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Title I Focus Schools: Frequently Asked Questions

Title I Focus Schools: Frequently Asked Questions


 What is a Title I Focus School?

Wisconsin identified ten percent of Title I schools statewide which would benefit from additional training, professional development, and resources designed to improve student outcomes for a portion of their student population. The state identified Focus Schools based on

  • the performance of student subgroups on state math or reading tests, or graduation rates, compared to student subgroups statewide.
  • OR if the school has large achievement gaps among its own student subgroups in math, reading, or graduation rates.

 Why did Wisconsin include Focus Schools in its new system of accountability?

As a requirement of waiver submission and USDE approval, states must identify Focus Schools, or 10 percent of Title I schools contributing to the state achievement gap. This federal requirement will be an opportunity to address the large statewide achievement gap and ensure all students graduate college and career ready.

 Does being identified as a Title I Focus School mean the school is failing?

Being identified as a Focus School does not mean that the school is performing poorly school-wide. It does mean that the school must focus on, or devote time and effort to, supporting subgroups of students. The subgroups of students may not be performing as well as other students in the school or state. Focus Schools may also have high rates of students who graduate and who do well on state math and reading tests. The goal is for Title I Focus Schools to establish building-wide systems of support that help all students achieve.



What happens if an identified Focus School no longer receives Title I funds during the cohort, due to eligibility criteria or opting to refuse funds?

If, in any year of the cohort, a Title I Focus School does not receive Title I funds, it will not be required to implement reforms, and it will not be prioritized for state support. However, the school will remain in the Focus School cohort; a school will not exit Focus School status simply because it does not receive Title I funds. Districts with non-participating Focus Schools cannot access the ESEA funding flexibilities which come with identification. If, in subsequent years, the school once again receives Title I funds, then the school, still in Focus School status, will be required to implement reforms and be prioritized for state support along with other Title I Focus Schools in the cohort.

State Requirements and Targeted Supports


What will DPI specifically require of Focus Schools?

State-supported reforms include the implementation and coordination of Response to Intervention (RtI) initiatives in reading, mathematics, and behavior which address the following components:

  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
  • Collaborative Planning Time
  • Core Instruction and Interventions
  • Professional Development
  • Early Warning Systems (EWS) (middle and high schools only)

What is the role of our DPI liaison?

The DPI liaison will perform two functions for each Focus School. The primary role of the DPI Liaison is to serve as a key point of contact  between the DPI and each Focus School to ensure the school is meeting required state-supported reforms. These reforms include the implementation and coordination of RtI in reading and mathematics to address the following components:

  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
  • Collaborative Planning Time
  • Professional Development
  • Early Warning Systems (EWS) (middle and high schools only)

These reforms will be monitored through the Indistar Continuous Improvement Tool.

The second function of the DPI Liaison is to provide ongoing support, expertise and guidance in the school's improvement efforts.

What level of support can be expected of the DPI Liaison?

DPI Liaisons will have a discussion with every Focus School to better understand each building's individual goals, and its school improvement processes and practices. This is not meant to be an evaluative process, but rather a way to build a relationship between DPI and the Focus School.

The overall purposes of the fall conversations are to:

  • Outline the specific reforms/requirements expected of Focus Schools
  • Allow DPI staff to fully understand the unique needs of each Focus School
  • Align school improvement goals to Indistar Indicators



Will DPI monitor Focus Schools' implementation of the interventions?

Yes. Focus Schools will submit their reform plans to DPI via Indistar and continually update the plans to indicate implementation progress. A Focus School's DPI liaison will regularly review these plans and progress made toward full implementation. Additionally, DPI liaisons will review each school's progress, as measured by data collected on a regular basis. Each Focus School will work closely with their liaison regarding these processes. 

Will the monitoring process include site visits?

DPI will prioritize onsite monitoring for schools that fail to progress in implementation or outcomes. Additionally, DPI may visit schools that appear to be making extraordinary progress in order to identify best practices which can be replicated statewide.



What funding flexibility will Focus Schools have to support the implementation of these requirements while still supporting students in other Title I schools?

Districts with one or more Focus Schools will have more flexibility in how they use federal education funds to support implementation of required reforms beginning in 2012-13. This flexibility includes:

  • The option to transfer up to 100 percent of the district's Title II funds remaining after meeting equitable participation requirements into Title I;
  • The option to reserve up to 20 percent of the district's Title I allocation to support Focus School(s); and
  • The option to convert the Focus School's Title I program to a schoolwide program, even if the school's poverty rate is under 40 percent.

School districts must determine how to use their Title funds efficiently and effectively to support Focus Schools as well as other Title I schools in the district. 

How will the federal funds that may be reserved for Focus Schools impact the Title I comparability requirements?

The Title I comparability requirement takes state and local funding into account. Any additional federal funds allocated to a Title I Focus or Priority School will not impact comparability.

 If a Focus School is the district's lowest poverty school, can a district fund the school at a higher amount (given the requirement to fund Title I eligible schools in rank order)?

The district must continue to serve schools in rank order, but an LEA will have the opportunity to reserve up to 20 percent of its Title I allocation for its Focus Schools. This reservation is set aside before the funds are allocated to all eligible Title I schools in rank order. Therefore, districts can use up to 20 percent of the total LEA allocation in addition to the school's allocation to support the Focus School.

For questions about this information, contact Jessica Awe (608) 264-9324, Sharon Suchla (608) 266-3983, or Karen Rice (608) 267-1284