By Pat Jenkins
Six schools in the Bethel School District and one in the Eatonville School District are on a list of schools in Washington that will receive additional funding and support services to help them improve, according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.
The designations were developed as part of Washington’s waiver that provided relief from some requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The U.S. Department of Education notified state officials on April 24 that its waiver will not be extended into the 2014–15 school year. But the state will continue to identify schools for help, Dorn said.
The highest-needs schools are categorized as either “priority” or “focus.” Eatonville Elementary School is in the priority category. Focus schools include six in the Bethel district – Bethel Junior High, Frontier Junior High, Cougar Mountain Junior High, Spanaway Elementary, Thompson Elementary and Centennial Elementary.
Priority schools are among the lowest 5 percent of schools in the state in achievement on statewide assessments in reading and math combined over three years, and/or graduation rates. They include schools with a proficiency rate below 40 percent in reading and mathematics.
Focus schools are among the lowest 10 percent of schools in the state. They have the consistently lowest-performing subgroups on statewide reading and math tests over a three-year period.
Dorn said 284 schools statewide are currently identified as priority or focus, based on their performance during the 2010-11 through 2012-13 school years..
All priority and focus schools receive either federal or state funds to help them with their plans for improvement.
At Eatonville Elementary School, officials are moving forward steps that are required of priority schools. They include:
• Pinpoint the strengths and challenges in the school, along with recommendations for improvement.
• Report the next efforts, to be approved by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), that the school will make to improve learning outcomes for its students, and study results to ensure that progress is being made.
• Engage parents, guardians and the school community in the overall improvement efforts.
The Eatonville School District will hire a full-time instructional coach for the school, said superintendent Krestin Bahr. The coach will help support classroom teachers. The school also will implement the Mathematics Education Project from the University of Washington, which includes math support. And professional development for the staff will focus on literacy through OSPI and Educational Service District programs.
“We have a very talented and committed staff, and the team is working hard to improve student learning at the school,” Bahr said. “Being named a priority school means just that. We will focus additional support and learning strategies to increase achievement. I want our parents and community to know that we are addressing this challenge head-on, and we need their support and involvement, as well.”
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) originally was passed by Congress in 1965 to emphasize equal access to education and high standards and accountability within schools. The law authorizes federally funded education programs that are administered by states. In 2002, Congress amended ESEA and reauthorized it as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
Washington’s waiver from the act’s requirements was revoked because the Legislature hasn’t enacted a teacher evaluation system for the state.
Dorn voiced optimism that the state can continue helping schools meet the needs of all students.
“The way we have been identifying high-needs schools with our waiver is more valid than using Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP),” Dorn said, referring to the accountability process to which the state must return under ESEA. “With the waiver, we were able to use three years of data. AYP reflects just one. Although we don’t have the waiver for 2014–15, we will use a blended model that incorporates both of these methodologies.”