Memo to the Field from Ira Schwartz, Assistant Commissioner for Accountability
New York State Education Department
Field Guidance Memorandum
Federal School Improvement Grants Under Section 1003(g) of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act
|| Superintendents of Schools
Charter Schools Administrators
Title I Coordinators
|From:||Ira Schwartz, Assistant Commissioner for Accountability|
|Subject:||School Improvement Grants 1003(g)|
On January 21, 2010, the United States Education Department (USED) released final requirements for School Improvement Grants (SIG) authorized under Section 1003g) of Title I of the ESEA. The requirements and the guidance are available at: www2.ed.gov/programs/sif/index.html. This memo is to update you on the requirements and the proposed timeline for the dispersal of these funds.
Through the SIG program, the USED requires State educational agencies (SEAs) to prioritize funding to local educational agencies (LEAs) with the lowest-achieving schools that have the greatest need and demonstrate the strongest commitment to use the funds to significantly raise the achievement of their students. It is USDE’s expectation that SIG funds are used for the implementation of one of four rigorous school intervention models—turnaround, restart, school closure, and transformation—in each persistently lowest-achieving school.
Consistent with USED requirements, The New York State Education Department (SED) has developed a methodology to identify persistently lowest-achieving schools. For the 2009-10 school year, a school is persistently lowest-achieving if:
- the school is in the Restructuring phase of New York’s Differentiated Accountability System; and
- the school’s 2008-09 average Performance Index for the All Students group in English language arts and mathematics combined was 144.5 or less if a Title I school or 146.5 or less if a Title I eligible secondary school; and
- the school failed to make at least a 25-point gain for the All Students group on each ELA and mathematics measure for which the school was accountable between SY 2005-06 and SY 2008-09.
- the school has a graduation rate below 60 percent for the All Students group on its 2002, 2003, and 2004 graduation rate cohort.
On January 21, Commissioner David M. Steiner announced the schools in the State that have been identified as persistently lowest-achieving. See www.oms.nysed.gov/press/PersistentlyLowAchiev2010.html.
Some, but not all, schools identified as Persistently Lowest Achieving have also been identified as School Under Registration Review (SURR). Later this year, Commissioner Steiner will ask the Regents to amend their regulations to merge the SURR and Persistently Lowest Achieving processes. With the approval of the Regents, schools that are identified as persistently lowest achieving during the 2009-10 school year will be required by Commissioner’s regulations to implement a school intervention model as approved by the Commissioner. Failure to successfully implement an intervention model could subject schools to revocation of registration. Schools that successfully implement a turnaround or restart model or that improve results sufficiently to no longer meet the criteria for identification as persistently lowest achieving will be removed from registration review.
To ensure that school improvement funds are targeted to LEAs with these schools, the USED requires each SEA to identify three tiers of schools:
- Tier I schools: any Title I that has been identified as persistently lowest-achieving;
- Tier II schools: any secondary school that is eligible for but does not receive Title I, Part A funds that has been identified as persistently lowest-achieving;
- Tier III schools: any Title I school in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that is not a Tier I school.
The New York State Education Department will provide LEAs with SIG grants under 1003(g) to facilitate implementation of one of the following four school intervention models in Tier I and Tier II schools:
- Turnaround: Phase out and replace the school with a new school(s) or completely redesign the school, including replacing the principal and at least half the staff.
- Restart Model: Either convert a school to a charter school or replace a public school with a new charter school that will serve the students who would have attended the public school. Under certain circumstances, districts may also enter into contracts with the City University of New York or the State University of New York for them to manage public schools.
- Transformation: Similar to the turnaround model, but with a requirement for an evaluation of staff effectiveness developed by the LEA in collaboration with teachers and principals that takes into account data on student growth, multiple observation-based assessments, and portfolios of professional activities. Evaluations would serve as the basis for rewarding effective teachers and removing ineffective teachers after ample professional development opportunities. A school that opts for a transformation model does not close but rather remains identified as persistently lowest-achieving until it demonstrates improved academic results.
