Has the U.S. government’s $3.5 billion School Improvement Grant (SIG) program delivered as promised? The data from Ohio indicates that the answer is no—but with a glaring exception.
SIG is a federal grant program, which has been funded heavily through the 2009 stimulus act. Its goal is to improve the academic performance of persistently low-performing schools. In March 2010, Ohio received a three-year, $132 million grant; the Ohio Department of Education then allocated funds to eligible schools based on a competitive grant process. In spring 2010, over 200 schools applied, and 35 schools received funding.
In return for the funds (up to $2 million per year for a school), the grantee is required to implement one of four intervention models: turnaround—replacing the principal and 50 percent or more of the staff; restart—closing a school and reopening under new management, possibly a charter school; school closure; or, transformation—leaving staff in place but implementing plans to improve instructional effectiveness, extend learning time, et cetera. Most schools in Ohio and across the nation have selected the transformation model, what we have argued is the “easiest” model.
Given the sizeable cash infusion, together with the required interventions to turnaround the school, we might expect to see strong and positive gains in school-level performance.
But one does not observe across-the-board improvements in achievement.
The chart below shows the change in achievement scores for Ohio’s first cohort of SIG schools, from 2009-10 (pre-SIG) to 2011-12 (the second year of SIG...