10 ways our middle and high schools put our Strategic Plan into action

The phrase “strategic plan” is enough to put anyone’s eyes at half mast. But unlike most, Bethel’s Strategic Plan is a call to action. When you see all the ways it is impacting students at our middle and high schools, it’s an eye-opening experience. See if you can guess what programs we’re referencing with the following 10 movie titles.


In 1990, Jeff Daniels and John Goodman defended a small town from a horde of killer spiders. Today, our new middle school science curriculum, Amplify Science is making spiders (and science) come to life for our students. Designed by UC Berkeley researchers to inspire students to “read, write and argue like scientists to gain a better understanding of the world,” Amplify offers strong teacher support, authentic student learning, and real-time tech support.

The Breakfast Club

The 1985 comedy The Breakfast Club features five students who serve a Saturday detention at school. But punitive punishments like this are becoming a thing of the past. A philosophical change has taken place at Frontier Middle School, and this school year, the number of suspensions in the school has fallen from 328 to 54. That’s not to say kids aren’t being called to the carpet when they cross the line. The school has turned to a new method of discipline called Restorative Justice.

Instead of simply punishing the behavior, the Restorative Justice model of discipline (now in place in varying degrees at all of our schools) follows the way students are already learning in class.

Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings is the inspiring story of the Jamaican Bobsled team’s quest for the gold at the Olympics. Our students are reaching for the stars as well. Bethel is home to 310 full-time Running Start students, and 57 part-time Running Start students. These students take classes through Pierce College, Bates Technical College, and Tacoma Community College and can graduate high school with their Associate’s Degree also in hand.

One thing we’ve noticed is that half of our Running Start students are from Graham-Kapowsin High School. We are hoping to see more students from Bethel and Spanaway Lake take advantage of this great opportunity.

One way we’re working towards this goal is bringing Pierce College on campus at SLHS this fall. Having Running Start classes available on campus will increase access and help reduce barriers for our students to be able to get the benefits of the Running Start program.

“We know that students who earn college credit in high school are more likely to continue their education,” said Dr. Jennifer Bethman, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education. “So we’re working on increasing the number of students getting credit while they’re in high school.”

Another way we are doing this is with a series of classes called College in the High School. These include precalculus, calculus, statistics and a science course called Biology and Addiction in the Brain. Students have the option of paying tuition for the class and then receiving college credit from Central Washington University or the University of Washington Tacoma — depending on the class.

The Cambridge International Program is also in its fifth year at Bethel High School. 240 students are currently enrolled in the rigorous program that will earn them a Cambridge Advanced International Certificate for Education (AICE) Diploma.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

While Ferris Bueller painted a lighthearted look at skipping school back in 1985, we all know that attendance truly matters when it comes to student success. Our ​Community Truancy Boards are one way we are helping chronically absent students stay in school and out of the court system. CTBs are in place at our middle and high schools, and we were one of the first school districts in the state to implement an elementary level truancy board.

My Dream is Yours

In 1949, Doris Day played a single mother with a great voice with dreams of making it big in Hollywood. While their dream is different, the Bethel School Board and Community Health Care (CHC) both want the best for our families and community. Their shared dream is to increase access to health services for students in our district. This fall, the CHC will open a clinic at Bethel Middle School to provide access to healthcare for our students. Another clinic at Spanaway Middle School is planned for next year.

Real Genius

A science whiz, lasers and Val Kilmer — science has changed a lot since the 1980s, and the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) is coming to Bethel, Graham-Kapowsin and Spanaway Lake high schools this fall to help our students challenge themselves and succeed in science and math.

Other districts have seen enormous improvement through their partnerships with NMSI. “The whole goal is to prepare all of our students for higher level, more challenging classes,” said Dr. Jennifer Bethman, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education.

The Right Stuff

In The Right Stuff, we witnessed the struggles and successes of the Mercury 7 astronauts. Our students have seen their own share of struggles with the state’s Core 24 graduation requirements now in place. This fall, new trimester schedules are debuting in our high schools and students will have more opportunities to explore their interests outside of the state’s required 24 credits needed to graduate. Because of this, we are increasing the number of CTE offerings at our high schools. This year a new drone piloting class kicked off at Spanaway Lake High School with 45 students enrolled. Next year, a new drone engineering class already has 230 students signed up across the district.

Student interest in our high school engineering programs is also booming districtwide, with enrollment numbers more than doubling at Graham-Kapowsin (from 75 to 190) and Spanaway Lake (from 70 to 170). Bethel High also increased from 116 to 130.


“That’s the fact, Jack!”

Being located so close to Joint Base Lewis McChord, we have a significant population of students who are part of military families. That’s why we have Military and Family Life Counselors in just about every school in our district. For students, these counselors can be a great source of help during tough times.

“Oftentimes those are our students who are transitioning a lot and their parents are gone for extended periods of time,” said Dr. Jennifer Bethman, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education. “To have that support in our building is really helpful.”

Weird Science

Using lightning and a computer, two teenagers in 1985 changed their lives with one experiment. While experiments in school today might not end the way the movie does, every student is required to take one biology class and two other science courses. Then, depending on their graduation year, students must pass a Washington state biology test in order to graduate.

Under the new state standards, every student will need to pass the more comprehensive Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) test at the end of their junior year in order to graduate.

“Because it’s a more comprehensive test, because it’s at the end of their junior year, because it’s a graduation requirement, we need to have some guarantees that kids are learning certain things during their freshman, sophomore and junior years,” said Loren Willson, Bethel’s Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning.

In order to make the transition as orderly and painless as possible, the district put together a Science Course Sequence Committee to help create the most effective roadmap to get students where they need to be by graduation.


In Wonder, 5th grader Auggie faces more difficulties than most searching for acceptance. With 20,000 students in our district, we are making sure our staff are equipped to facilitate equitable interactions with all students, no mater their struggles or backgrounds.

Our Equity teams, which include 5–9 staff members in each building, are meeting monthly to analyze data, identify problems and solutions, and look for ways to view every aspect of their jobs through an “equity lens.”

Equity teams have already been convened at nine Bethel schools. Nine more teams will be created next year, with the final nine teams being formed the following year.

“Equity is not an event, program or initiative — it’s a belief, a mindset,” said Deb Carlman, Bethel’s Director of Equity and Achievement.

Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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