At 50CAN, we pride ourselves on constantly revisiting our work and measuring our progress.  Changing the system so that all kids can have great schools is a difficult job, but it’s also an urgent one and we can’t waste our time on things that don’t get results. So I was excited to read initial reviews by the Department of Education about the the success of the federal School Improvement Grants program.

Excited firstly because I am—like so many of my 50CAN teammates—a data nerd. Excited secondly because I believe that any program supported by public dollars should be constantly reviewed to make sure they’re actually working. And excited thirdly because these preliminary numbers suggest that despite all the criticisms and doubts, the program is working.

The numbers are still early, but for 2010-11 (the only year for which data is available) the Department of Education reports that proficiency levels have increased in 60 percent of schools.  Twenty-five percent of schools showed an impressive double-digit increase in math proficiency, with 20 percent showing an increase in reading proficiency.

This is not the conclusive word on the program. More data will be available in the coming years and with it, an opportunity for an even more fine-tuned analysis.  But when the Obama administration rolled out the proposed changes and increases to the program, the chorus of naysayers who swore it could not, would not improve these schools, was deafening.  Opponents insisted that the models were too limited and proscriptive and that this increase in federal dollars for public schools was large and unwarranted (far more SIG money was approved than was included in Race to the Top). 

We all need to watch and see if the long-term numbers stay in line with the initial analysis but right now, it looks like allowing states to invest in schools that are willing to do the hard work of real change is a great strategy.

Read Secretary Duncan’s announcement on the SIG results here.


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