Washington SIG Schools Outpacing Nation in Improvement

Washington schools that have been part of a grant intended to improve student achievement are showing impressive gains, according to data released today by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The schools each received federal School Improvement Grants, giving them between $50,000 and $2 million each year for three years. A total of 17 schools were awarded grants in 2009-10 and 10 schools in 2010-11. The program was not renewed in 2011-12.

Schools were required to use the grants to implement one of four federal intervention models: closure, restart, transformation, or turnaround.

OSPI’s analysis looked at the percentage of students in all 27 SIG schools who met standard in math and reading on state tests after the first year of the grant. In math, 86 percent of Washington’s SIG schools posted either single- or double-digit percentage point gains in achievement in math, compared to 65 percent of SIG schools nationally. In reading, 70 percent of Washington’s SIG schools showed similar gains, compared to 64 percent of SIG schools nationally.

“We’re happy but not satisfied,” said Randy Dorn, superintendent of public instruction. “It’s great that we’re outperforming the nation. But as long as there’s one student in one school not performing well, our work isn’t done.”

Dorn also noted that a high percentage of SIG schools are on track to meet new federal targets. In July, Washington received a waiver from some provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, previously known as No Child Left Behind. The waiver agreement focuses on opportunity gaps. Subgroups of students (such as black, Hispanic, Asian, special education, students receiving free or reduced-price meals) will need to have the percentage-point difference between their scores in 2011 and 100 percent cut in half by 2017.

More than three out of every four SIG schools were on track to meet the annual targets in math, reading or both subjects.

“We’re seeing success in schools that have concrete and reasonable plans in place,” Dorn said. “Every turnaround system needs to match its leadership and staff. We’re finding that with the schools that haven’t made gains, the match isn’t there.”

Schools that received federal School Improvement Grants are known as the “persistently lowest-achieving schools.” They represent the lowest ranked five percent of Title I schools in Washington. Rankings were based on a variety of factors, such as reading and math scores; that school’s Adequate Yearly Progress, as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act; and graduation rates for Title I-eligible secondary schools.

The grants are part of the federal Title I program, which provides money to districts and schools with high numbers or high percentages of low-income children.


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