SIG (In)sanity

We interrupt our normal “Three things to read this weekend” schedule to bring you this guest post by Larry Stanton, senior field consultant for Mass Insight Education, on how the new SIG guidance makes it possible for state education agencies to correct past mistakes. Here’s a little teaser – for the full piece, click over to our website!


Albert Einstein reportedly said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Between now and April 15, 2015, when state applications for School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding are due to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), state education agency (SEA) leaders have a chance to demonstrate their sanity.

Over the past four years, SEAs have awarded billions of SIG dollars to hundreds of schools and seen only a marginal return on their in­vestments. On average, schools that received as much as two million dollars each year improved only 2 or 3 percentage points in reading and math. Nearly one-third of SIG schools actually saw declines in student performance.

Why did such a large investment achieve so little? In too many cases, the activities funded with SIG grants failed to target the instructional core: the intersection of student engagement, teacher instructional practice and academically challenging content where student learning occurs.

Three factors explain this missed opportunity. First, not enough time and attention was paid to creating the necessary conditions for school improvement. Second, too many schools funded activities that were not tied to the instructional core. Third, even when schools had good plans, they often failed to implement them with fidelity.

USDOE has issued new rules governing the next round of SIG grants that give SEAs a chance to do it right. The new rules make it possible for SEAs to address each of the reasons SIG grants have failed in the past.