Education Week: Analysis of big federal grant program for lowest-performing schools sends mixed signals
About 1/3 of the schools getting massive federal funding didn’t improve
Conversion to charter schools outperformed other models
Several years ago, the US Department of Education started the massively funded “School Improvement Grant” or SIG program to identify and improve what came to be known as the nation’s “Persistently Low Achieving Schools” (recently renamed “Priority Schools” in Kentucky).
SIG schools got massive infusions of dollars, sometimes as much as $1.5 million over three years, to bootstrap their performance using one of four turn-around options:
• The “transformation” model, which called for extending learning time and gauging teacher effectiveness with test scores.
• The “turnaround” model, which required replacing 50 percent of a school’s staff members.
• The “restart” model – where school management was turned over to a charter-management organization, often converting to an actual charter school in states that allow that option.
• Or, actual school closure and transfer of the students to other, better performing schools.
In each SIG model, the principal was usually removed if he or she had been on the job for more than two years.
Given the major funding and the significant, but very different, turn-around models required, there has been considerable interest in how the SIG program has performed in the impacted schools.
Now Education Week reports in “Latest SIG-School Snapshot Mixed on Improvements” that new data from the US Department of Education indicates the bang for the many SIG bucks has been uneven.
But, one comment really stuck out for me. EdWeek summarizes from the report, saying:
“Schools that attempted dramatic interventions, such as conversion into a charter, generally saw greater gains than schools that took more flexible approaches.” (Underline added for emphasis)
Here in Kentucky, all our Persistently Low-Achieving/Priority Schools didn’t choose the “dramatic interventions” of closure or restarting, of course. In part, that is due to the simple fact that the tool that seems to work best across the nation in the SIG process, conversion to a charter school, has never been allowed here.
How does the Kentucky legislature’s continued refusal to allow the important tool of charter schools square with the mounting evidence that these schools of choice work well in turning around really troubled schools?