School Improvement - FAQs About School Improvement Grants (SIGs)
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School Improvement Grants Frequently Asked Questions

How are districts/schools identified for eligibility to apply for SIGs?
Based on federal guidelines, School Improvement Grants are available to districts that:

  1. Demonstrate greatest need; and
  2. Provide evidence of strongest commitment to use SIG funds to raise substantially student achievement and, if applicable, graduation rates, and exhibit capacity to implement and sustain reforms over time.

Definitions of Persistently Lowest-achieving Schools/Tiers, Greatest Need, and Strongest Commitment

Persistently Lowest-achieving Schools:

Schools with three consecutive years of data in the lowest 5% in both reading and mathematics and secondary schools with a weighted average of graduation rates less than 60% over a three-year period.

  • Weighting is equal between reading and mathematics;
  • Weighting is equal between elementary and secondary schools;
  • Graduation rate weighted-average is based on the number of students for each year; and
  • Graduation rate is calculated as required in Guidance on School Improvement Grants, November 1, 2010.

Tier I Schools - Final requirements specify that SIGs will be available to a State's lowest 5% of persistently lowest-achieving Title I schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring. Title I high schools in improvement with graduation rates less than 60% over time are also included in this category. Tier I includes:

  1. Any Title I school in improvement, corrective action or restructuring that-
    1. Is among the lowest-achieving five percent in the “all students” group in reading and mathematics combined for the past three consecutive years; or
    2. Is a high school that has a weighted-average graduation rate that is less than 60% based on the past three years of data.

Tier II Schools - Federal requirements allow for SIG funds to be used in the State's lowest 5% of persistently lowest-achieving secondary schools that are eligible for but do not receive Title I, Part A funds. Tier II also includes Title I-eligible high schools with graduation rates less than 60% over time. Tier II includes:

  1. Any secondary school that is eligible for, but does not receive, Title I funds that:
    1. Is among the lowest-achieving five percent of secondary schools in the “all students” group in reading and mathematics combined for the past three consecutive years; or
    2. Is a high school that has a weighted-average graduation rate that is less than 60% based on the past three years of data.

Tier III Schools - Guidelines allow grants to Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that are not among the persistently lowest-achieving schools. Includes all other Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that are not among the persistently lowest-achieving schools in Tier I and Tier II.

Lack of Progress:
For purposes of defining persistently lowest-achieving schools, OSPI has defined lack of progress as the school's percent increase or decrease (slope of linear regression) over the most recent three-year period compared to the state slope.

Title I eligibility:
Based on SY2010-11 student data, a school is considered Title I eligible if:

  • Poverty percentage is 35 percent or more, or
  • The school's poverty percentage is greater than or equal to the district's poverty average.

Greatest Need: To determine greatest need, federal guidelines segment schools into three categories: Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III. Each district must implement one of four required interventions in the Tier I and Tier II schools it commits to serve. Descriptions of required interventions are provided in below.

Strongest Commitment: In addition to Greatest Need, federal guidelines require States to look at Strongest Commitment and Capacity of the district to serve identified schools. The State must consider, at a minimum, the extent to which the application shows the district's efforts and/or plans to:

  • Analyze school needs and match interventions to those needs;
  • Design interventions consistent with the four intervention model(s) described federal guidelines;
  • Recruit, screen, and select external providers to ensure quality;
  • Embed interventions in longer-term plans to sustain gains in achievement;
  • Align other resources with the interventions;
  • Modify practices, if necessary, to enable it to implement the interventions fully and effectively; and
  • Sustain the reforms after the funding period ends.

What are the “required interventions” for Tier I and Tier II Schools?
The four federally defined intervention models for Tier I and Tier II schools include:

  • Turnaround model, which includes, among other actions, replacing the principal and rehiring no more than 50% of the school's staff, adopting a new governance structure, and implementing an instructional program that is research-based and vertically aligned from one grade to the next as well as aligned with the State's academic standards. A turnaround model may also implement other strategies such as any of the required and permissible activities under the transformation model or a new school model (e.g., themed, dual language academy).
  • Restart model1, in which a district converts the school or closes and reopens it under the management of an education management organization (EMO) that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
  • School closure, in which the district closes the school and enrolls the students who attended the school in other higher-achieving schools in the district.
  • Transformation model, which addresses four areas critical to transforming persistently low-achieving schools. These areas include: developing teacher and principal leader effectiveness, implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies, extending learning time and creating community connections, and providing operating flexibility and sustained support.

1 While Charter School Operators and Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) constitute a restart under the federal guidelines, these are not currently authorized by the Washington State Legislature.

