Washington, D.C. – Arizona will receive nearly $70 million to turn around its lowest achieving schools as part of a $3.5 billion nationwide education initiative funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and through standard 2009 budget appropriations. The School Improvement Grant program, which administers the funds, is an annual federal effort to improve schools with the worst educational and graduation records.
The $70 million will go to state officials, who will then accept competitive applications from each school district for a portion of the funds. Priority will be given to “persistently lowest achieving” schools, followed by schools that have failed to meet their annual yearly progress milestones for two years but are not yet persistently lowest achieving schools.
The money will only be allocated to districts that agree to follow one of four reform models outlined in the No Child Left Behind law:
•TURNAROUND MODEL: Replace the principal, screen existing school staff, and rehire no more than half the teachers; adopt a new governance structure; and improve the school through curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.
•RESTART MODEL: Convert a school or close it and re-open it as a charter school or under an education management organization.
•SCHOOL CLOSURE: Close the school and send the students to higher-achieving schools in the district.
•TRANSFORMATION MODEL: Replace the principal and improve the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.
The state will allocate money to applicants in time to begin using the funds for the fall school term.
“A quality education for every child is a cornerstone of American society, no matter where they live or how much money their parents make,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva of the initiative. “We should do everything we can to make sure there are no failing schools in this state or this country.” Grijalva is a co-sponsor of the Graduation for All Act, which authorizes $2 billion in competitive grants for low-performing high schools and their feeder middle schools, increases financial aid awareness and career planning, and supports strategic partnerships between high schools, middle schools and local communities to turn around struggling institutions, among other features.
For more information about the new $70 million award, contact Sandra Abrevaya at the Department of Education at (202) 401-1576.