This new Educational Reform Effort is entitled the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program authorized under Section 1003(g) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the money is allocated from the United States Department of Education to state departments of education throughout the country. Because most of our work is in California, we’ll be talking about how it plays out in California. The California Department of Education (CDE) administers the grant competition in California and makes a final allocation of the funding.
On June 24, 2010, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced in a news release that the Federal Government had approved California’s application for SIG funding to reform 188 of the persistently lowest achieving schools in the state. These schools are to be reformed using one of four models:
- Turnaround Model: The LEA undertakes a series of major school improvement actions, including replacing the principal and rehiring no more than 50 percent of the school's staff; adopting a new governance structure; and implementing an instructional program that is research-based and vertically aligned from one grade to the next, as well as aligned with California's adopted content standards.
- Restart Model: The LEA converts a school or closes and reopens a school under a charter school operator; a charter management organization; or an education management organization that has been selected through a locally determined, rigorous review process, using state educational agency provided guidance. A restart model school must enroll, within the grades it serves, any former student who wishes to attend the school.
- School Closure Model: The LEA closes a school and enrolls the students who attended that school in other schools in the LEA that are higher achieving. These other schools should be within reasonable proximity to the closed school and may include charter schools or new schools for which achievement data are not yet available.
- Transformation Model: The LEA implements a series of required school improvement strategies, including replacing the principal who led the school prior to implementation of the transformation model, and increasing instructional time.
In the interest of full disclosure, we at Creative Resources and Research worked with one school district to develop its grant application and we helped another school district by reviewing its application for them to fine-tune it.
Over the years, after working with hundreds of schools attempting to complete school improvement and reform processes, we have been fascinated (and often frustrated) at the frightening level of dysfunction within low performing schools and districts. Working closely with a couple of districts applying for SIG funds, we started wondering about the other eligible schools.
Where are these schools? Do all of the schools share common characteristics? These questions led to more interesting questions such as, are there factors revealed in non-academic data that might have important implications for school reform? How do these lowest performing schools compare with schools at the other end of the performance spectrum? How different are the lowest performing schools from those 450 or so “Distinguished” schools? What are the similarities and differences between these two groups and what might those differences tell us is important in terms of reforming California schools? What needs to change at the lowest performing schools to turn the Persistently Lowest Performing Schools into “Distinguished” schools?
This series of posts about SIG will seek answers to some of these questions or at least to pose new questions that require further research and examination. Our next post in the series will be “Who Are the Lowest Performing Schools?”
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