24 schools fall short of standards

Twenty-four schools in Snohomish County are not meeting federal expectations, and some need to do more than others to measure up.

Mukilteo School District’s Kamiak and Mariner high schools, Everett School District’s Hawthorne Elementary School and Marysville School District’s Tulalip Elementary are on a list released Friday of schools that fall short of requirements spelled out in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

In 2007, 281 schools statewide are in “needs improvement” status.

For some schools, the listing can mean less money, because students are allowed to transfer more easily to better-performing schools. For others, it means facing parents who expect more.

Of the 24 county schools on the list, four receive federal money aimed at helping low-income students. Those schools that receive the money can face sanctions if they don’t improve.

“Many of the schools on this year’s improvement list have met tough challenges and have made strong improvements,” said Terry Bergeson, the state’s superintendent of public instruction. “Unfortunately, due to the overly complex requirements of the federal law, those accomplishments may go unrecognized and uncelebrated.”

School performance is measured on a variety of factors. These include state test scores, and the performance of students from various income and racial backgrounds, special-education needs and English proficiency levels.

Hawthorne Elementary School is in one of Snohomish County’s poorest and most diverse neighborhoods.

Last year, Hawthorne had to offer students transportation to other schools in Everett.

It lost between 40 and 50 students, including many who were among the school’s highest performers, and the district faced an unanticipated transportation bill of $50,000.

This year, Hawthorne remains on the federal list because not enough recent immigrant students who are learning English were able to perform well enough in mathematics.

About half of the school’s 400 students are learning English as a second language.

Now, in addition to offering transfers, Hawthorne must pay for private tutoring services for low-income students. The district estimates it could be required to spend about $350,000 in federal money, which would have been spent on other programs.

At the same time, the district has poured more resources into helping Hawthorne students.

This year, there will be a pre-school for low-income students as well as all-day kindergarten in all four classrooms, and a math specialist.

“There are a lot of changes being made at the schools to move toward improvement,” said Terry Edwards, Everett’s curriculum director.

Marysville had five schools on the list, but only one — Tulalip Elementary — faces federal sanctions.

What’s lost in the listing is the improvement happening at many schools, said Gail Miller, Marysville’s assistant superintendent.

Cedarcrest School, for instance, had students score high enough in 25 of the 27 categories it was judged on. It only fell short in two special-education categories: math and reading.

“All of our schools continue to make progress with the great majority of our kids,” Miller said. “We are continuing to work on the challenge of educating youngsters who have great learning challenges before them.”

Over the next two years, dozens more county schools are expected to end up on the “needs improvement” list, education leaders said.

There are two main reasons behind that prediction: the bar will be raised next year on the percentage of students who must pass the WASL, and more grade levels of students are being given those tests.

Based on current test results, Everett School District is projecting over the next two years that as many as nine of its 16 elementary schools are in danger of ending up on the federal watch list.

Eric Earling, of the federal Department of Education’s Seattle office, said Congress has been discussing changes to the law.

These include allowing schools to target resources to students who need the help the most and more flexibility in testing special-education and recent immigrant students still learning English.

Statewide, six schools improved enough to be removed from the federal list this fall.

Three of those — Edmonds-Woodway High School, Weston Alternative High School in Arlington and Tulalip Heritage High School in Marysville — are in Snohomish County.

“Year in and year out, there are schools coming off the list,” Earling said. “It’s a demonstration of being able to identify where improvements can be made and targeting resources.”

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