Don’t Pop the Champagne Yet, But…

Some promising preliminary data from year 1 of the expanded School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said yesterday. The percentage of students meeting reading or math standards increased in about 60% of SIG schools, with about one-quarter making double-digit gains in math, one-fifth in reading.

The good news is that, thanks to SIG, the bottom 5 percent of schools are getting the funds needed to invest in new systems: changing the basic working and operating conditions and building capacity with new staff. But it’s still unclear which districts are making the systemic restructuring changes needed to ensure that these gains are extended and sustained.

HT to Ed Week’s Alyson Klein, reporting from Grad Nation Summit.

A few Duncan quotes from her blog:

“As encouraging as these increases in academic achievement are, I want to be clear that they are still preliminary,” he said. “We’re only talking about the first year of data, and everyone recognizes that we will need several years of data to confirm a lasting improvement in academic achievement.”

And she said Duncan reminded folks that the department got a lot of flak when it rolled out the four SIG models in late 2009.

“Almost immediately, armchair analysts, bloggers, and pundits virtually uniformly predicted that the SIG program would flop,” he said. “They said it would be a terrible waste of time, talent, goodwill, and money. …. Fortunately, great teachers, great community partners and parents—and most importantly, committed students—didn’t listen to the skeptics.”