The Education Dept. releases more than $113 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG) to continue efforts to turn around persistently lowest-achieving schools in 16 states.
“When we launched this program at the beginning of the Obama Administration, we wanted to give states and school districts an opportunity to put unprecedented resources toward reforms that would increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates and improve teacher quality for all students, particularly for those who most need good teaching to catch up,” said DoEd Secy. John King. “Together, we’ve made important gains, but we know there is still a lot of work to be done in transforming our lowest-performing schools.
The department awards grants to states, which then award competitive subgrants to school districts that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds and the strongest commitment to provide adequate resources to substantially raise student achievement in their lowest-performing schools. States are also given flexibility to develop their own state-determined intervention model that focuses on whole-school reform and is designed to improve student achievement. The department approved state-determined models in two states – Georgia and Maryland.
Arizona, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Nebraska will receive awards to run a new grant competition and make new awards to schools. Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and Utah will receive continuation funds for implementing a SIG model; Connecticut, Iowa, Oregon, and South Dakota will make both new and continuation awards. Awards to remaining states will be made on a rolling basis over the coming months.
Since 2009, the SIG program has provided more than $7 billion in grants to support to more than 1,800 of the country’s lowest performing schools that have demonstrated the greatest need and the strongest commitment to implementing rigorous reforms to raise student achievement.
Despite the effort, the results have been dismal. A DoEd analysis (http://tinyurl.com/qxostyo) says about two-thirds of SIG recipients boosted students to proficiency on math and reading tests. But proficiency rates declined in about a third of the schools and in some categories, the results were even worse; 45% of schools that won the second round of SIG grants either slipped backward or saw no change in their math proficiency rates, and 40% declined or stagnated in reading.
|State Winners of FY 2016 SIG Awards|
In FY 2016, the SIG initiative saw decreased funding, from $506 million in FY 2015 to $450 million. That appropriators funded the unpopular program for this year is a surprise, given that the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will eliminate the program when implemented in the 2017-2018 school year. Under the new law, the SIG funding will be wrapped into the larger pot of money for Title I grants used to help disadvantaged schools and school districts.