Reflecting on Our Extended Graduation Rate

By Janis Avery, Treehouse CEO

Six years ago, we got some news that changed everything for Treehouse. King County’s graduation rate for youth in foster care was less than 40 percent. All this time, we thought we were making a difference for underserved youth struggling to get through high school and into college, a trade school or the workforce. So we stopped what we were doing to reflect deeply. I shed lots of tears.

Ultimately, we announced that by the end of the 2017 school year, youth in foster care would graduate at the same rate as their peers with a plan for the future. It was a bold goal that few thought was possible. To move forward, we redesigned the organization from the ground up and launched a new youth-centered program called Graduation Success.

Based in middle schools and high schools, the program introduced true stability into foster youths’ lives, often for the first time. Part coach, part parent and frequently part best friend, Treehouse’s Education Specialists meet with their students weekly—every week, year in and year out without fail, even during the summer.

Most students who drop out of high school do so in their senior year. They are credit deficient or haven’t passed critical tests, and they become hopeless. Through Graduation Success, youth develop goals and plans for the future that they are invested in, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes it takes five years. Sometimes six or more. They finish high school because it has meaning for them and for their plans.

With that in mind, Treehouse is very proud of our highest extended graduation rate ever—89 percent for the Class of 2016. That includes 64 percent who graduated on time last year, and another 25 percent who powered on for a fifth year and graduated in June. Our extended rate is seven percent higher than the extended rate for all students in Washington.

Treehouse’s on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2017 is at 68 percent, nearly double the rate from six years ago. Statewide, only 43 percent of youth in foster care without support from Graduation Success graduate with their original class.

Congratulations to all of our graduates! We’re with you regardless of how long your personal journey takes.

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About the Author

As Treehouse CEO, Janis devotes her time to promoting educational equity for youth in foster care through advocacy for systems change, ensuring integrated strategy and accountability, maximizing community collaboration, and resource development. Janis holds a Master of Social Work and Certificate in Human Services Management from the University of Washington. She is a former social worker and an adoptive parent of two children from foster care.

Comments (2)

Helen Rey

August 10, 2017

What fantastic news! I remember reading about this goal a few years back and wondering, How are they going to do this? What will they do if they don’t reach it? So I’m thrilled for everyone involved that it’s become a reality, in fact you smashed the goal! I remain really interested in Treehouse, as a modest donor, and time-challenged volunteer, so I look forward to hearing what comes next in terms of lifting up our community’s cared-for kids and youth. Well done everyone!


Dee McQuesten

August 11, 2017

Janis has always been an amazing and brilliant visionary ❤️❤️❤️


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