A federally-funded evaluation concluded that the $3.5 Billion spent on School Improvement Grants made no difference. SIG grants were highly punitive, requiring the firing of the principal for starters as an “improvement” strategy and eventually culminating in giving the school to a charter operator or coding it down. It failed to help anyone.

 

This teacher from Utah wrote:

 

 

“I could have saved our country all of that money wasted, before it was even spent! But no one asked the teachers at my school.

 

“We are in our last year of the 3-year SIG money as a turnaround school. From the moment I knew what was going to happen under the grant, I told my colleagues that the whole thing is not going to make a difference, because it wasn’t created under any valid research or by teachers. But on the slim chance it made a difference, it would be because of the sole efforts of expert teachers at my school. We know how to take nothing and turn it into something brilliant.

 

“For years before we started our grant process, we had been asking, even begging, for help with our students. We have had an increasing population year to year, of immigrant and refugee students enrolled at our school. The affects of the violence they’ve been exposed to since they were born and the obstacles of poverty, has been our nemesis. We have over-crowded classrooms, pennies for a supply budget, and no resources to provide to our students who are in desperate need of interventions. The culture of our school is violent, very low English proficiency rates, and high behavior problems due to PTSD and gang influenced families. But teachers at my school persevered as our pleas fell on deaf ears and blind eyes. As the building representative for my district association (Union), I focused on advocating for our students and teachers. People can’t believe you when you share a snippet of how a normal day goes. The absenteeism rate surpasses what is considered as “chronic”, along with a 50% mobility rate. Over 40 different languages are spoken among our students, while the culture of poverty has control over everything about a student. But yes, the rewards could be great! And teachers were dedicated, stable, cohesive, and always collaborating.

 

“Year one of the grant timeline, we had a new principal, and about half of the faculty was new; mostly first year teachers. We all know the idea of new teachers coming into classrooms with minimal education and practical experience, would fail. Absolutely! Some of those newbies taught one year, then left the profession completely. The second year, even more of the veterans at my school decided to transfer, and another half of the teachers left as well. Now, in our last year, there are only 4 teachers left, who we consider the veterans of our school. The running joke for us is if you can teach here, you can teach anywhere! Assessment data that shows levels of mastery and benchmarks, shows that about 75% of our students rank in lower levels across the spectrum; we refer to this as our “many shades of red”, because low performing students are color-coded in red, on data spreadsheets.

 

But the most difficult pill to swallow in this situation, is that the majority of money is spent on the consultant groups. Really? Some expert with a Ph.D. can’t give us ideas or strategies to use with our very unique, and sometimes very volatile students and their disruptive behavior. We have an electronic program to use for documenting behavior, and it shows how much instruction time is lost due to disruptions. It’s shocking to see that the amount of time, in hours and days, is in the double digits. This is outrageous and unacceptable, but still…deaf ears and blind eyes. Despite our efforts inviting administration staff and consultants to come observe our students and see what we deal with, no individual has actually taken up our offer. I think that after they hear about it, they don’t want to see it in real time.

 

So as the school year is getting closer, we all know what could happen to our school if there wasn’t a high level of proficiency demonstrated among students – state takeover and turned into a charter, or simply closed down all together. Naturally, teachers are worried about what will happen, and at the point, even administration doesn’t really know what is going to happen. I also predicted that in this situation, nothing will happen. We’ll continue doing what we are doing, wondering every year if it’s the last year for our school, before being taken over. No way…no one can honestly say what will happen, but I can surely say that nothing will happen, and our school will stay open as a public K-6 school, for years to come. The building would end up being condemned before becoming a charter school. Whatever….

 

“One last thing…teaching social studies is not always acceptable in this situation, because only writing, math, and science are tested subjects. I had to convince my principal to allow me to teach social studies. I see what our newer generation lacks in understanding and skill levels. Haven’t we seen those late shows moments when the host asks random civic questions to people on the street, and they do not know a damn thing! That is scary for me!”