07/20/2011 05:57 pm ET | Updated Aug 16, 2012

School Improvement Grants Announced: Wyoming, Washington D.C., Indiana and North Dakota

Yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that Washington, D.C. and 3 states would receive School Improvement Grants (SIG) to turn around their lowest performing schools.

The SIG program, was started under the Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965 and significantly expanded by the Obama administration in 2009 to provide a larger amount of funding for schools willing to comply with the Department of Education's vision of school reform.

According to the Associated Press, the program targets the bottom 5 percent of schools within a state and those with consistently low graduation rates, offering them funding to assist in restructuring if they agree to one of four overhaul models.

From the Department of Education:

When a school system applies for SIG funding, it must indicate that it will implement one of four intervention models in each of its persistently lowest-achieving schools, based on school needs:

  • Turnaround Model: Replace the principal, screen existing school staff, and rehire no more than half the teachers; adopt a new governance structure; and improve the school through curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.
  • Restart Model: Convert a school or close it and re-open it as a charter school or under an education management organization.
  • School Closure: Close the school and send the students to higher-achieving schools in the district.
  • Transformation Model: Replace the principal and improve the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.

“When a school continues to perform in the bottom 5 percent of the state and isn't showing signs of progress or has graduation rates below 60 percent over a number of years, something dramatic needs to be done," Duncan said in a statement Tuesday. "Turning around our worst performing schools is difficult for everyone, but it is critical that we show the courage to do the right thing by kids."

The grants announced yesterday included $9 million to Indiana, $1.22 million to Wyoming, $1.79 million to the District of Columbia, and $1.31 million to North Dakota.

Indiana has 267 schools that are eligible for the funding, explaining its larger SIG sum, according to WISH-TV.

The SIG program granted $3.5 billion dollars over the 2009 fiscal year, and the newly announced funding is out of the $546 million available for the 2010 fiscal year.

Last year, 800 schools nationwide were identified as chronically underperforming and eligible for funding.