National survey finds SIG money not necessarily hitting the target

As California officials have complained for more than a year, state education directors in most other parts of the country seemed to also question whether federal school improvement grants were actually targeting the right schools.

Analysis released Wednesday from the Center on Education Policy found that just 23 of 46 states surveyed reported that the recent round of SIG funding was reaching the schools most in need of help. Another 22 states qualified their answer by saying the money was targeting the right schools to some extent" while one unidentified state, reported that the schools eligible under current SIG criteria are "not at all" the schools most in need of assistance.

The findings are based on two surveys with state deputy superintendents and Title I directors between October, 2010 and January, 2011 -after most states had distributed the $3.5 billion in SIG money Congress set aside in the federal stimulus package.

The program's target schools in California sparked enormous controversy both because of federal guidelines on the use of the funds and state policies used to divide up the money.

Federal guidelines give funding priority to a state's lowest-achieving 5 percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring in the state - the so-called Tier I schools. A second priority are equally low-achieving secondary schools (both middle and high schools) in the state that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds - the Tier II schools.

But because the program is voluntary, not all districts applied and because of how the California State Board of Education applied its own policies to the process, a very uneven mix of schools were rewarded last year.

Last month, the board approved an application for a second round of SIG funding that relies largely on the same criteria and resulted in some of the same problems.

One analysis found that almost half of the 96 schools identified for the money are not among the state's lowest performing 10 percent.

To read the CEP report click here: more