Are SIG Dollars Making a Difference?

A mixed picture on SIG fund impact, according to reports from Mass Insight and other national groups at a turnaround conference organized by the Education Writers Association in Chicago this past Saturday.

The EWA convening kicks off a special editorial project of EWA, Education Week and the Hechinger Report to report on the impact of SIG investments.  More to come from the group in an April announcement.

Presentations from Dan Duke (University of Virginia), Sarah Yatsko (Univ. of Washington, CRPE), Tim Knowles (University of Chicago Urban Education Institute) and myself for Mass Insight reached similar conclusions:

  • Too much “light touch”, widespread state and district use of traditional interventions—a new evaluation, new plan, more coaching, more PD, and “hope for the best”— Over 70 percent of schools are choosing transformation under SIG….with likely marginal, isolated gains. (See the new report by CRPE on SIG).
  • School turnaround requires a long term commitment.  States/districts on the hook and focus and funds are leading to some likely gains (see USDOE report.)
  • Leading states are driving bolder actions:  SIG has provided resources and political cover for some states to drive their districts to take bolder, more effective action (Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, Louisiana, and Indiana are good examples). An excellent and well-researched NC evaluation report points to the impact of “smart staff replacement” strategies.” Also, this Mass Insight report highlights improved state models for SIG.

Other conclusions from the EWA conference:

  • There are no silver bullets – effective interventions pull multiple levers in a comprehensive strategy.
  • Sustain the gains – there has been too little focus on how to sustain gains produced through turnaround interventions. New district structures and systems are needed to support clusters of schools.

Next week we’ll hear more from one of my fellow presenters, Jennifer Husbands from AUSL, on the importance of conditions and capacity building in successful turnaround.