Tacoma School District No. 10, commonly called Tacoma Public Schools, is the main school district for Tacoma, Washington, USA. Composed of 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools, and nine high schools, it is the third largest school district in Washington State. Tacoma Public Schools serve more than 30,000 students PK-12 and over 5,000 employees, making it one of the largest employers in the greater Tacoma area.
In the decades preceding World War I, Tacoma Public Schools, like much of the United States, were largely influenced by a new influx of European immigrants that had been creating challenges among both governmental and religious agencies in devising a plan for best addressing ethnic integration. Many immigrant families, primarily from eastern and southern European descent, were of rural backgrounds and struggled to adapt to a more urban and advanced way of life. In 1913, the National Conference on Immigration and Americanization developed a list of three essential aspects of immigrant assimilation: literacy, health and hygiene, and the learning of democracy. As a result, schools across the nation began introducing new policies and programs that were intended to promote and teach the importance of these three values.
Closely following national trends, the Tacoma School District began widespread incorporation of nurses, health clinics, showers, and home economic departments, all of which were designed to improve health and hygiene within school property. Tacoma Public Schools also witnessed a significant expansion in social services, including after-school programs, summer school, and availability of on-site lunches. This focus on the civic responsibilities of schools resulted in the improvement of libraries, lunchrooms, administrative offices, and other rooms designated towards providing the necessary space and tools that address new communal values and concerns.
United States involvement in World War I had a significant effect on the demographics of both Tacoma and its school system. The 1914 opening of the Panama Canal, and the 1917 establishment of Fort Lewis Air Force Base (Now Joint Base Lewis-McChord) resulted in a significant population increase in Tacoma and its surrounding areas. The Panama Canal succeeded in expanding business and industry associated with the Port of Tacoma, while Fort Lewis Air Force Base quickly became the largest in the United States at the time, consisting of 37,000 soldiers. From 1915 to 1920, enrollment in Tacoma Public Schools had rose from 14,211 to 18,023 (a 22% increase). To address the rapid growth of student population, the district school board debated between three possible educational models, all of which would have an effect on the future construction of schools. The models included the 8-4 system, the 6-6 system, and the 6-3-3 system. The 8-4 system, which was the typical model for schools prior to World War I, had grades one through eight in elementary schools with grades nine through 12 in high schools. The proposed 6-6 system advocated for grades one through six in elementary school, with grades seven through 12 in high school. The 6-3-3 system, which was eventually adopted, advocated for grades one through six in elementary school, grades seven through nine in middle school, and grades 10 through 12 in high school.
Promoting the transition to this new elementary, intermediate, high school model, Tacoma voters authorized a $2.4 million plan in 1923, which jump-started construction of six new intermediate schools and additions to several existing elementary schools. Jason Lee was the first intermediate school to be constructed, soon followed by James P. Stewart and Morton M. McCarver middle schools. Franklin B. Gault, Allan C. Mason, and Robert Gray middle schools were the last constructed, and all opened on the same day the following year.
The onset of World War II resulted in another significant population spike within Tacoma and its schools, as both the Port of Tacoma and Fort Lewis boomed with similar economic prowess as seen previously in World War I. From 1950 to 1956, public school enrollment shot from 22,157 to 29,778, illustrating a 26% increase. The overcrowding of aging elementary schools and need for construction in suburban areas prompted the school board to draft a new building campaign, which emphasized quick, cheap, and flexible school construction.
School Assignments: Stadium, Oakland, Science and Math Institute, Jason Lee, Meeker, Browns Point, Bryant, Crescent Heights, Grant, Lowell, McCarver, Northeast Tacoma, Stanley
Term expires: November, 2015
Carla Santorno is the superintendent for Tacoma Public Schools. Prior to moving into this role, Carla Santorno served as Interim Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent. Previously, Dr. Art Jarvis was superintendent.
Reaching a graduation rate of 82.6%, the Tacoma School District's Class of 2015 witnessed its most successful year since the State began tracking the statistic in 2003. This year has also marked the fifth straight year of increased graduation, pointing to improved efforts by educators across district to promote academic excellence and higher education. The school board's goal of reaching 85% graduation by 2020 came after criticisms back in 2007, which labeled Tacoma high schools as "dropout factories," with graduation rates as low as 55%. However, a new school board focus in closing the graduation gap, particularly among minority students, has led to a district wide rate of 82.6% that significantly exceeds the statewide average of 77.2%.
A number of factors can be attributed to this increase, including the hard work of faculty, new indicators of student success, and a greater emphasis on promoting a culture geared towards pursuing a higher education. The Tacoma School District has begun tracking ninth graders who are failing classes in hopes of addressing concerns early, while local colleges and community organizations have increased the support and mentoring for those of troubled socioeconomic backgrounds.
According to the round table of South Sound athletic directors, funding has been a primary concern in the ability of schools to maintain and improve their athletic programs. Terry Jenks, athletic director of Curtis High School, mentions increasing difficulty in finding quality coaches, as schools remain unable to offer salaries to make coaching a full-time job that accounts for cost-of-living increases. There has also been a recorded decrease in attendance at sporting events, which Puyallup high school AD Rick Wells attributes to an offering of more sports, but fewer people interested in them individually. Decreased attendance is also supported by the rise of social media, where students have the opportunity to catch up on scores and highlights without being present at the games itself. Also mentioned is an increase of poverty, resulting in less students who have personal transportation and are able to travel to games and events on their own accord.