April 8, 2014
Tiger Mountain school rethink can work
The Issaquah School Board is planning some big changes for Tiger Mountain Community High School. Some of these changes are necessary, but the disruption of the community is not.
Tiger Mountain has about 100 students who would generally be considered “at risk.” The school tries to reach these students with nontraditional methods in an attempt to keep them engaged.
The attempt isn’t working as well as it should. The school’s graduation rate of 37 percent shows this. Whatever methods district officials are attempting are actually reaching only a fraction of the students.
The district has plans for changes. It’s constructing a new facility for the school, and looking at program changes as well. Both are needed. Tiger Mountain facilities are now little more than a collection of portables. The environment is not very conducive to education, and possibly a factor in some students’ decisions to drop out.
The district’s plan to explore new methods for educating these students is also a good idea. Finding new and better ways to keep them engaged and keep them in school is critical.
What is not critical is the current plan to split the school’s students up for the year as it determines its options. These are students who are already having problems connecting with the larger school community. Even though there will be individualized plans in place for students as they return to their home schools, stopping the program and scattering the children to the winds will only hurt the children it seeks to help.
The Tiger Mountain community is a close-knit group. Splitting them apart serves only to break whatever bonds they might have forged with teachers and other students.
Perhaps the district can re-arrange classroom space in one of the other schools and give Tiger Mountain a hallway or a few rooms close together (with one dedicated to the administration) to keep the community intact during this time of transition.
Looking at the best way to reach these students is necessary and valuable. Splitting them up while the study is happening is not. Improve Tiger Mountain, and find a way to keep the students together.