School Improvement Grants (SIGs) were grants for state education agencies to address underperformance in public schools in the US. The SIG program required schools to adopt a reform model by choosing among four alternatives: the transformation model required reforms in the school instructional and evaluation system and changing the leadership; the turnaround model required the same transformations plus replacing 50% of the staff; the restart model required closing the school and opening it under the leadership of an education management organization; and the closure model required closing the school. Among these models, most of the SIG schools chose the transformation model, some schools the turnaround model, and a few schools the restart model.
A recent study evaluated the effects of SIGs on student academic achievement and graduation rates, focusing on schools that adopted the transformation and turnaround models. A total of 99 schools and 35,200 students in grades 3 and 8 were included in the sample. State administrative data on standardized tests in mathematics, ELA, and graduation rates were collected from three years prior to the SIG funding and 3-4 years after its end. Sixty-six SIG schools were compared to similar schools in the same district. Results showed that:
- Significant positive effects (ES = +0.12) in mathematics after the first year of SIG implementation and it was found by the third year (ES = +0.23). Significant long-term effects 3-4 years after the end of the program (ES = +0.12).
- Effects for ELA was non-significant after the first year (ES = +0.04), but a positive and significant effect in the third year (ES = +0.12) and a significant long-term effect (ES=+0.11).
- Between the two SIG models, the effects were larger for the turnaround model (ES for math, year 3: +0.30; ES for ELA year 3: +0.13) than for the transformation one (ES for math, year 3: +0.19; ES for ELA year 3: +0.12).
- Long-term effects after 3-4 years were positive and significant for the turnaround model in math (ES = +0.18).
This study assessed to what extent government investments in school reforms can have short-term and long-term impacts on student academic achievement. Although the SIG funding ended under the ESSA law, this study and its findings may be relevant at state and district levels to continue reforming low-performing schools.
Source: Sun, M., Kennedy, A. I., & Loeb, S. (2021). The longitudinal effects of school improvement grants. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 43(4), 647–667. https://doi.org/10.3102/01623737211012440