U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced that 10 states will receive more than $95 million to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools through awards from the Department's School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. The following states are receiving awards: Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon and Texas.
"When schools fail, our children and neighborhoods suffer," Duncan said. "Turning around our lowest-performing schools is hard work but it's our responsibility, and represents a tremendous opportunity to improve the life chances of children. We owe it to our children, their families and the broader community. These School Improvement Grants are helping some of the lowest-achieving schools provide a better education for students who need it the most."
Community engagement is an essential tactic for making school turnaround more effective. The U.S. Department of Education's Reform Support Network (RSN) is releasing a paper, Strategies for Community Engagement in School Turnaround, which examines engagement in action. Between April and August of 2013 the RSN conducted reviews of 11 states and districts--urban and rural--with engaged communities surrounding low-performing schools. The enquiry yielded five primary lessons or takeaways about successful community engagement: make engagement a priority and establish an infrastructure, communicate proactively in the community, listen to the community and respond to its feedback, offer meaningful opportunities to participate and turn community supporters into leaders and advocates.
School Improvement Grants are awarded to State Educational Agencies (SEAs) that then make competitive subgrants to school districts that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds and the strongest commitment to provide adequate resources to substantially raise student achievement in their lowest-performing schools.
Under the Obama administration, the SIG program has invested up to $2 million per school at more than 1,500 of the country's lowest-performing schools. Early findings show positive momentum and progress in many SIG schools. Findings also show that many schools receiving SIG funding are improving, and some of the greatest gains have been in small towns and rural communities.