“A new and important study of school turnarounds by University of Virginia economist Thomas Dee provides the first rigorous evidence that the Department’s revamped School Improvement Grant (SIG) program is having a substantial impact on student achievement in struggling schools in California in just the first year of the program.
“Dee's analysis, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that the typical low-performing school in California closed 23 percent of the achievement gap in the first year of the program. Professor Dee himself did not expect the SIG program to show such positive results in its first year. But his first-of-a-kind, rigorous study suggests that California's courageous principals, teachers, and parents are successfully taking on the demanding but deeply rewarding work of school turnarounds.
“These data are still preliminary. Several years of data will be needed to demonstrate robust, long-term growth in student outcomes in SIG schools. But Dee's careful study belies the conventional wisdom that little can be done to significantly boost student achievement in low-performing schools.
“In 2009, our Department made a large investment in the School Improvement Grant program through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, providing unprecedented resources to States and districts to undertake rigorous interventions in chronically low-performing schools. Since then, the Department has provided over $4 billion to fund School Improvement Grants to more than 1,300 schools across the country. To date, California has received $547 million in SIG funding, including $63 million awarded on Monday to support a second cohort of schools. Currently, 130 schools across the state have been awarded SIG funding.
“Educators and schools leaders cannot give up on making far-reaching improvements in student learning in our lowest-performing schools. Children only get one shot at a good education. And Dee's new study reminds us that poverty is not destiny.”