Examining the results of SIG funding

Former President Obama’s American Investment and Recovery Act of 2009 included $3 billion of funding for School Improvement Grants (SIG). SIG awards went to states’ lowest-performing schools who agreed to implement improvements using either the turnaround, transformation, restart, or closure models, and using four main improvement practices: adopting comprehensive school reform programmes; developing teacher and principal effectiveness; making more time for learning and creating community-orientated schools, and providing support and operational flexibility for schools.

Given the size and expense of the SIG programme, The Institute of Education Sciences at the Department of Education commissioned a report by Lisa Dragoset and colleagues at Mathematica Policy Research, and Cheryl Graczewski and colleagues at the American Institutes for Research, to investigate to what extent the SIG-funded schools used the recommended practices, how these schools compared to non-funded schools, the effect of SIG funding on student outcomes, and which of the intervention models was most effective.

Researchers found that the use of SIG funding had no effect on pupil outcomes in maths or reading test scores, high school graduation, or likelihood to attend college. No SIG model was associated with more gains than another at the elementary (primary school) level, although in grades 6-12 (Years 7-13), SIG-funded schools using the turnaround model were associated with higher pupil maths achievement than the transformational model. More recommended improvement practices were used in SIG-funded schools than in non-funded schools, although not significantly so, and were implemented most often in schools using the school reform model. These findings indicate that SIG funding did not significantly impact pupil achievement outcomes or increase the use of recommended practices, at least for schools near the SIG funding cut-off. They noted that results might be different for schools not near the SIG-funding cut-off.

Source: School Improvement Grants: implementation and effectiveness (January 2017), Institute of Education Sciences

What works for school discipline?

The US Department of Education has published a guidance document for improving school climate and discipline. In response, Child Trends has released a new research brief on school discipline that provides five “things to know” and links to research evidence on various supports and policies. The brief considers, among other issues, the evidence supporting the use of zero tolerance policies.

This 2011 research brief found that there was a lack of rigorous research, but existing case studies and analyses of suspension and expulsion data suggest that zero tolerance policies are not deterring misbehaviour. In contrast, non-punitive programs that take a largely preventive approach to school discipline have been found to keep students and schools safe by reducing the need for harsh discipline. These programs include targeted behavioural supports for students who are at-risk for violent behaviour, character education programs, or positive behavioural interventions and supports that are introduced across a school.