A Portrait of School Improvement Grantees
This nifty new policy brief and interactive map from Education Sector offer up a focused look at where the $3.5 billion in federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) money is going and what it’s being spent on. Through new high-tech software, the interface lets users investigate trends and patterns in the 843 SIG schools, including their location and the type of intervention strategy being implemented in them. The SIG program marks the largest pot of federal funds ever targeted to America’s failing schools, with an average of about 4.2 million offered up to each school. (For more information on SIG, look here and here.) From the report, we see that some grantee schools may not be among the neediest in the country, some are managed by companies with poor track records, and some should have been closed long ago. While these school-level factoids are interesting, it’s the big picture that is most fascinating, especially for policymakers charged with determining SIG’s impact and future. For instance, of the four ED-approved turnaround models—transformation, closure, turnaround, and restart—seventy-three percent of SIG grantees chose “transformation.” (This is arguably the easiest of the available options. It demands only that schools replace the leader and implement some small-scale shifts, rather than close, replace the majority of the staff, or convert to a charter school, as the respective other models require.) In fact, SIG grantees in fifteen states used this model exclusively. These numbers are even more telling when broken up by level of urbanization. SIG schools in cities chose transformation 65 percent of the time, whereas rural SIG schools chose that model 97 percent of the time. Why? The report posits: “Urban districts are better able to relocate students in another school. Schools in more remote locations face limited pools for hiring and fewer partnership opportunities and are left with only one real practical option—transformation.” Kudos to Ed Sector for making transparent how states are using these three billion-plus federal-education dollars.
Padmini Jambulapati, “A Portrait of School Improvement Grantees,” (Washington, D.C.: Education Sector, April 26, 2011).
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