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Originally published November 9, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Page modified November 10, 2010 at 11:18 AM

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Mixed results in new school rankings report

As Seattle Public Schools unveiled new, detailed reports on 82 of its schools Tuesday, it also released its districtwide report card, and the results aren't as good as last year.

Seattle Times education reporter

More information

New school and district reports online: www.seattleschools.org. Click on "School Reports and School Data."

New school rankings

SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS unveiled a new rating system for its schools Tuesday that measures not just how many students pass state tests, but how much improvement students make from year to year. The schools all were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with a 5 meaning that a school had a high percentage of students passing state math and reading tests and students are improving. A 1 means that schools have a low passage rate on state tests and low-medium improvement. Here are the schools at each level:

Level 5: K-8: Catharine Blaine. Elementary schools: Bagley, Coe, Hay, Lafayette, Loyal Heights, McGilvra, North Beach, Schmitz Park, Thornton Creek, View Ridge and Wedgwood.

Level 4: High schools: Garfield, Roosevelt. Middle schools: Eckstein, Hamilton, Salmon Bay K-8, Tops K-8, Washington, Whitman. Elementary schools: Bryant, John Stanford, Laurelhurst, Lawton, Lowell, Montlake, Stevens, Tops K-8, West Woodland, Whittier.

Level 3: High schools: Ballard, Center School, Chief Sealth, Franklin, Nathan Hale, Nova. Middle schools: Madison, McClure, Mercer, Alternative School No. 1, Denny, Madrona K-8, Pathfinder K-8. Elementary schools: Adams, Alki, Beacon Hill, Concord, Green Lake, Rogers, Kimball, Maple, Olympic View, Orca K-8, Pathfinder, Sacajawea, Salmon Bay K-8, Thurgood Marshall, Alternative School No. 1, Olympic Hills, Wing Luke

Level 2: High schools: Cleveland, Ingraham, Rainier Beach, West Seattle. Elementary schools: Arbor Heights, B.F. Day, Broadview Thomson, Gatewood, Graham Hill, Greenwood, Muir, Sanislo, South Shore K-8, Van Asselt.

Level 1: Aki Kurose Middle and 12 elementary schools: Dearborn Park, Dunlap, Emerson, Gatzert, Hawthorne, Highland Park, Leschi, Madrona K-8, Martin Luther King, Northgate, Roxhill and West Seattle.

Source: Seattle Public Schools

Upcoming meetings

SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS and the Seattle Council PTSA have scheduled a series of public meetings about the new reports, each from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Nov. 29: Roosevelt High, 1410 N.E. 66th St.

Nov. 30: South Lake High School, 8601 Rainier Ave. S.

Dec. 6: Whitman Middle School, 9201 15th Ave. N.W.

Dec. 7: Washington Middle School, 2101 S. Jackson St.

Dec. 9: West Seattle High School, 3000 California Ave. S.W.

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As Seattle Public Schools unveiled new, detailed reports on 82 of its schools Tuesday, it also released its districtwide report card, and the results aren't as good as last year.

The school district is on track to meet four of 23 goals, down from six a year ago. And although it made gains in 12 of the areas measured, it lost ground in eight, some by a lot.

In math, for example, the percent of fourth-graders who reached the highest level on the state math test has dropped to 32 percent, down from 42 percent in 2009.

Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, in a speech at Mercer Middle School on Tuesday night, acknowledged that the results aren't what the district would like, but she said that she was absolutely confident the district will reach its goals in the next few years, even though it set ambitious targets.

"We have, I believe, great momentum," she said.

She talked about the bright spots — such as how many seventh-graders are passing state math tests, and the fact that 67 percent of Seattle's high-school students enrolled in college within a year of graduation, up from 59 percent three years ago.

But she also pointed out the challenges as the district enters the third year of a five-year plan.

High-school reading and math need improvement, she said, as does reading in all grades. The district also needs to do more to bridge the gap in achievement between students from low-income families and those who are better off.

She called that gap "unacceptable."

Earlier in the day, School Board President Michael DeBell called the districtwide results disappointing. And while he understands that progress in education can take time, and some of the declines are the result of changes made in the state test, he also said the district should do some hard thinking about what changes may be needed.

Harium Martin-Morris, another board member, was more hopeful, saying he expects the results will improve next year, especially in high school.

"I still believe we are on the right track," he said. "I think a lot of the things we are doing will bear fruit in one or two years."

So did board member Peter Maier who, like Goodloe-Johnson, emphasized that the district is making progress in many areas.

But parent Barbara Kelley, who attended Goodloe-Johnson's speech, said the results make her wonder whether the district is putting its money in the right places.

Rankings

Earlier Tuesday, the district publicly released the new, detailed reports on 82 of its schools, along with a ranking system that places those schools on a scale of 1 to 5 based largely on test scores — not just the percentage of students who pass, but the percentage who make gains.

Twelve schools received the highest ranking of 5, meaning a high percentage of students pass state reading and math tests, and their scores are improving. Level 5 schools also didn't have a significant gap in achievement between students from families who qualify for the federal free-lunch program and those who do not.

But just about as many schools received a ranking of 1, with low passage rates and a low percentage of students making improvement.

The results, as with most standardized tests, tend to run along income lines. Even in this new ranking system, schools in richer areas generally ranked higher than those in neighborhoods where many families have little money.

A number of schools ranked higher in improvement than in overall performance. Examples include Alternative School No. 1, Olympic Hills Elementary in North Seattle, Orca K-8 alternative school in South Seattle, Mercer Middle and the Center School.

South Shore K-8 had one of the lowest improvement rates among elementary schools, as did Arbor Heights, Martin Luther King and Hawthorne.

Along with the new rankings, the district's new school reports give parents and the public more information than they've ever had before on how each school is doing.

The reports also include each school's goals for the year, and how the staff plans to achieve them.

Extra money

District leaders say the new school reports aren't meant to be punitive.

Still, if schools with a 1 ranking don't improve in the next few years, the district has said it may replace the principal and the staff, and perhaps even close the school. That wouldn't happen until fall 2012 at the earliest.

In the meantime, schools with high passage rates and high growth will have more flexibility in how they spend some of their money. Schools with low passage rates and low growth will get more direction — and more support — from the district's central office.

All schools will get some extra money to help them carry out their improvement plans, but the schools that received a ranking of 1 are receiving the most — an average of about $400 per student this school year.

Sara Morris, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance of Education, a nonprofit organization of business and civic leaders, said that the reports released Tuesday are powerful tools that represent "a level of accountability that we've never had before."

"In some cases, the data is encouraging," she said. "In other cases, it's very uncomfortable. It makes us all impatient, but I think knowing the data better equips us to craft solutions."

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

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