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Mount Diablo High School is among the 188 statewide who have made a preliminary list of "persistently lowest-achieving schools." Students head out side during the lunch break as they walk past a mural dedicated to past teachers on campus in Concord, Calif., on Monday, March. 8, 2010. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Staff)

The state on Monday named "persistently lowest-achieving schools," including 20 in the East Bay, that could be severely affected, even to the extent of conversion to charter schools or major staff replacements.

The list, which may be updated and will not be final until the state Board of Education approves it Thursday, includes nine Contra Costa County schools in the Mt. Diablo and West County districts. Also named are 11 Alameda County schools in Hayward, Oakland and San Lorenzo.

No schools in the Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin area were listed.

Schools on the final list will be subject to severe sanctions under state and federal laws and will be required to implement one of four interventions, including closing the school, transforming it by replacing the principal and making other improvements such as increasing instructional time, turning it around by replacing the principal and at least half the staff, or restarting the campus by closing it and reopening it under outside management.

"This is an opportunity to make dramatic changes at chronically underperforming schools," said Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, in a news release. "The intervention choices provide an opportunity to make systemic changes that improve teaching and learning. As a result, we will help prepare thousands of students for a brighter future."


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The announcement included 188 schools statewide representing the lowest 5 percent throughout California. The schools are those eligible for Title 1 funds that have failed to show adequate progress in student achievement, said Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

The sanctions are required under state legislation approved as part of the federal Race to the Top program. They also are required under federal laws associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and School Improvement grant program for struggling schools.

Schools must begin implementing the changes in September to qualify for the grants, but there is no timeline if schools opt not to take the money. The comprehensive list is made up of three smaller lists based on Title 1 funding and graduation rates.

The Tier 1 list of schools is not likely to change, McLean said. It includes schools that receive federal funds and have been placed in Program Improvement because they have failed to make adequate progress on standardized tests.

Schools on a Tier 2 list could change by Thursday, if a waiver suggested by state Department of Education staff is approved. Five high schools were added to the list because their graduation rates fell below 60 percent, but none of these was in the East Bay.

Toby Montez, who has worked as principal of Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord for six years, said he was discouraged to learn his school was on the list. Although Meadow Homes has made gains, Montez said it was placed on the list because its student population of 85 percent English language learners was at a disadvantage when taking standardized tests.

Other states, he said, give English learners three years before they must take standardized tests or else they administer them in their home languages.

"I feel that it is a very unfair accountability system, and it does not reflect that English language learners need some time to learn the language," he said. "I feel really horrible that this is happening to us."

Sherry Whitmarsh, Mt. Diablo district trustee, said the board had not decided how to proceed.

"I want more data before I feel like I can make a good decision and a fair decision, and I want parents' input too," she said. "Test scores are but one dimension. And, unfortunately, the way the state's doing this, it's the only thing they're looking at."

Tony Thurmond, trustee in the West Contra Costa district, also said he wanted to study the issue before his board acts. He cautioned against making rash decisions, like removing administrators. Sudden changes could be disruptive and contrary to the intent of improving schools, he said.

"What I think is important is that there not be knee-jerk reactions, but that people take a good, hard look at what is driving performance, what's causing low performance, and what are we going to do about it?" Thurmond said.

Although campuses on the list are eligible for federal school improvement grants, state budget cuts are making gains difficult, officials said.

"If we don't fund the schools the way they should be funded," Thurmond said, "it doesn't matter how you reshuffle the deck of people involved."

Staff writer Shelly Meron contributed to this story.

SANCTIONS
Schools on the low performing list must take one of these four actions:
Close the school;
Transform it through a series of strategies including replacing the principal and increasing instructional time;
Turn around the school by replacing the principal and at least half the staff; or
Restart it by closing and reopening it as a charter school, under a charter school management organization or under an education management organization.
The preliminary lists of California's persistently lowest-achieving schools are at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/pl. Click on Tier 1, Tier 2 and Graduation Rate Only lists.

low-achieving schools
A preliminary list of schools that the state Board of Education may modify on Thursday.
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Mt. Diablo Unified: Bel Air Elementary School, Meadow Homes Elementary School, Rio Vista Elementary School, Shore Acres Elementary School, Oak Grove Middle School, Mt. Diablo High School
West Contra Costa Unified: Lincoln Elementary School, De Anza High School and Pinole Valley High School
ALAMEDA COUNTY
Hayward Unified: Burbank Elementary School, Longwood Elementary School, Tennyson High School, Mt. Eden High School and Hayward High School
Oakland Unified: Alliance Academy, Elmhurst Community Prep, Explore Middle School, ROOTS International, United for Success Academy (all middle schools)
San Lorenzo: Hillside Elementary School