What funding is available to districts/schools receiving SIGs?
Details for SIG funds include the following:

  • Anticipated Amount of Awards for Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III Schools: Districts may apply for funding ranging from $50,000 annually to $2,000,000 annually for each Tier I, Tier II and Tier III school the district applies to serve, pending Federal funding availability.
  • Availability of Funds: SIG funds will be available in spring of the 2010-11 school year to support districts to create the conditions for implementing school intervention models and improvement activities/services in the 2010-11 school year.
  • Priority: OSPI must give first priority to districts that apply to serve Tier I or Tier II schools. Priority is also given to districts with schools on the persistently lowest-achieving list for two consecutive years. No funds may be awarded to any district for Tier III schools unless and until OSPI has awarded SIG funds to serve fully, throughout the period of availability of SIG funds, ALL Tier I and Tier II schools across the State that districts commit to serve and that OSPI determines districts have the capacity to serve. A district with one or more Tier I schools may not receive funds to serve only its Tier III schools.
  • District-level Activities: Districts may use SIG funds to conduct district-level activities designed to support implementation of the selected school intervention model(s) in the district's Tier I and Tier II schools and to support school improvement activities for each Tier III school identified in the district's application.
  • As appropriate, State-level Technical Assistance: Districts will allow OSPI to holdback sufficient funds for required or requested and agreed-upon State-level technical assistance and other supportive services. Requested activities may be for implementing some of the required or permissible activities noted in the intervention models in Tier I and Tier II schools, improvement activities in Tier III schools, or associated district-level activities.
  • Renewal: Successful applicants may renew their SIG grants for up to two additional one-year periods of funding (2012-13 and 2013-14), pending Federal funding availability. To be eligible for renewal, districts will be accountable for ensuring 1) their Tier I and Tier II schools meet, or are on track to meet, annual student achievement goals for all students and for subgroups in reading and mathematics, as well as for making progress on the leading indicators; and 2) their Tier III schools are meeting annual goals (subject to approval by OSPI) outlined in their improvement plans.

What are the expectations for districts receiving SIGs?

  • Implement Intervention Models in Tier I and Tier II Schools: Participating districts must implement selected intervention model(s) with strict fidelity, per federal regulations. Federal intervention models include: Turnaround, Restart, School Closure, and Transformation. Detailed requirements for each of the four specific school intervention models are available on pages 66366 of the Final Notice.
  • Support School Improvement in Tier III Schools: Districts must support school improvement activities and services identified in the SIG application at the school or district level for each participating Tier III school.
  • Participate in On-going Assessment and Data Collection: Assurances require districts to use an OSPI-specified online tool for posting intervention plans and providing ongoing evidence of implementation and impact of intervention efforts. Data include, but are not limited to, findings from needs assessments and analyses, classroom walk-through summary data, student and classroom assessment data and interventions, and progress toward leading indicators and other measures of performance. Details regarding leading indicators are available on pages 66370-66371 of the Final Notice. Additionally, participating districts can expect on-site monitoring and technical assistance visits to verify successes and address challenges associated with implementation of the grant.
  • Hold Tier I and Tier II Schools Accountable: Districts must hold their Tier I and Tier II schools served with SIG funds accountable each year for meeting, or being on track to meet, achievement goals in reading and mathematics with respect to all students and each subgroup of students, and for making progress on leading indicators.
  • Hold Tier III Schools Accountable: Districts must hold their Tier III schools served with SIG funds accountable each year for meeting improvement goals (subject to approval by OSPI).
  • Participate in Required Evaluations: Districts and participating schools are required to take part in any federally required evaluations of the School Improvement Grant.

What is the OSPI's role with respect to SIGs?
Federal guidelines for School Improvement Grants outline specific responsibilities for States:

  • Identify the state's Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III schools and their districts and provide the definitions used to develop this list of schools;
  • Develop criteria for awarding SIGs and evaluating district capacity to implement an intervention model in each Tier I school consistent with federal guidelines;
  • Approve district applications and provide a list of awardees, and for Tier I and Tier II schools, the intervention model which will be implemented in each Tier I and Tier II school;
  • Review a district's annual goals for student achievement for its Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III schools and how OSPI will determine whether to renew a district's School Improvement Grant if one or more of its schools are not meeting those goals and making progress on the leading indicators;
  • Monitor each district receiving a SIG to ensure that it is implementing school intervention model(s) fully and effectively in the Tier I and Tier II schools the district is approved to serve;
  • Determine a process for prioritizing SIGs to districts if OSPI does not have sufficient school improvement funds to serve all eligible schools for which each district applies; and
  • As agreed upon with participating districts/schools, provide technical assistance and supportive services to support implementing the identified intervention model in Tier I and Tier II schools, improvement activities outlined for Tier III schools, and building district-level capacity for full and effective implementation of intervention models and improvement activities.

What technical assistance and supportive services are available through SI?
Districts/schools awarded SIGs will be clustered in segments using SI's Washington Performance Management Framework; a range of services and support for which these districts/schools may apply will be based on this placement. Interested districts/schools may apply to access these services through the Washington Improvement and Implementation Network (WIIN).

As a support to districts choosing to apply for SIG funds, OSPI also offers an external District-level Needs Assessment and action planning process using an online tracker tool. This tool will also be used for posting school intervention plans and providing ongoing evidence of implementation and impact of intervention efforts. Tools for the District-level Needs Assessment are aligned with OSPI's Characteristics of Improved School Districts: Themes from Research.

 

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