SPS to apply for state School Improvement Grants to transform three schools

Seattle – Seattle Public Schools (SPS) will apply for state School Improvement Grants for three schools eligible under the federal School Improvement Grant program. The three SPS schools eligible for the grants, being funded by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) through the federal stimulus package, are Cleveland High School and Hawthorne and West Seattle elementary schools.

The school district has notified the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction that it intends to apply for the funds. Under the program, which is being administered by OSPI, qualifying school districts can request up to $2 million per year, per eligible school for up to three years. The grant applications are due March 5 and successful applicants will be notified in April 2010 for the 2010-11 school year. The state has identified about 50 eligible schools and has $42 million to award over three years.

”The School Improvement Grant program provides us with a unique opportunity to transform these schools into high quality schools, and to accelerate growth in academic achievement for all students,” said Superintendent Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D. “We are appreciative of the additional resources being made available to support our investments in innovation that will strengthen leadership, instruction, and family and community engagement in these schools.”

The School Improvement Grant work will build on the many strategies Seattle Public Schools has implemented over the past three years that focus on improving school quality. These include a Performance Management system, with accountability at the district, school and individual level; aligned curriculum; targeted professional development and the addition of advanced learning opportunities across the district.

Working in collaboration with employee association partners and the school community, SPS is designing school improvement models that meet all grant requirements. The work already underway at Cleveland High School to convert that school to a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) school meets federal guidelines as a transformation model. Work to implement STEM will continue, and the district hopes to receive funding through this grant program to further strengthen the STEM program.

Districts wishing to participate in the grant program must choose one of four federally designated intervention models, and Seattle Public Schools will use the “Transformation” model. This model requires that Seattle address the following four areas: teacher and principal effectiveness; instructional approach and reform strategies; learning time (additional instructional time for students) and community-oriented schools; and operational flexibility and sustained support.

Seattle Public Schools has been working in collaboration with employee association partners to select the model and begin to plan for implementation. To address the requirement for a focus on staff effectiveness, the district has agreed with the Seattle Education Association that instructional staff in these schools will: Be expected to perform at the third or fourth level on a four-tiered evaluation system. Have growth in student academic performance included in annual staff evaluations and be expected to show student growth. Have at least two years to demonstrate individual proficiency and student growth. Have additional career growth opportunities at the school that will lead to additional responsibilities and compensation. Be able to earn additional compensation based on school-wide growth in student performance.

In the coming weeks, Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association will assemble a team of teachers and principals to further refine the evaluation tool, career opportunities and approach to compensation. Discussions are also underway with the Principal’s Association of Seattle Schools (PASS) about how the transformation model will be implemented in regard to Principal Effectiveness.

In addition to our collaboration with our employee association partners, the district will also work with families and other community members to develop more details of the transformation models. Family and community engagement is vital to this process, and the district will meet with each school community to share information and gather feedback and ideas as we work together to make every school an excellent school. ###

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