Support for Turning Around Low-Performing Schools

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States have begun receiving School Improvement Grants (SIG) funding to turn around their persistently lowest achieving schools. The funds are part of the $3.5 billion available to states this spring from the 2009 budget and the Recovery Act.

See press releases on states for which funding has been announced and videos of turnaround schools.

See the list of states, as well as state applications, which include states’ lists of persistently lowest achieving schools, as defined by each state.

“When a school continues to perform in the bottom 5% of the state and isn’t showing signs of growth or has graduation rates below 60%, something dramatic needs to be done,” Secretary Duncan said in announcing these grants. “Turning around our worst performing schools is difficult for everyone, but it is critical that we show the courage to do the right thing by kids.”

SIG funding is being distributed by formula to states and will then be competed out by the state to school districts. In order for a school district to apply for these funds, it must have a state-identified “persistently lowest achieving” or a Tier III school—a school that has failed to meet annual yearly progress for 2 years and is not identified as a persistently lowest achieving school. However, Tier III schools can only receive funds once all of the state’s persistently lowest achieving schools have received funds.

School districts will apply to states for the funds this spring. When school districts apply, they must indicate that they will implement one of the following 4 models in their persistently lowest achieving schools:

  • Turnaround Model: Replace the principal, screen existing school staff, and rehire no more than half the teachers; adopt a new governance structure; and improve the school through curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.
  • Restart Model: Convert a school or close it and re-open it as a charter school or under an education management organization.
  • School Closure: Close the school and send the students to higher-achieving schools in the district.
  • Transformation Model: Replace the principal and improve the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.

Once schools receive SIG funds, they will be able to begin to spend them immediately to turn around schools this fall. States may apply to the Education Department for a waiver to allow them to spend funds over a 3-year period. An additional $545,633,000 has been provided for SIG in 2010 and will be awarded to states to fund additional schools in the 2011-12 school year. ED has also made a request for an additional $900 million for the program in the 2011 budget.

For more information about School Improvement Grants, please visit the program website.