Thursday, February 11, 2010


The School Improvement Grant (SIG) program has been significantly increased with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. SIG dollars for Delaware will amount to over $10 million for up to three years of activity, although the majority of the funds need to be expended in the first year to implement plans.

SIG is for "persistently low-achieving" Title 1 and Title 1 eligible schools who will be implementing one of the 4 interventions outlined in Race To The Top. Those interventions are closing, closing and reopening as a charter, "Turn Around" which involves replacing 50% of current staff, and "Transformation" which involves an aggressive plan to change the school.

Schools in Delaware will most probably choose the Transformation model, and well they should. Closing is simply a shell game in which you must absorb the student body into other buildings with all the expense and dislocation. Closing and reopening as a charter does not solve anything. When charters deal with populations without being allowed to "cream" students, they do not necessarily perform better than community public schools. Turn Around is an obvious "blame the staff" model or at least, "blame half the staff" model. Finally, Transformation will allow for educators and their administrations to implement change that works.

SIG could mean cash worth $50,000 to $2 million for a single school. Tier 1 schools (probably 5 in the beginning) are likely to be doubly challenged and blessed. Tier 1 SIG recipients will probably also be Partnership Zone schools under the Race To The Top grant. Those combined grant dollars could mean an astounding $3 million for a school.

SIG money is flexible. It does not all have to be spent on yet another curriculum or pedagogy method or professional development model. SIG money can actually be spent on the health and well being of children. For example, schools could offer before and after care; before and after meals; a dental clinic; or literacy instruction for parents. These are just a few examples of what an innovative district could do with SIG, because SIG recognizes some of the socio-economic challenges that are inherent in persistently low-achieving schools.

Educators are in for quite a ride of change over the next couple of years. At least there will be significant money available for many of the innovations.


  1. Tim, are you convinced that DE WILL be 100% transformation model? We are hearing a lot of "any means necessary talk" around my parts...

  2. Hi John,
    I'm realitively comfortable in saying that for a couple of reasons. First, DOE is truly trying to cooperate with teachers as much as possible. No one wants a huge fight. The second reason plays with the first. There just isn't time to do things that get you into a huge fight. The time windows on all of this Fed $ is the most incredibly tight window I've ever seen. The state's SIG application is due today!