Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Federal School Improvement Grants: 25 Case Studies

Federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) support turnaround efforts in many of the nation’s lowest-performing schools. This report examines the first year of SIG implementation (2010-11) in a diverse, purposive sample of 25 low-performing case study schools.

Key findings include:

•    The 25 schools differed in their community and fiscal context, their performance and reform history, and their interpretation of the causes of—and potential solutions for—their performance problems.

•    Approaches to leadership varied across the 25 schools, with most principals exhibiting a mix of transformational, instructional, and strategic leadership qualities.

•    The 25 schools identified 11 improvement strategies and actions, most often increasing professional development activities, replacing the principal, and increasing learning time. Most of the schools did not perceive SIG as the primary impetus for change: just 7 of the 25 schools experienced a disruption from past practice, and in 19 of the 25 schools, the improvement strategies and actions in the first year of SIG were a continuation of activities or plans that predated SIG.

•    All but one of the 25 schools perceived improvement in at least some areas, most often a safe and orderly school climate, and teacher collaboration. Schools that perceived the most improvements were more likely to have experienced a disruption from past practice, and to have principals with higher levels of strategic leadership.

Findings are based on spring 2011 site visits, teacher survey responses, and fiscal records for 25 SIG schools located in 13 districts and 6 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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