Ten Pennsylvania Schools to Share $6.9 Million in Federal Funds to Initiate Reform

Aug 01, 2012, 11:36 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Education

HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis today announced the award of $6.9 million in federal School Improvement Grants to 10 of Pennsylvania's lowest-performing schools.

"Pennsylvania has a rich educational history and is home to some of the best and brightest school leaders, educators and students; but unfortunately there are too many schools that have a history of persistently failing to provide their students with a quality education," Tomalis said.

"The intent of the School Improvement Grants is to allow low-performing schools to implement innovative educational initiatives that meet the needs of the students they serve and ensure their students receive a world-class education," Tomalis said.

"I applaud the leadership of these schools for acknowledging the challenges they face and seeking an opportunity to reform their educational programs."

The Pennsylvania Department of Education awarded the grants through a competitive application process. The applications were reviewed and scored by a panel of peer reviewers who then made award recommendations.

In order for a school to be eligible for funds, it must be among the lowest-achieving schools in Pennsylvania, which have failed to make substantial progress on state assessments or have a graduation rate of less than 60 percent for at least two of the last three years.

While 115 schools met those criteria and were eligible for grants, only 21 schools submitted applications.

"It is inexcusable that 82 percent of eligible schools chose not to engage in a simple application process that could have resulted in additional educational opportunities for students."

Of the 21 schools that submitted an application for funding, 10 did not meet the necessary requirements of the grant by submitting subpar grant applications.

As part of the competitive application process, eligible schools must adopt and implement one of four reform models developed by the federal government: Transformation, Turnaround, Restart and School Closure.

If a school chooses to adopt the Transformation Model, teachers and principals must be assessed using a rigorous, transparent and equitable evaluation system; in Pennsylvania this means taking part in the Department of Education's teacher and principal evaluation pilot program. Staff must also participate in high-quality professional development and be involved in curriculum design and development.

The Turnaround Model involves the "turn around" of schools through the implementation of nine broad strategies, including changing the school leadership, replacing at least 50 percent of the staff, requiring high-quality professional development and the adoption of new governance.

The Restart Model enables a district to choose between re-opening a school as a charter school or have an education management organization take over operations.

The School Closure Model allows a district to transfer students out of the low-performing school and into higher-achieving schools within the district's boundaries.

The 2009-10 school year was the first time School Improvement Grants were made available as a competitive grant to schools through federal funding. Last year, $66 million was distributed in the grant money to 26 schools statewide.

"While I applaud those school leaders who are striving to improve the educational opportunities for their students, we must remain cognizant of the fact that as we wait for change to occur at the local, state and federal levels, thousands of students in Pennsylvania are slipping through the cracks," Tomalis said.

"The eight-year-old boy who sat in a third grade classroom in a low-achieving school this past year had one opportunity to receive a third-grade education. We all need to remember that our inaction in changing our education system is hurting our youngest citizens and will have detrimental effects on Pennsylvania's future."

Editor's note: Below is the list of grantees, the reform model that will be implemented and the award amount for the 2012-13 school year:

Albert Gallatin Area School District, Fayette County

Albert Gallatin High School, Transformation, $1,008,323

Corry Area School District, Erie County

Corry Area High School, Transformation, $787,864

Greater Johnstown School District, Cambria County

Greater Johnstown Middle School, Transformation, $989,459

Lebanon School District, Lebanon County

Lebanon High School, Transformation, $816,133

Philadelphia School District, Philadelphia County

Grover Cleveland School, Restart, $1,385,140

William Penn School District, Delaware County

Aldan Elementary School, Transformation, $438,700

York City School District, York County

Edgar Fahs Smith Middle School, Closure, $116,116
Hannah Penn Middle School, Closure, $118,237
McKinley Elementary School, Transformation, $563,000
William Penn High School, Transformation, $730,710

Media contact: Tim Eller, 717-783-9802

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Education