Of 1,800 schools in the state, 284 were identified as under-performing and to improve performance at these schools, the OSPI will be providing support services and either federal or state funds will be given to each school to implement plans of action during the academic year 2014-15. These schools are organized into two categories and are given the labels of “priority” or “focus”.
The “priority” school identification criteria are based on the achievements of the total school population. Schools are identified as “priority” if they a) have fewer than 40% of students performing at grade level in state reading and math (combined) tests for the last three years, b) are in the lowest 5% of state reading and math tests for the last three years, c) have a five-year graduation rate of less than 60 percent for the last three years, and d) have a low score on the Achievement Index.
The schools identified as “priority” in Grays Harbor County were Central Elementary in Hoquiam, McCleary Elementary, and North Beach Junior High. There were no “priority” schools in Pacific County.
The “focus” school identification criteria are based on the performances of subgroups within the school, for example racial minorities or students in special education. The “focus” schools have a five-year graduation rate lower than 60 percent and have combined reading and math scores that have fallen in the lowest 10 percent in the state for a particular subgroup for the last three years. The OSPI outlines, “These schools have at least one subgroup in which 13.58 percent or fewer of the students have performed at grade level on state tests in reading and math (combined) for the past three years,” which is to say that 86.42 percent of the subgroup are not performing at grade level.
“Focus” schools in Grays Harbor County include Miller Junior High and Robert Gray Elementary in Aberdeen, East Grays Harbor High School in Elma, and Montesano Junior-Senior High School. Ilwaco Middle/High School was identified in Pacific County.
Educational professionals and researchers have proved extensively that high poverty and unemployment rates lead to under-performing students. Unemployment and poverty levels in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties are significantly higher than in the state in total. According to the Census Bureau, Washington State unemployment is 6.3%, Pacific County is 10.5% and Grays Harbor County is 11.4%. Washington State poverty rate is 12.9% while in Pacific County it is 18.1% and 18.6% in Grays Harbor County, also by the Census Bureau. According to the article “The Constraints of Poverty on High Achievement” in the Journal for the Education of the Gifted by researchers Virginia Burney and Jayne Beilke, “To gain the rigorous academic preparation needed for success, a student must have the opportunity and background preparation to do well, which is often absent in low income households.” The research also points out that the factor of poverty is likely the biggest determinant of student achievement.