OUR FAILING SCHOOLS, PART 1: Like 88.1 percent of other state schools, Peninsula gets an F from U.S. government

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

The federal 'steps'

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

Public schools that do not meet federal standards in state testing are subject to sanctions outlined by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Standards are based on state tests approved by the federal government, which sets “adequate yearly progress” goals for schools and districts in math and reading.

The goal for the 2013-14 school year was that all children in all grade levels would pass state tests in those areas.

Since the state lost its federal waiver in April, public schools that receive Title I funding now are subject to federal sanctions if they have not met the 100 percent goal.

States are required to report all public schools that need improvement based on adequate yearly progress goals, regardless of whether they receive Title I funds, but only schools that receive Title I funds are subject to sanctions.

The federal sanctions have five steps. Step 1 is for schools that have not met standards for two consecutive years. Each year of failing to meet standards moves the school up another step.

Schools that have not met standards of adequate yearly progress for one year must send letters to parents informing them of the schools' status as being “in need of improvement.”

On the North Olympic Peninsula, Dry Creek, Franklin, Hamilton and Jefferson elementary schools in Port Angeles; Crescent School; Clallam Bay School; and Quileute Tribal School in LaPush failed to reach the standard for the first time in 2014 and are identified as being “in need of improvement” under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Adding four schools to the list has been a frustration for Port Angeles School District administrators, who said test scores are holding steady at or above state averages and that many scores are improving.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has not yet released individual school scores to the public, but results received by the district showed increased scores in meeting standards from 2013 to 2014, said Gerald Gabbard, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

Step 1

Schools that do not meet federal targets for two consecutive years are designated as Step 1 schools “identified for improvement.”

Peninsula schools in this category are Roosevelt Elementary in Port Angeles, Blue Heron Middle and Grant Street Elementary in Port Townsend, and Quilcene School.

All four schools receive Title I funds.

Each public school district must notify parents of the school's status, develop or revise a school improvement plan, offer parents the opportunity to transfer students to a school within the district not identified for improvement and hold back 20 percent of the school's Title 1 funds for the transportation of students who choose to transfer.

Schools also will receive technical assistance for improvement and can receive federal funding for improvement programs.

Step 2

Schools failing to meet standards for a third consecutive year are identified as Step 2 schools, which must notify parents of the school's status, continue to offer transfers for students in identified schools and offer tutoring to low-achieving students.

Peninsula schools in this category include Stevens Middle School in Port Angeles and Greywolf and Hellen Haller elementary schools in Sequim.

These schools, all Title I schools, can be eligible for up to a 10 percent increase in funding for tutoring programs.

Step 3

Sequim, Port Townsend and Forks high schools are reported as being Step 3 schools.

However, none receives Title I funding, and so they are not subject to federal sanctions.

Each school must notify parents of their status.

Step 4

Schools designated as Step 4 are required to plan for school restructuring to be put into effect the following year.

Chimacum Elementary receives targeted Title I funding and will be required to work through sanctions.

Although in the category, Port Angeles High School, Chimacum middle and high schools, and Forks Middle School are not Title I schools.

Step 5

Schools that have reached the highest step — Step 5 — must implement the plan created during Step 4.

Three schools — Neah Bay junior/senior high schools, Forks Elementary School and Sequim Middle School — each reached Step 5 in the 2013-14 school year.

Such schools must show continuous work toward improving test scores and report their progress to state and federal offices.
First of two parts

Most public schools on the North Olympic Peninsula will have to send letters home to parents saying they have failed.

All but one — Neah Bay Elementary — have been deemed failing schools because not all of their students met grade-level standards during the 2013-14 school year.

Two others — Brinnon and Queets-Clearwater — are so small that they are exempt from federal regulations.

Parents of students in every school in the Port Angeles, Sequim, Port Townsend, Chimacum, Cape Flattery, Quillayute Valley and Crescent school districts will be receiving those letters in the next few weeks.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 required schools to increase each year the percentage of students meeting grade-level standards on state math and reading exams.

This spring, that increase reached its peak, with 100 percent passage in all grade levels required.

At the same time, a federal waiver that allowed Washington state to set its own standards was repealed in April, leaving public schools and districts open to federal sanctions.

That means schools receiving federal Title I funding that have not obtained the standard are required to send letters to parents saying the schools have received a failing grade.

Neah Bay Elementary, a Cape Flattery School District school with 160 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, was one of only 260 schools in the state to get a passing grade by federal standards, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“It's just a lot of dedication and hard work on the part of the teachers, staff, the community and the kids taking responsibility for their own learning,” Principal Alice Murner said.

The Cape Flattery School Board's continued financial support in keeping class sizes small — 16 or 17 students per classroom — has been a major key in giving every student individual instruction for success, she said.

Statewide, 88.1 percent of schools — 1,916 schools —failed to meet the 2014 adequate yearly progress standards, even as many state test scores remained steady or improved.

Results of testing are broken down by ethnic group and poverty level, and if one category of students fails to meet designated goals, the whole school fails — which explains how test scores can improve their scores without meeting the measurements imposed by No Child Left Behind.

Schools with fewer than 10 students per grade are exempt from the standards because they have too few students to release schoolwide results without revealing individual student test results and receive automatic passing grades, said Nathan Olson, spokesman for OSPI.

Washington state was the first in the nation to lose its waiver from the federal Department of Education.

Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have been granted waivers under the law, and none is expected to meet annual requirements.

Monday: Three Peninsula schools told to take drastic action.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 31. 2014 9:11AM
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