A new report out of the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education suggests that $40 million in federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) to 18 Washington schools is not having the kind of transformational impact intended:
"Despite the hard work on the part of many district administrators, principals and especially teachers, the overwhelming majority of the schools studied so far exhibit little evidence of the type of bold and transformative changes" envisioned by the program, the report concluded.
[...] In receiving the grant money, schools agreed to make changes under one of four models: permanently closing; restarting under the control of an outside organization; reopening with a new principal and mostly new staff or replacing the principal and implementing broad curriculum changes.
The final and least disruptive, called "transformation," was the choice of a majority of school districts across the country and at 14 of the state's 18 schools; three others chose the third option and the other school used the money to close its doors.
So, a few thoughts on this news.
1) Notice that researchers are disappointed that more schools didn't choose the options that would have resulted in firing all the teachers, because apparently, blaming teachers is what passes for "bold" educational reform these days.
2) The study only looked at how the schools spent the money, not whether it produced positive results. So for all the disappointment, there's little data yet to determine if the changes managed to improve student performance.
3) There are actually no credible peer-reviewed studies that conclude that such radical transformations tend to improve student performance on average. But, you know, it's cheaper to make a one-time expenditure and then claim "See... we did something big!" than it is to provide the ongoing financial support necessary to make a real difference.
4) In contrast, there is one reform that everybody knows works: high quality early education like universal preschool and full-day kindergarten. But God forbid we should embrace a reform that costs money, when it's so much cheaper to just blame everything on teachers and their unions.