New data on the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program released by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on November 21 shows that schools that have received two years of SIG funds are making larger increases in average proficiency rates in both reading and math, compared to all schools nationally. Under the Obama administration, the SIG program, which targets the nation’s lowest-performing schools, has allocated up to $2 million per school at more than 1,300 schools, approximately 40 percent of which are high schools.
“The progress, while incremental, indicates that local leaders and educators are leading the way to raising standards and achievement and driving innovation over the next few years,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “To build on this success in our disadvantaged communities, we must expand the most effective practices to accelerate progress for students and prepare them for success in college and careers.”
On average, the more than 400 schools that received SIG funds in the 2010–11 and 2011–12 school years improved their percentages of students scoring “proficient” on state assessments by 8 percentage points in math and 5 percentage points in English, compared to 3 percentage points and 2 percentage points, respectively, among non-SIG schools. When broken out by grade, similar gains were seen at the high school level; high schools receiving SIG funds increased their average proficiency rates by 7 percentage points in math and 3 percentage points in reading.
A press release from ED released in conjunction with the SIG data highlights progress at Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School, where the dropout rate was cut in half and proficiency in English language arts jumped from 41 percent to 53 percent in the first year of the grant.
“For too long, federal education policy has overlooked struggling students, especially those attending the nation’s lowest-performing high schools,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Results from the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program demonstrate that the significant federal investment made in turning around low-performing schools is having an impact. After several years of implementation, now is the time for the U.S. Department of Education to revise its SIG policy to address the positive impact of personalization on high school turnaround, as well as other tenets of high school reform based in research and best practice.”
In total, 285 of 414 schools (69 percent) demonstrated gains in math since the school year prior to receiving SIG funds (2009–10); 122 schools (30 percent) experienced declines, and seven schools (2 percent) demonstrated no change. In reading, 304 of 461 schools (66 percent) demonstrated gains since the 2009–10 school year; 142 schools (31 percent) experienced declines, and 15 schools (3 percent) demonstrated no change.
ED notes that roughly half of schools that received SIG funds in the 2010–11 and 2011–12 school years could not be included in its analysis due to several different reasons, including significant changes in state assessments or cut scores during the grant years, a school split or merger, or missing proficiency rates for a given year.
The complete report is available at