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ARRA Update

Arne Duncan, in talking about the upcoming reauthorization of ESEA, indicated that the Department plans to continue its emphasis on data,  standards, and support of low-performing schools, which are the four policy priorities guiding the stimulus program.  He also noted that the Department plans to continue to focus on providing incentives for successful reform, rather than just sanctions for poor performance

The final application and guidance for the Title 1 School Improvement Grants under ARRA were released on December 3.  Applications are due by February 8th.  Link to final guidance and application.

The program contained a few changes from the draft guidance, including:     

  • -to qualify for these funds, schools must demonstrate not only the need, but the commitment to turn around low performance
  • districts must indicate to the state which model will be used in each target school
  • states may seek a waiver to use the funds beyond September 2011
  • states are permitted to take over a Tier I or Tier II school to implement one of the four models, but unless they do in fact take over a school, the state cannot dictate which model is to be used
  • a common definition was set for the term "persistently low achieving schools" and will be used across all ARRA programs
  • states may apply for a waiver to use these funds to serve Tier II secondary schools

The Center for Education Policy released a report stating that of 45 survey respondents (44 states and Washington DC), 41 say they plan to apply for a Race to the Top grant, even though a majority of those note that it is been a “major problem” to use federal stimulus funding for significant reform so far.

One major change to R2T:  in the draft guidance, the “transformation” model for turnaround was to be considered as a last resort,  only if more aggressive strategies were not feasible.  In the final regs,  districts may choose the transformation model (keep the school open, and keep most staff members, while providing professional development and overhauling curriculum and instruction) as a first option.

The Alliance for Excellent Education just released a “game-changing” report showing the huge impact on the US economy if the dropout rate in large cities was reduced.

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