Maine DOE: Federal Funds Available for Persistently Low Achieving Schools

10 schools identified under federal criteria

AUGUSTA – Maine Education Commissioner Sue Gendron on Tuesday released a list of 10 “persistently lowest-achieving schools,” as defined by federal criteria – schools that will now be eligible for a share of $12 million in federal school improvement grants.

The 10 schools have low levels of proficiency in math and reading over a three year period and a low level of improvement.

The schools are eligible to apply for a share of the school improvement grants for up to three years, provided they agree to pursue an aggressive plan for turning around the school. Under federal guidelines, they would have to agree to one of the following models: redesign or replace the school; convert the school to a charter school; transform the school through comprehensive reforms; or close the school and transfer students to higher performing schools in the district.

The charter school model option is not permissible under Maine law. Of the remaining three models, the transformation model may be the most common option in Maine. Specifically, it requires: replacing principals who have been at the school over two years and taking steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness; instituting comprehensive instructional reforms; increasing learning time; and providing operational flexibility and support to the school.

“This is an incredible opportunity for schools,” Gendron said. “The opportunities it creates for kids are significant.”

Gendron emphasized that the state will work with the 10 schools to develop plans for improving student performance. None of the 10 schools is required to apply for the grant money.

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Maine was required to identify the five schools with the lowest combined performance on reading and mathematics assessments in each of two different groups:

Title I schools that have not made progress according to NCLB for two or more years; and High schools that are eligible for Title I funds but whose districts are using those funds in other schools.

Maine was also required to identify high schools with graduation rates below 60 percent in 2009. Maine has none that meet that criterion.

Gendron emphasized that the 10 schools are from two specific groups only.

Identification of persistently low-achieving schools is also a focus of states’ Race to the Top applications. Gendron said additional schools in the state will have an opportunity to participate in similar turnaround efforts if Maine is successful in its competitive application for Race to the Top funding – up to $75 million or more over four years.

“This first round has very specific requirements about who is eligible,” Gendron said. “In Race to the Top, more districts that want to improve their performance and are not currently eligible will become eligible. If a school’s performance and progress is below where it should be, how can we support that school in making significant changes to improve student achievement?”

Bill Webster, the superintendent of Regional School Unit 24, based in Hancock County, agreed. The district’s Sumner Memorial High School is one of the schools that made the list. He said, “We look forward to this initiative to further improve outcomes for our students.”

Tier I Schools (Title I schools that have not made progress according to No Child Left Behind Act for two or more years):

Deer Isle-Stonington High School, Deer-Isle Stonington C.S.D.
Governor James B. Longley Elem School, Lewiston School Dept
Houlton High School, SAD 29
Riverton Elementary School, Portland School Department
Sumner Memorial High School, Sullivan, RSU 24

Tier II Schools (High schools that are eligible for Title I funds but whose districts are using those funds in other schools):

Carrabec High School, North Anson, SAD 74
Hodgdon High School, SAD 70
Lake Region High School, Naples, SAD 61
Livermore Falls High School, SAD 36
Madison Area High School, SAD 59

For more information, visit the Maine Department of Education

David Connerty-Marin, 207-624-6880 | David.Connerty-Marin@Maine.gov