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Department of Education Proposes Requirements for School Improvement Grants

Resource type: News

Philanthropy News Digest |

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The U.S. Department of Education has announced draft requirements for $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement grants targeting the nation’s lowest-performing schools.

The Obama administration’s strategy for turning around low-performing schools includes identifying the lowest-achieving Title I schools in each state; supporting only the most rigorous interventions that hold the promise of producing rapid improvements in student achievement and school culture; providing sufficient resources over several years to implement those interventions; and measuring progress in achieving results. The grants will be funded by $546 million from the department’s FY2009 appropriation and an additional $3 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

To be eligible for funding, each state must identify three tiers of schools: the lowest-achieving 5 percent of Title I schools in terms of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, or the five lowest-performing Title I schools, whichever number is greater (Tier I); equally low-achieving secondary schools that are eligible for but do not receive Title I funds (Tier II); and the remaining Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that are not Tier I schools in a state (Tier III).

In addition, each state must demonstrate its commitment to improving student achievement by implementing in Tier I and II schools one of four interventions: a turnaround model in which the principal and at least 50 percent of the school’s staff are replaced and a new governance structure is adopted; a restart model in which failing schools are closed and reopened under the management of a charter school operator, charter management organization, or educational management organization; school closure; or a transformational model in which districts help develop teacher and school leader effectiveness, implement comprehensive transformational reform strategies, extend learning and teacher planning time, and provide operating flexibility and sustained support.

“The large investment in school improvement funds made possible by [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] presents a historic opportunity to attack education’s most intractable challenge — turning around or closing down chronically low-achieving schools,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Our goal is to turn around the five thousand lowest-performing schools over the next five years as part of our overall strategy for dramatically reducing the drop-out rate, improving high school graduation rates, and increasing the number of students who graduate prepared for success in college and the workplace.”

Obama Administration Announces Historic Opportunity to Turn Around Nation’s Lowest-Achieving Public Schools.” U.S. Department of Education Press Release 8/26/09.

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