Oroville Junior-Senior High School on 'persistently low-achieving' list

OROVILLE – Oroville’s Junior-Senior High School was named as one of 50 in the state on the “persistently lowest-achieving schools” list, making it eligible for School Improvement grants ranging from $50,000 to $2 million annually for three years, depending on federal funding availability.

The federal grant is part of President Barack Obama’s agenda on education reform. The Department of Education will give Washington about $7.3 million for the grants in 2011, according to a release from Randy Dorn, Superintendent of Public Instruction from Washington State. Oroville has been low-achieving on the reading and math sections of the state standardized test.

At the Monday, Jan. 24 Oroville School Board meeting, junior-senior high school principal Patricia Scott presented a letter that she is sending out to parents and staff outlining what the listing means and what steps can be taken to receive the grant.

“Although our scores are not the lowest in the state, we have not made enough improvements over the last three years,” read Scott from her letter. “Therefore we are eligible to apply for a federal grant of $50,000 to $2 million.”

Scott told the board that in order to receive the grant, school districts must agree to overhaul a school by developing a plan that provides such items as:

More rigorous, transparent and equitable system for teacher and principal evaluations

Job embedded professional development

Identifying and rewarding staff who increase student achievement

New model that provides intervention and challenge

More learning time for students.

“There are four models to look at, one is to release the principal and 50 percent of the staff. The second is to release the principal and do a transformation. The third is to form a charter school, which we can’t do because we do not have charter schools in this state. The fourth is to close the school, but there are no alternative schools for the students to go to in the area,” the principal said.

Since this is only Scott’s first year as principal, and since the scores are from the three previous years, any of the plans followed by the district would not have to include her release.

The letter to staff and parents outlines several other objectives, even if the district was to not receive the grant.

“Even if we don’t receive the grant this year, we will review our programs to update our teaching and learning expectations,” she said to the board.

Among the updates include adopting a new K-8 math program that incorporates more skill development along with problem solving applications and hiring a K-12 math coach to support staff in aligning curriculum, developing effective strategies and on-going assessments. They will also be using a new testing program (MAPS) that is closely matched with state standards so students, staff and parents can more closely monitor student achievement throughout the year.

“This will help us to focus on student needs and understanding,” reads the letter.

She also lists several other objectives to improve reading and math scores.

Board Chairwoman Teddi Fletcher commented that the low reading scores surprised her as the elementary school has done so well in reading in the past.

It seems the reading problems are more concentrated in the junior-senior high school than the elementary.

“We will be monitoring and testing to increase what is working and let go of what isn’t,” she said. “We are going to focus the staff on what we’re going to do and how to get there. These students here are capable… there’s no doubt in my mind.”

(For Supt. Quick’s Response, click link below)