In the News: School Improvement Grants: Implementation and Effectiveness

The U.S. Department of Education has just released its final evaluation of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program.

blog-ototn-sig-smarickThrough this program, states were given funds to implement interventions—transformation, turnaround, restart, or closure—in their lowest-performing schools. The Obama administration was able to award $3 billion in SIG grants

Among the key findings of the evaluation, which was conducted by Mathematica:

Overall, across all grades, we found that implementing any SIG-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment.

Andy Smarick has been skeptical of school turnaround efforts in general and the SIG program in particular from the beginning. In “The Turnaround Fallacy,” an article that appeared in Education Next seven years ago, he reviewed the research on turnaround efforts and urged “Stop trying to fix failing schools. Close them and start fresh.”

He warned in 2009 that the SIG program was unlikely to bear fruit.

I publicly predicted—on numerous occasions—that SIG was not going to produce anything remotely close to the results the Department and others were promising. I was alarmed at how much we were spending on SIG and the awful track record of previous turnaround efforts, and I was sure that districts would pick weak interventions and that kids were going to continue languishing in these schools while we went about this misguided adventure.

Smarick reiterated his concerns about the program as results from earlier evaluations were released (sometimes on a snowy Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend).

– Education Next


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