC Programs 3.77 5 17.0

Social sciences 3.16 3.22 0.06

Visual and performing arts 3.38 3.46 0.08

Totals 3.17 3.24 0.07

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