Friday, July 24, 2015
A new Century Foundation report examines what worked and did not work in those schools that received federal School Improvement Grants (SIGs) starting in 2009. Through funds allocated in the economic stimulus package, the Department of Education has been able to direct about $3.5 billion toward the nation's lowest performing schools. The grant awards for individual schools amounted to as much as $2 million a year for three years. The study finds:
• Fundamentally transforming the culture of deeply troubled schools in impoverished environments is extremely difficult to accomplish over a fairly limited time frame of three years, even with a large surge in funding.
• While most SIG schools showed greater improvement in student outcomes than similar schools without grants, those relative gains were usually quite modest and may be difficult to sustain after the grants expire.
• The small number of schools that demonstrably transformed to the benefit of their students all pursued very similar strategies, which the federal government and states should proactively communicate to low-income districts, especially including future grant recipients.
• Common strategies that proved successful include (1) an intensive focus on improving classroom instruction through ongoing, datadriven collaboration, led largely by teachers with oversight from the principal; (2) a concerted, systematic effort to create a safe and orderly school environment through implementation of research-supported practices that all staff members can learn to adopt; (3) expansion of time dedicated to instruction and tutoring in core academic subjects; (4) strengthening connections to parents, community groups, and local service providers to help support school staff efforts to build a culture that expects success of all students; (5) confining reliance on outside expert consultants to jump-starting changes that school leaders and teachers can sustain, rather than spending substantial resources on contractors who either micromanage or provide inadequate assistance.