25 Mid-Columbia schools to get share of $11 million in state, federal funds

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMay 6, 2014 

Twenty-five Mid-Columbia schools will receive a share of about $11 million in state and federal dollars aimed at helping their struggling students.

All of the schools, spread around the Kennewick, Pasco, Kiona-Benton City, Finley, North Franklin, Othello and Prosser school districts, will be listed as failing under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, state officials said.

The schools also are struggling under more specific performance criteria developed by the state when it had a waiver from the federal education law. Those criteria will continue to be used to determine which schools are in the most need.

"We're interested in helping the schools that need the most help," said Kristen Jaudon, spokeswoman for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Mid-Columbia district leaders said they've received similar forms of aid in the past.

It's yet to be determined, though, how much each school will be given and whether there will be any limitations on how it can be used now that the state has lost its No Child Left Behind waiver.

"We don't know if any rules have changed," said Pasco Assistant Superintendent Glenda Cloud.

Schools listed as "Priority" or "Focus" under the state's performance guidelines will receive the money.

Priority schools are identified based on the performance of all students in a three-year period that have fewer than 40 percent at grade level in math and reading, have scores in the lowest 5 percent on state reading and math tests, are the lowest performing based on state's achievement index, or are high schools with a five-year graduation rate of less than 60 percent.

Focus schools are identified based on the performance of individual student groups, such as Hispanic or black students or those receiving special education services, in a three-year period.

Those schools are in the lowest 10 percent when it comes to state math and reading tests for any individual group or have a graduation rate of less than 60 percent, also during a three-year period.

The federal guidelines of No Child Left Behind look at adequate yearly progress, or AYP, an annual measure of student performance, and lists a school as failing if a single student group is not meeting standard.

After having a waiver for two years from No Child Left Behind, federal officials withdrew it recently after the Legislature failed to pass a law requiring districts use standardized student test scores to evaluate teachers.

The federal guidelines won't be ignored, Jaudon said, but federal officials previously blessed the state's own criteria, meaning it's a more precise measure of need when there's a limited pool of money to go around.

"If we just used AYP, there'd be a lot more schools on the list," Jaudon said. "We don't want to spread things too thin."

Cloud said qualifying Pasco schools received between $18,000 and $28,000 each when they were provided the additional money during the current school year. That money didn't go toward hiring instructors but to professional development and planning to better help teachers help their students.

Districts won't be required to set aside any of these new dollars like they would some other federal money they receive, because the state is back under No Child Left Behind. However, school leaders are waiting for guidance on if the money can still be used for the same purposes it has in the past.

"We still don't know," Cloud said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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