WEA Guidance on School Improvement Grant


This Guidance addresses questions raised on the federal Title I School Improvement Grant (SIG) program.  This program is authorized under section 1003(g) of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  It provides funding through OSPI to local school districts with the lowest achieving schools that have the greatest need for the funds and demonstrate the strongest commitment to use the funds to raise significantly the achievement of students.   These funds are distinct from the Title I entitlement funds allocated to school districts based on students in poverty. 

Has there been a change in the use of SIG funds?

Prior to 2010, SIG funding was used in Washington to pay for school and district improvement facilitators, the Summit District Project and other supports for low performing schools and districts.  The
December 10, 2009 SIG final requirements from the Department of Education "repurposed" these funds so that they must be spent to implement one of four rigorous school intervention models-turnaround model, restart model, school closure, and transformation model-in our state's persistently lowest-achieving schools. 

How much SIG money is Washington expected to receive?

Washington will have $50.5 million for fiscal years 2009-2011.  These SIG funds are allocated to our state based on the number of students who qualify for Title I.  Unlike Race to the Top, this federal grant program is not competitive.  The state must apply for the funds by February 8 and expects to be approved within two weeks. 

How do the feds define "persistently lowest achieving schools?"

The SIG requirements call for the state to identify three tiers of schools.  To identify the lowest achieving schools, a state must take into account both the academic achievement of the "all students" group in a school in terms of proficiency on the state's assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics combined and the school's lack of progress over three years in the "all students" category.  Washington will use student performance and graduation rates over the last three years.  

  • 1. Tier I school is any Title I school in improvement, corrective action or restructuring for AYP that is among the lowest-achieving five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring or is a high school that has had a graduation rate that is less than 60 percent over a number of years;
  • 2. Tier II school is any secondary school that is eligible for, but does not receive, Title I funds that is among the lowest achieving five percent of secondary schools or is a high school that has had a graduation rate that is less than 60 percent over a number of years ;
  • 3. Tier III school is any Title I school in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that is not a Tier I school.

Additionally, the Department of Education expanded the list of eligible schools for Tier I and Tier II.  A school that has missed Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years and was no higher achieving than the highest-achieving school identified in Tier I or II, can be added to the list in Tier I or Tier II.

When will OSPI identify these schools?

OSPI has already communicated directly with each school district having one or more of these schools.  A January 7 notice was sent to 29 school districts identifying possible schools using preliminary data.  OSPI has now finalized the list of the state's lowest 5% schools.  Districts have received this information.  We understand there are 46 schools in 27 school districts.  Local association leaders will want to contact their districts to learn if any of their schools have been identified.  A public list of these schools will not occur until after OSPI has submitted its SIG application on February 8 and has received official notice of funding from the Department of Education.  This is expected in mid to late February.   If the omnibus education bill, containing state accountability provisions, passes, it calls for this list of schools to be identified by December 1st each year. 

How much money could an identified persistently low performing school receive?

The guidelines first established $50,000 up to $500,000 for each school annually.  The December 16, 2009 Appropriations Act, however, increased the upper amount to $2 million annually.    Funding for these schools is not automatic.  School districts will be required to demonstrate evidence of "strongest commitment" to use the funds to raise substantially the achievement, and if applicable, graduation rates, of their students to make AYP and exit improvement status.  The school district will need to submit a budget as part of its application for SIG, detailing how the funding will be used over the three year period of the grant.

Why did OSPI send out a notice to some school districts on January 7th, using preliminary data to identify the 5% lowest achieving Title I schools?

OSPI wanted to notify potential school districts that may be eligible to pursue School Improvement Grants.  The grant timeline calls for SIG funds to be available in the 2009-2010 school year for implementation in the 2010-2011 school year and beyond.  In fact, the timeline for this first year is extremely compressed.  The districts notified were asked to submit a statement of interest by January 15.  During the month of February OSPI will conduct needs assessments in each Tier I and Tier II school in the districts that have signed on.  By March 5th, district SIG applications are due.  Between March 8 and
March 19, OSPI will conduct reviews and interviews to determine which districts will be awarded SIG's.  On March 26, OSPI will announce the districts receiving SIG's. 

How does this SIG program relate to the omnibus education reform bill in the legislature (SB 6696)?

The legislation presumes that required action districts implementing state accountability in the 5% lowest achieving schools will be funded using federal funds from the School Improvement Grant program.  During this first year of voluntary state accountability and no statewide mandate, OSPI is implementing a slightly different process and timeline.  The following chart offers a quick comparison of those distinctions.



SB 6696


Process timeline

Schools identified by Dec. 1, Required Action Districts (RADs)          

in January, plans approved in May and June (5 to 6 month process)

Preliminary identification 1/07/10

Statement of Interest 1/15/10

Apps due 3/05/10

SIGS awarded 3/26/10

Academic Audit

Academic performance audit contracted through OSPI.  Criteria specified (student demographics, etc.)


One day School Review

Selection of Intervention Model

Academic audit does not identify intervention model.

This decision is left to the school district and the collaborative process

The contractor conducting the school review will provide a decision matrix on intervention models.



Creating the Plan for School Improvement


Local superintendent and school board must collaborate with administrators, teachers' other staff, parents, and unions.  Must conduct a public meeting.



OSPI igrant application process requires the engagement of relevant stakeholder groups.  Districts must provide list of stakeholders consulted.


Requirement that union and district must reopen contracts if needed to implement a Required Action Plan.  Dispute resolution calls for PERC and Superior Court with specific timelines.

Status Quo.  Unions and district must mutually agree to open contracts and negotiate waivers or changes.  If resolution not achieved, no final steps.

What are the four intervention models?

Districts applying for a School Improvement Grant must identify which Tier I and Tier II schools they want to transform and then determine which of four intervention models is best suited to the needs of the school and the resources necessary.

The four intervention models are:

  • Turnaround model.  Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50 percent of the staff, and grant the principal sufficient operational flexibility (including in staffing, calendar/time, and budgeting) to implement fully a comprehensive approach to substantially improve student outcomes.
  • Restart model.  Convert a school or close and reopen it under a charter school operator (not allowed in WA), a charter management organization (not allowed in WA), or an education management organization that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
  • School closure.  Close a school and enroll the students who attended that school in other schools in the district that are higher achieving.
  • Transformation model.  Implement each of the following strategies:  (1) replace the principal and take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness; (2) institute comprehensive instructional reforms; (3) increase learning time and create community-oriented schools; and (4) provide operational flexibility and sustained support.

What assistance will WEA give local associations?

WEA staff will train UniServ representatives and Council presidents on the School Improvement Grants.  WEA will provide information and guidance on SIGs to those leaders and staff working with the lowest 5% schools.