SIG Implementation: Depends on Where You Live

June 3, 2011 | By Thompson Education | Post a Comment

(This post was written by Travis Hicks, one of Thompson’s federal education policy editors, and originally appeared on Title I-Derland, Thompson’s blog on federal K-12 policy.) States’ implementation of the $3.5 billion School Improvement Grant (SIG) program is all over the map, according to a new U.S. Department of Education-funded analysis by the American Institutes for Research.

What initially stood out to me were two things: the wide variation in the relative number of schools receiving SIG money in a given state and the differences in states’ approaches to monitoring local grant recipients.

Some states spread funds to as many schools as possible, thereby diluting the available per-school allotment, while others targeted just the few schools they considered in need of drastic interventions. Generally, the lower per-school funding levels occurred in states like Kentucky and Vermont, which spread their funds so widely that they managed to reach down to almost all of their Tier III schools (i.e., the schools with the least serious problems, relatively speaking). On the other hand, Illinois, which funded only 10 schools out of 738 SIG-eligible schools, averaged $4.63 million per school.

In terms of monitoring strategies, the timing and approach depended on the states. Eight states plan to monitor their SIG recipients at least monthly, nine quarterly and one bi-annually, while 33 states will only monitor their SIG districts and schools once a year. Regarding the monitoring approach, 39 states will conduct on-site visits. In addition, 16 states will monitor SIG progress through electronic or online tools.

Although any current discussion of best approaches remains speculative pending the final outcomes of three years of SIG funding, it will be interesting to see how different states fared. Especially interesting, I’m guessing, will be whether states or the feds are able to tease out which approaches resulted in success stories. But as of now, the story remains incomplete.

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