U.S. Department of Education Releases Early Snapshot of School Improvement Grants Data

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U.S. Department of Education Releases Early Snapshot of School Improvement Grants Data

November 19, 2012

The U.S. Department of Education today released an early snapshot of student performance data at schools that have received federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program funds, a key component of the Department’s blueprint for helping states and districts turn around the nation’s lowest-performing schools.

Under the Obama Administration, the SIG program has invested up to $2 million per school at more than 1300 of the country’s lowest-performing schools. The data released today provides the first overview of performance for the first cohort of schools after one year of implementing SIG. The data begins in the 2009-2010 school year and ends in the 2010-2011 school year, the first year schools received SIG funds.

In three main areas, these early findings show positive momentum and progress in many SIG schools;

  • Schools receiving SIG grants are improving. The first year of data show that two thirds of schools showed gains in math. And two thirds of schools showed gains in reading.
  • A larger percentage of elementary schools showed gains than did secondary schools, suggesting that it is easier to improve student performance at a young age than to intervene later. Seventy percent of elementary schools showed gains in math, and seventy percent showed gains in reading, a higher percentage of improving
  • schools than was found in middle or high schools.
  • Some of the greatest gains have been in small towns and rural communities.

Another third of SIG schools had declines in achievement, a not surprising finding given the steep institutional challenges that these schools face.

“There’s dramatic change happening in these schools, and in the long-term process of turning around the nation’s lowest-performing schools, one year of test scores only tells a small piece of the story,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “But what’s clear already is that almost without exception, schools moving in the right direction have two things in common; a dynamic principal with a clear vision for establishing a culture of high expectations, and talented teachers who share that vision, with a relentless commitment to improving instruction.”

The SIG snapshot focuses on proficiency rate changes in the first year of SIG implementation, from 2009-10 to 2010-2011 in SIG-awarded Tier I and Tier II schools. It covers just over 730 (approximately 90 percent) of the 831 SIG-awarded Tier I/II schools in the program’s first cohort. Not included were fall-testing states and the very small number of closed schools.

Because this snapshot covers only a single year of SIG implementation, and because many factors contribute to student proficiency rates, it is too early to establish a causal connection between SIG funds and school performance.

The Institute for Education Sciences is conducting a long-term, gold-standard evaluation of the SIG program with student-level longitudinal data that will also compare to similarly situated schools that did not receive SIG funds. Moreover, at least one rigorous study, by Professor Thomas Dee at Stanford University, already found positive results in SIG schools as compared to similarly situated schools that did not receive SIG funds.

As a part of the Department’s transparency efforts, it is making available three years of state assessment data on all schools in the country through restricted-use files for research purposes. These files will include data for the 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011 school years broken down by subgroups.

In January, the Department plans to publicly release all school-level assessment data, including state-by-state SIG assessment data, once protections to ensure privacy of students are finalized and put in place. This public file will be posted on the Department’s website. The Department is also collecting data on other leading indicators that will give a more complete picture of performance in SIG schools, like student attendance, teacher attendance, and enrollment in advanced courses; it intends to publish that data early in 2013.

In the meantime, the Department is encouraging states to improve transparency by making as much data publicly available as possible in order to shine a spotlight on school performance, and to target additional support to schools that aren’t demonstrating success and hold these schools accountable for making progress. Federal resources that can help states improve transparency include the Privacy Technical Assistance Center and the National Forum on Education Statistics.

To determine if you are eligible to access the files and for more information on the process, please visit http://nces.ed.gov/statprog. Key data findings are attached.