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Originally published Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 1:09 PM

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Three Seattle schools on list of state's lowest-performing

The three Seattle schools on the state's list of lowest-performing schools are Cleveland High, Hawthorne Elementary and West Seattle Elementary. That makes those three schools eligible for federal grants of $50,000 to $2 million a year for three years.

Seattle Times education reporter

Cleveland High, Hawthorne Elementary and West Seattle Elementary are the Seattle schools on the state's lowest-performing list, making them eligible to apply for three-year federal grants of up to $2 million a year.

Seattle Public Schools released the names Tuesday and sent a letter home to parents.

In all, about four dozen schools in the state are on the list, based primarily on three years of scores on state reading and math tests. They also must receive or be eligible for funds under the federal Title I program, aimed at helping low-income students.

The grants are part of a $3.5 billion national effort, announced last summer, to overhaul schools judged to be among the lowest 5 percent in terms of student achievement.

Districts must apply for the grants by Friday, with the recipients to be named March 26.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has not publicly announced the names of schools on the list, saying it's awaiting final approval from the federal government.

In addition to Seattle, area school districts confirming they have at least one school on the list include Highline, Marysville and Tacoma.

Like other Obama administration education initiatives, the program offers big financial incentives for districts willing to accept some controversial requirements.

In this case, a district must agree to overhaul a school using one of four approaches: close it down, replace its principal and half the staff, turn it into a charter school (not allowed under Washington law), or "transform" it.

Seattle intends to use the transformation approach, which has the support of the local teachers union and Seattle Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. Its requirements include tougher teacher evaluations, a new instructional program and more learning time for students.

All four approaches require removing a principal who has been at a low-performing school for more than two years. That's not an issue at Cleveland High and Hawthorne Elementary, but at West Seattle Elementary, the district must move Principal Gayle Everly, who started in 2005 at High Point Elementary before it merged with Fairmount Park to become West Seattle Elementary.

District spokeswoman Patti Spencer said the superintendent and the district's chief academic officer are working with Everly on her next steps.

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At all three schools, the district plans to pilot a new evaluation system for teachers, in which teachers will be judged in part according to how much their students learn.

If the district receives a grant for Cleveland High, it will use it to help pay for the new science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) program to start in the fall.

The district had talked about lengthening the school day for all students in Cleveland's STEM program, which will open in the fall. It now plans to offer the extra time only to students who are struggling.

In their grant applications, districts don't have to provide all the details of their plans. "This has been a very fast-track process, and a great deal of work remains," said Spencer.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

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