School Improvement Grant proposed guidelines were recently posted on the Federal Register. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is using the federal Title I programs to focus on low-performing schools.
The administration is certainly putting the money behind the program -- a $125 million investment in FY 2007, an investment of $545 million in FY 2009, PLUS another $3 billion for efforts that focus on addressing low-performing schools. This infusion of funding and recent changes to Kentucky testing programs will require KDE to review our strategies for addressing low-performing schools. Let me share just a few highlights of the proposed guidelines.
Low-Performing School Identification – Kentucky will have to change its methods for identifying low-performing schools to a focus on the federal definitions. The proposed guidelines are as follows:
Tier 1 schools – this is the lowest-achieving five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action or restructuring in the state. Funds must be utilized in this category first.
Tier 2 schools – these are low-achieving middle or high schools that qualify for Title I programs, but are not classified as Title I schools.
Tier 3 schools – those Title I schools in improvement, corrective action or restructuring that are not in the lowest five percent of Title I schools.
The dollars behind this effort to schools and districts range from a minimum of $50,000 to a maximum of $500,000 for three school years each. The funds must be spent within four options that are being proposed.
Option 1 – Turnaround model : includes replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of staff with a new governance structure and new instructional program.
Option 2 – Restart model: requires closing the school and reopening under a charter school management or other educational management organization.
Option 3 – Close school model: simply means that the school is closed and students sent to another school.
Option 4 – Transformation model: four very specific components with 11 non-negotiable standards.
This program, along with our Race to the Top application, can provide a new approach to supporting low-performing schools. The program requires academic goals that must be met within the three-year period and annual progress goals.
Over the coming months, I will be working with KDE staff, the Kentucky Board of Education, legislators and other interested parties to focus on our statewide strategy to address low-performing schools. A child’s opportunity to attend a high-performing school should not depend on the family’s zip code. We must work to continue to raise achievement and close academic performance gaps. Our children deserve no less.