$416M earmarked for under-performing schools

LOS ANGELES - California will receive nearly $416 million in an effort to turn around its persistently lowest achieving schools, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said last week.The funds are part of the $3.5 billion that will be made available to states this spring from money set aside in the 2009 School Improvement Grants program budget and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The $416 million made available to California is being distributed by formula to the state. School districts will then apply for funding. In order to apply, a school district must have either a state-identified "persistently lowest achieving" or a Tier III school - a school that has failed to meet annual yearly progress for two years. When school districts apply for the funds this spring, they agree to implement one of four models to turn around their school: 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, extended learning time and other strategies. Another $545 million will be awarded to additional schools in the 2011-12 school year. "When a school continues to perform in the bottom five percent of the state and isn't showing signs of growth or has graduation rates below 60 percent, something dramatic needs to be done," said Duncan, the secretary of education. "Turning around our worst performing schools is difficult for everyone but it is critical that we show the courage to do the right thing." Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the grants will boost schools' abilities "to help put our students back on a pathway to success." "Turning around our lowest-performing schools is crucial for our economy, our communities and our students," he said.

********** Published: July 1, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 11