The number of low performing schools in Washington is going up. This week the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released a report identifying 50 schools as being the lowest performers in the state, up from 47 last year.
Known on the federal level as "persistently lowest-achieving schools," the schools were ranked based on a variety of factors, including reading and math scores, the schools Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP - as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)), and graduation rates (for those secondary schools on the list).
Once included on the list, the schools are eligible to apply for School Improvement Grants from the federal government ranging from $50,000 to $2 million for three years.
It is important to note, this list only includes schools that already receive Title 1 funding - that is 40-percent or more of their students are identified as low-income and are enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program. Also worthy of note is the fact that this list is not a complete list of schools failing to make AYP. More than half of Washington schools (1,147 out of a total of 2,124) failed to make the grade for AYP last year. The latest list is a small percentage of those schools and are considered to be among the lowest performing of all schools.
According to OSPI, in order to qualify for the School Improvement Grants, the schools who apply must be willing to participate in one of four plans for intervention, though they admit one of the options doesn't really apply since charter schools are not allowed under Washington law. The intervention models include:
1. Turnaround model. Under this plan the principal is replaced, no more than 50-percent of the staff is rehired and the new principal is given sufficient operational flexibility (to include staffing, calendars/time and budgeting) to implement a plan to substantially improve student outcomes.
2. Restart model. This option is the one that really isn't an option for Washington schools. Under this plan the school is converted or closed and re-opened under a charter school operator, a charter management organization or an education management organization.
3. School closure. This option requires the school to be closed and students who attend the school transferred to other schools in the district that are higher achieving.
4. Transformation model. Under this plan the principal is replaced and the district is required to take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness; institute comprehensive instructional reforms; increase learning time and create community-oriented schools.
The plan comes with a big stick. If schools decide not to apply for the grants they could be forced into it next year. If eligible schools decide not to apply and they remain in the lowest 5-percent next year they could be required to choose one of plans by the state Board of Education.
Buried within the announcement by OSPI is word that four Washington districts - Renton, Morton, Onalaska and Soap Lake - have been targeted for required action. Each of these districts has been persistently low achieving and has shown inadequate improvement over the past three years.
To see if your child's school is on the list, visit the OSPI website.