- School closure: Close the school and enroll the students who attended the school in higher achieving schools in the LEA.
Under Section 1003(g), LEAs with Tier I and Tier II schools will be able to receive from $500,000 up to $2 million per school annually to implement a model selected by the LEA and approved by SED. This funding is contingent on the LEA’s demonstrated capacity to implement the selected models and an approved application and budget that includes sufficient funds to implement the selected intervention model fully and effectively in each school. SED anticipates that sufficient funding will be available to fully fund implementation of one of the four intervention models in all Tier I and Tier II schools. In addition, SED anticipates that funding may be available to provide support to a select group of Tier III schools.
It is the USDE’s expectation that this significant increase in funding levels will enable States and LEAs to comprehensively implement the prescribed intervention models in targeted persistently lowest-achieving schools. Detailed descriptions of each of the four models can be found at: www.oms.nysed.gov/press/attachb_jan2010.html.
According to the most current USED guidance that SED has received, an LEA to receive funding to implement a model in an identified school must demonstrate that the school has the capacity “to get the basic elements of the model up an running at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.” While USED recognizes that certain model components, such as job-embedded professional development or identifying and rewarding teachers and principals who have increased student achievement will occur later in the process, elements involving school leadership and staff are considered basic elements of the turnaround and transformation models.
SED staff have been informed that USED’s expectations are as follows:
- For the turnaround and transformation models, the principal must be replaced prior to the start of the 2010-2011 school year. There is no exception for retaining a principal who has been in the school for more than two years. For the turnaround model, the LEA must demonstrate the capacity to rehire no more than 50% of staff, and select new staff to be in place for the start of the 2010-2011 school year.
- LEAs that wish to receive funding must declare before the start of the 2010-11 school which model each identified school will implement; LEAs may at a later date change from one model to another. For example, an LEA may initially implement the transformation model in a school and subsequently determine that the school should switch to the turnaround model.
- School improvement funds cannot be used during 2010-2011 to plan for implementation of a model beginning in 2011-12. Only schools in which the basic elements of the model are in place at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year can receive funding for the 2010-2011 school year.
- School improvement funds cannot be used to pay for excessed staff, for buyouts, or to retrain teachers during the three-year grant period.
In order to meet these expectations, LEAs may need to engage their collective bargaining units in discussions around the staffing requirements of the models. LEAs and their collective bargaining units will need to decide whether existing collective bargaining agreements need to be revised, and the timeline for those negotiations. As SED continues discussions with the USED regarding flexibility on implementation of model requirements, SED will keep LEAs informed of any changes to the above or additional guidance.
In the coming weeks, SED will provide specific guidance regarding what LEAs will be required to demonstrate for School Improvement Grant plan approval. At minimum, LEAs will need to complete a needs assessment for each identified school; demonstrate capacity to fully fund and implement chosen intervention models; and address through a model implementation plan all of the required elements of one of the four intervention models. In addition, LEAs will be asked to provide evidence that local collective bargaining agreements facilitate implementation through provisions such as allowing involuntary transfers.
Later this month, SED will submit an application to the USED requesting SIG Section 1003(g) funding. The draft will include a proposed LEA application. In April, SED will publish the LEA application and provide technical assistance to districts on completing the application with an anticipated due date of April 30. SED will review the applications in May with anticipated approval of applications and dispersal of funding by the end of June.
SED will keep LEAs informed of the activities related to the above timeline. Should you have any questions, please contact Roberto Reyes at 518-473-0295 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In February, SED will draft an application to the USED requesting SIG Section 1003(g) funding. The draft will include a proposed LEA application. In March, SED will solicit comments from various stakeholders and affected districts and use this information to finalize the application to USED. In April, SED will publish the LEA application and provide technical assistance to districts on completing the application with an anticipated due date of April 30. SED will review the applications in May with anticipated approval of applications and dispersal of funding by the end of June.
SED will keep LEAs informed of the activities related to the above timeline. Should you have any questions, please contact Roberto Reyes at 518-473-0295.
cc: David Steiner