Jun 29, 2010 by Joseph Noble, Ph.D
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What is the School Improvement Grant?

school improvement grants

“School Improvement Grants…are used to improve student achievement in Title I schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring so as to enable those schools to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) and exit improvement status.” 
(www.ed.gov/programs/sif/index.html)

How much money is available?  

FY 2009 School Improvement Grant appropriation: $546 million

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: $3 billion

Total: $3.546 billion

Who is eligible to apply? 

Formula grant states, who make sub-grants to school districts.

What is the timing of the grant? 

Application available: December 3, 2009

Application deadline (for states): February 8, 2010

Awarding and disbursement of School Improvement Grant funds 

“FY 2009 school improvement funds are available for obligation by SEAs and LEAs through September 30, 2011. In its application for these funds, an SEA may request a waiver of the period of availability to permit the SEA and its LEAs to obligate the funds through September 30, 2013.”   (www.ed.gov/programs/sif/applicant.html, click on “Application” link and go to page i)

Amount of LEA awards

LEA subgrants can range from $50,000 to $2 million. 

(www.ed.gov/programs/sif/faqs.doc and www.ed.gov/programs/sif/guidance20100120.doc)

School Improvement Grant Requirements

“The secretary would require states to identify three tiers of schools:

  • Tier I- The lowest-achieving five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring in a state, or the five lowest-performing Title I schools, whichever number is greater.
  • Tier II– Equally low-achieving secondary schools that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds. The secretary proposes targeting some of these extremely low-achieving high schools and their feeder middle schools….
  • Tier III– The remaining Title I schools in improvement, corrective action or restructuring that are not Tier I schools in the state.

[Recent legislation has allowed SEAs to use School Improvement Funds to serve “newly eligible” schools: certain low-achieving schools that are not Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring.  For more information, go to: www.ed.gov/programs/sif/guidance20100120.doc, pages 11-12.]

In its application to the state, each school district would be required to demonstrate its commitment to raising student achievement by implementing, in each Tier I and Tier II school, one of the following rigorous interventions:

  • Turnaround Model– This would include among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the school’s staff, adopting a new governance structure and implementing a new or revised instructional program.
  • Restart Model– School districts would close failing schools and reopen them under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization or an educational management organization selected through a rigorous review process. A restart school would be required to admit, within the grades it serves, any former student who wishes to attend.
  • School Closure– The district would close a failing school and enroll the students who attended that school in other high-achieving schools in the district.
  • Transformational Model– Districts would address four specific areas: 1) developing teacher and school leader effectiveness, which includes replacing the principal who led the school prior to commencement of the transformational model, 2) implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies, 3) extending learning and teacher planning time and creating community-oriented schools, and 4) providing operating flexibility and sustained support.

Districts should choose the strategy that works best for each school. To ensure districts are choosing a variety of strategies, any district with nine or more schools in school improvement will not be allowed to use any single strategy in more than half of its schools.”   (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/08/08262009.html)

How do Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ products fit with the School Improvement Grant?

Improve student achievement

To date, students in almost 6,000 schools have achieved improvements in language or reading skills with the Fast ForWord reading intervention softwareproducts. Numerous independent studies as well as detailed research and outcomes data consistently confirm the effectiveness of the products. After using the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistantproducts, students have shown gains in achievement on a variety of standardized tests and state assessments. For example, Fast ForWord participants in Everett Publics Schools in Everett, Massachusetts, made significant gains in reading achievement following Fast ForWord product use during the 2007-2008 school year. Sixty-six percent of the students improved their MCAS Reading scorein 2008 with an average improvement of 4.6 points. Scientific Learning has over 200 school based effectiveness and case reportsdocumenting the substantial gains in achievement made by students after using the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant products.

Help Title I schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring so as to enable those schools to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) and exit improvement status  

With a background of over 30 years of neuroscience researchand over 10 years of school site studies of effectiveness, Scientific Learning’s products have been shown to be proven intervention strategies for all schools, including those that are the lowest performing. The Fast ForWord Language and Fast ForWord Literacy series, with their cutting edge, neuroscience designed adaptivity and acoustically modified and enhanced sound, have been used successfully by students in low-performing schools in order to improve their cognitive, oral language, and reading skills. And both software series provide intensive support in a short period of time, from 4-16 weeks, depending on the scientifically validated protocol used.

Four Models of turning around schools:  

  • Turnaround model: Implementing a new or revised instructional program– Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant fit well as part of a new or revised instructional program to use neuroscience based and proven learning techniques to turn around schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring.
  • ReStart Model:Schools closed and re-starting will need scientifically based and proven educational tools like Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant in order to start anew and provide their struggling students with the cognitive, oral language, and reading skills that they need to succeed in all subject areas.
  • School Closure:Schools assimilating struggling students from closed schools will find that they need intervention products like Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant in order to help these students achieve grade level proficiency and assure that the school achieves or continues to achieve AYP.
  • Transformational Model: Implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies– Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant fit well as part of or as a supplement to any comprehensive instructional reform strategy, and indeed, the effects of the products are comprehensive, affecting student performance in all subject areas. Extending learning...time- Scientific Learning’s software can be implemented easily during extended hours.