$427M in School Improvement Grants go to Turn Around Lowest Performing Schools

US-DeptOfEducation-Seal_LargeThe Education Dept. (DoEd) releases $427 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG) to help turn around America’s persistently lowest-achieving schools in nearly every state and U.S. territory.

“When the president entered office he laid out an ambitious agenda to transform our lowest performing schools as a means of improving outcomes for all students, but especially those who most need additional support,” said DoEd Secy. John King.

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 substantially raising student achievement. 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. In schools that have received funds under this program, up to 80% of students are from low-income families – 28 percentage points higher than the average school.

While turning around chronically low-performing schools, which have been failing students for decades and possibly generations, is some of the hardest and most important work in education and progress has not been universal, data show that SIG schools are improving faster than other schools, including gains in mathematics and reading proficiency and improved graduation rates. These efforts helped contribute to a decline in dropout rates, and over the last decade, dropout rates have been cut dramatically for Latino and African American students, while the number of high schools where fewer than six in ten students graduate on time has been cut by more than 40%. Among the first three groups  of high schools that received support though SIG, increases in graduation rates out-paced the national average. SIG and similar programs have contributed to improved high school graduation rates nationally, which last week reached a record high of 83.2%.

Since 2009, the SIG program has invested over $7 billion to transform more than 1,800 of the country’s lowest performing schools. While this is the last year that the department will award funds under the current program, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), continues this work.

Consistent with the SIG program, ESSA requires that states identify and support the lowest-performing schools, including schools that are failing to graduate one-third or more of their students or where subgroups of students are falling behind, and to implement evidence-based interventions to turn around these schools. ESSA also requires that states set aside funds under Title I specifically for these schools to invest in activities that we know support low-performing students and low-achieving schools, similar to SIG.


Projects have focused on innovation. For example, the Leslie County High School, in Hyden, KY, developed an integrated, multifaceted system of instructional support. The Leslie system is organized around the use of two data tracking tools—student and teacher data notebooks—and a monitoring strategy—classroom walk-throughs.

  • Student data notebooks are used daily by students and teachers to track student performance on formative assessments, inform teacher-student discussions, and plan needed support. This strategy includes students’ participation in daily support periods and reviews during quarterly “data days,” a structured time when students meet with staff to review progress.
  • Teacher data notebooks are reviewed by teachers during weekly professional learning community (PLC) meetings—or more often―to track individual and class-level performance and inform instructional planning, student supports and parent communication.
  • Walk-throughs are twice-monthly classroom observations of teacher practice by teachers and administrators. Walk-throughs may be prompted by a need identified by Leslie leaders, coaches, or teachers during data analysis.

Info: https://goo.gl/3rHq7U (website).

Top 10 States Receiving SIG Grant Funding
      State Allocation
  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina

About Frank Klimko

Frank Klimko is a nationally known journalist, grants expert and speech writer/speaker. He has years of experience helping nonprofits devise lists of the right funding opportunities and secure funding from these foundations and corporate entities. Clients have focused on an array of areas including child care, homeless, hunger and K-12 education. Additionally, he is a Freedom of Information Act expert, who has helped numerous clients with securing proprietary information from the federal government. Currently, Frank Klimko writes the Children & Youth Funding Report and Private Grants Alert, which are Washington DC-based publications. CYF is a daily publication covering Congress, the Education Dept. and the various federal regulatory agencies. PGA, another daily publication, covers the world of private philanthropy.
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