After years of identifying America’s failing schools through the No Child Left Behind Act (and perhaps, overidentifying them as suggested by President Obama and Secretary Duncan) little progress has been made in turning these low-performing schools around. The School Improvement Grant (SIG) program is the Obama administration’s efforts to change this by targeting the lowest-performing schools with dramatic interventions—a test run for Obama’s Blueprint for ESEA. For the first time, the Department of Education is going after our nation’s lowest-performing schools with prescriptive intervention models: school closure, restart as a charter school, turnaround through replacing the principal and 50% of the instructional staff or transformation, which requires the school to implement numerous research-based reforms.
But we don’t know much about where these schools are, who they are, the models chosen, and what they’re promising to do—until now. Our new Charts You Can Trust presents an early snapshot of the first cycle of SIG grantees. This CYCT features an interactive map (below) of the 843 schools* (excluding Hawaii and the Bureau of Indian Education) along with the models chosen and demographic information for each school.
Some brief highlights: Our analysis found that 73% of SIG grantees chose the transformation model, which requires schools to subscribe to extended learning time and replacing the principal along with another slate of reforms. This may be the least dramatic and easiest option to implement, but will it yield results? The other more “rigorous” models were by far less popular choices. We also found that, while most federal dollars are usually funneled to elementary schools, nearly half of the SIG grantees are high schools—signaling a shift in federal spending and an urgency to reform America’s “dropout factories.”
Many of the SIG grantees are low-performing urban schools, but there is a surprising amount of diversity: 18% are rural, 17% suburban, and the grantee list includes dozens of charters and many more magnet schools. Read the full Charts You Can Trust for a breakdown of SIG grantees. And stay tuned, as the second cycle of new SIG grantees will be announced in the coming months.
–Padmini Jambulapati, Education Sector Research Assistant
*In Tableau, you can download our data into .csv format for Microsoft Excel by clicking on the magnifying glass. Or use our interactive map to examine the data—select a state by checking the box next to state’s name on the right side of the map. (Deselect “All States” to individually pick each state.) Once the map has adjusted to show the state, dots for each SIG school will appear. When you select each dot, you will find a link to each school’s SIG application that details implementation and budget. To see only the schools that chose one of the four intervention models (i.e. only the restart schools), select the model and click on the highlight button in the left hand corner. To return to the original map, unclick the highlight button.