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A Blow to Obama's Department of Education: Final Report Finds Billion-Dollar School Improvement Efforts Ineffective

A new and final report released by the Department of Education this week has analyzed the effectiveness of the School Improvement Grants (SIG) awarded throughout the Obama administration.

In order to assess the effectiveness of the grants, the Department of Education took a look at how schools that implemented SIG changed their practices to adhere to the required practices as well as took a look at whether or not schools that received grants improved student outcomes.

Through this analysis, the report devastatingly concluded:

Overall, across all grades, we found that implementing any SIG-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment.

In other words, schools that received grants and thus adhered to the SIG-model did not improve student outcomes in any sense of the term.

SIG-awarded schools were required by the Department to adopt one of four school intervention models:

  • Transformation - failing school was to "replace the principal, adopt a teacher and principal evaluation system that accounted for student achievement growth as a significant factor, adopt a new governance structure, institute comprehensive instructional reforms, increase learning time, create community-oriented schools, and have operational flexibility"
  • Turnaround - failing school was to "replace the principal, replace at least 50 percent of the school staff, institute comprehensive instructional reforms, increase learning time, create community-oriented schools, and have operational flexibility"
  • Restart - failing school was to close and reopen as charter school or under charter school management
  • School closure - failing school was to close and re-enroll students in high-performing schools

When accounting for all above models, the report concluded the process "did not have an impact on the use of practices promoted by the program or on student outcomes (including math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment)."

When speculating as to why this is so, the report said that research on the practices SIG promoted has been mixed.

"...previous literature provides mixed evidence on the effectiveness of some of these practices at raising student achievement," the report said.

According to an expert who spoke with The Washington Post, the report's findings could bolster the plans of Donald Trump and Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos to dramatically reform education.

"Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work," Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute told The Post.

"I can imagine Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump saying this is exactly why kids need school choice," he said.

In just five years, the Obama administration funneled $7 billion into the effort.

The full report can be found here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

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