WSU collaborates on grant to ease Spokane dropout rate

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

LeBeau-80PULLMAN, Wash. – In a Jenny LeBeau utopia, there’d be no such thing as a student dropping out of school. With the help of a $400,000 grant, LeBeau and a research team from Gonzaga University are setting about to make this a reality, starting with Spokane Public Schools.

LeBeau (, an education professor at Washington State University, and her colleagues will research how to improve interaction between Spokane schools and local nonprofits so those entities can provide better support for students at risk of dropping out.

“Through this project, we will be able to identify services that will have the most impact on student success,” she said. “That’s an exciting thought, and I’m happy to have this opportunity.”

The grant comes from Community Partners for Middle School Success, a collaborative of local funders headed by the Inland Northwest Community Foundation (INWCF).

Two middle schools studied

Attendance, behavior and course completion data will be tracked at Shaw and Garry middle schools for the top 10-15 percent of seventh and eighth grade students deemed at-risk of not succeeding. The two middle schools feed into Rogers High School.

Success won’t only be determined by students staying in school. The project also aims to improve progress toward on-time graduation at Rogers.

LeBeau’s specific role will be external evaluator, which means she will collect data on what works well and what can use improvement. She will also examine the project’s impact. That data will help guide the project on an annual basis (formative evaluation) and across the life of the grant (summative evaluation).

“This is a great opportunity for the WSU College of Education to continue and further strengthen its connections with the public schools in Spokane in a very worthwhile cause,” said Tim Church, the college’s associate dean for research. “Dr. LeBeau’s role as evaluator on the project is highly valued by the INWCF and will be central in assessing important student outcomes.”

LeBeau an obvious choice

Those who work with LeBeau aren’t surprised that she’s involved in this project. Her participation builds on the success of another funded project on which she collaborated with Gonzaga, Whitworth College and the Spokane School District.

“Her excellent work continues to strengthen WSU’s visibility and reputation with all of the partners within the Spokane educational community,” said Esther Pratt, the WSU Foundation’s assistant director of foundation relations.

LeBeau is a research associate with the College of Education’s Learning and Performance Research Center (LPRC).

“I’m pleased to see the LPRC and the college involved in research and evaluation that is critical to success of students in the public education system in Washington state,” said Brian French, LPRC director.


Jenny LeBeau, WSU College of Education, 509-335-8412,