Fifty schools are on this year's list of Washington state's persistently low-achieving schools, making them eligible for three-year federal grants of $50,000 to $2 million per year.

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Fifty schools are on this year’s list of Washington state’s persistently low-achieving schools, making them eligible for three-year federal grants of $50,000 to $2 million per year.

Twenty-seven are new to the list this year. In King and Snohomish counties, these include: Alternative School No. 1, Chief Sealth High and Rainier Beach High in Seattle; Olympic Middle in the Auburn School District; Quil Ceda Elementary in Marysville; Lakeridge Elementary in Renton; and two small high schools in the Highline School District, the Academy of Citizenship and Empowerment and Odyssey — The Essential School.

Foster High in the Tukwila School District made the list for the second straight year.

State officials compile the list by looking at three years of reading and math scores, and, for high schools, graduation rates. In general, most of the schools’ test scores are in the lowest 5 percent of schools across the state.

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To receive grants, school districts must agree to overhaul a school in one of four ways: Close it; replace its principal and at least half its staff; turn it into a charter school (which is not allowed under Washington law); or “transform” it. The latter has a number of requirements, such as tougher teacher evaluations, a new instructional program and more learning time for students.

Although schools cringe at being labeled as very low performing, state officials view the list as an opportunity rather than a black eye, saying it gives schools the chance to make dramatic improvements.

But even though nearly all of the 47 schools on last year’s list applied for the grants, just 18 received them because of limited funding. This year, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction expects to receive about $7.3 million, which it estimates will fund grants for just nine of the 50 schools.

Four schools will be guaranteed grants — those that weren’t on the list last year or didn’t apply for grants, and were judged to be in the most need. One of them — Lakeridge Elementary in the Renton School District — is in the Puget Sound area. Schools that are applying for the second year in a row will be second in line. Schools new to the list are unlikely to receive grants.

Still, Seattle Public Schools announced Thursday that it plans to apply for grants for two of its three eligible schools — Alternative School No. 1 and Rainier Beach High. Sealth High won’t be included because it’s already well into an improvement plan, the district said.

The list is limited to about half of Washington’s schools, those that receive (or are eligible to receive) federal dollars from the Title I program — schools that have a significant numbers of students living in poverty.

Schools that received grants last year did not appear on this year’s list. In the Seattle area, they are: Cleveland High, Hawthorne Elementary and West Seattle Elementary in Seattle; Cascade and Chinook middle schools in Highline; and Totem Middle and Tulalip Elementary in Marysville.

The list isn’t the same as another, high-profile federal list of schools in trouble — those that are judged as “needing improvement” under the No Child Left Behind law. That’s because the criteria for rating differ.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or

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