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Rogers listed among low-performing Wash. schools

SEATTLE — State education officials have released a list of Washington schools eligible for federal improvement dollars that includes Spokane’s Rogers High School.

The 47 schools can apply for grants ranging from $50,000 to $2 million a year for three years. But they have to agree to follow one of the federal models for school improvement. Washington schools are in line to get a total of $50 million from the federal government.

But Spokane Public Schools officials did not seek a grant because of questions about the state’s methodology, district spokeswoman Terren Roloff said today. Rogers was listed because of a high dropout rate, but the district is questioning how that rate is calculated and whether all districts are evaluating the dropout rate in the same way.

Wellpinit Elementary School also made the list.

In addition to graduation rates, the schools made the list based on achievement test scores and attendance.The federal models for turning around a struggling school include: closing the school and transferring the kids; replacing the principal and at least half the staff; or replacing the principal and transforming the academic program.

The fourth option — turning the school into a charter school — is not available in Washington state. Washington state has rejected charter schools three times in eight years. In 2004, voters repealed a charter school law.

The list shouldn’t have any surprises. The state has been reporting student achievement and graduation rates to the federal government for years, under the No Child Left Behind Law. The schools that consistently fail to meet the goals are on the list.

“The work we’ve done compiling this list is very helpful. Not only will it identify schools in need, and hopefully get them grant money. It also calls out the need for a statewide strategy for dealing with the challenges,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.

Applications for the federal grants were due to OSPI on March 5. Of the 47 schools, 41 have applied for the money.

“The number of schools applying shows the courage and the commitment to making serious changes in how they educate their students,” said Janell Newman, assistant superintendent of school and district improvement accountability at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

OSPI said the districts and schools will be notified if their applications are accepted by March 26. By the start of the 2010-11 school year, schools will start using their chosen intervention model.