A new evaluation published by Mathematica Policy Research concluded that the School Improvement Grant strategies promoted by former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan were ineffective.


Schools that received School Improvement Grants (SIG) to implement school intervention models used more of the practices promoted by these models than schools that did not receive grants. However, the SIG-funded models had no effect on student achievement, according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Education. Through $3.5 billion dollars in grants in 2010, the SIG program aimed to improve student achievement in the nation’s lowest-performing schools. This is the final report from the multiyear SIG evaluation led and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, with partners American Institutes for Research and Social Policy Research Associates, for the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.


These schools implemented one of four strategies recommended by the U.S. Department of Education:


  1. Transformation: replace the principal, use student test scores to evaluate teachers, use data to inform instruction, and lengthen the school day or year;
  2. Turnaround: replace the principal, replace at least 50% of the staff, use data to inform instruction, lengthen the school day or year;
  3. Restart: convert to charter school;
  4. Closure: close the school and send students to higher-achieving schools.


“There are several possible reasons why the SIG program had no impact on student achievement,” says Lisa Dragoset, a senior researcher at Mathematica and director of the evaluation. “One possible reason is that the program did not lead to a large increase in the number of SIG-promoted practices that schools used. It is also possible that the practices were ineffective or not well implemented.”


Wow! $3.5 billion down the drain. $3.5 billion that might have been used to reduce class sizes for struggling students, that might have been used to create health clinics for needy students, that might have been used to fund orchestras and teachers of the arts.


While we are all shaking our heads over Betsy DeVos and her evangelical agenda, we have to save a few shakes of the head for the disastrous education legacy of the Obama administration, which spent billions on testing, privatization, closing schools, invalid teacher evaluations, Common Core, and other ineffective strategies.