Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rural schools: implementation and impact of School Improvement Grants (SIG)

Federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) support turnaround efforts in the nation’s lowest-performing schools, including many located in rural areas. This evaluation brief examines the special challenges that nine rural SIG schools face in trying to turn around a history of low performance and the approaches that they took to address the challenges.

Key findings include:

•    Although the nine rural case-study SIG schools reported some challenges that nonrural SIG schools have also reported, such as low student motivation and staff morale, they reported additional challenges resulting from their schools’ remote locations and large catchment areas.

•    School and district administrators almost universally suggested that long teacher commutes or isolated communities posed challenges to recruiting or retaining teachers. To counter these challenges, respondents in two schools reported offering direct support for teacher commutes (for example, gas stipends or vans), and respondents in three schools reported offering signing bonuses to incoming teachers.

•    School and district administrators and teaching staff mentioned multiple factors limiting parent involvement in school-based activities, such as a lack of access to transportation and long distances between schools and parents’ homes. Four schools focused on hiring or expanding the role of parent liaisons to increase parent involvement.

Findings are based on spring 2012 site visits and teacher survey responses in nine rural SIG schools located in eight districts and four states. These case study schools were part of a cohort that received SIG over a three-year period (school years 2010-11 to 2012-13).

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