CA’s SIG schools show some improvement, but still struggle

Despite an unprecedented investment of federal funds, 92 of California's lowest performing schools continue to struggle to improve student performance since the 2009 relaunch of the School Improvement Grant program.

New data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education shows reading and math scores among California's SIG schools have risen some but still badly trail statewide averages, based on results from the 2010-11 school year (the most recent available).

SIG schools achieved 33 percent proficient or higher in reading compared to 57 percent among all schools in 2011. In math, 34 percent scored proficient or higher at SIG schools, compared to 59 percent overall.

Over the two-year study period, SIG scores improved 5 percentage points in both categories while the improvement among all other schools was 3 percent in reading and 2 percent in math.

The numbers are not inconsistent with results in most other states as well as the findings of a mid-way review released last July by the Center on Education Policy, a D.C.-based think tank.

One bright spot, however, was the average attendance rate for California's SIG schools - which came in at about 94 percent, significantly higher than the 90 percent achieved by SIG schools nationally.

Although the program predated the Obama administration, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included $3.5 billion for helping the nation's persistently low-achieving schools.

California's share has been about $548 million.

As a condition of receiving the additional support, the SIG program required districts to undertake one of four intervention models, including closing schools outright or restarting them as a charter or under a new management system.

Of the 92 schools participating in California, the vast majority - 56 - chose the least aggressive intervention: The transformation model, which required the replacement of the principal, an increase in learning time and comprehensive instructional reforms.

Another 29 enacted the turnaround model, which required replacement of the principal and no more than 50 percent of the staff. Five districts employed the restart model and two schools were closed under the program.

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