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States Differ in Doling Out Turnaround Funds, Study Finds

By Alyson Klein — March 20, 2012 1 min read

States have gone a bunch of different directions in giving districts money through the federal School Improvement Grant program, the largest national effort yet to turn around the nation’s lowest-performing schools, according to a report released today by the Center for American Progress.

The report found big disparities in how selective states have been in deciding which schools got their share of the $3.5 billion in competitive grants made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. (Primer here.)

Some states—like Alaska, Kentucky, Oregon, and Vermont—had a 100 percent application-approval rate. Others, like Delaware, Louisiana and Mississippi, gave the go-ahead to less than 30 percent of the schools who applied. (Handy chart on pages 16 and 17 of the report.)

The report zooms in on the process in three states: Illinois, Louisiana, and Vermont. All three looked at district capacity to support schools in deciding which got the grants. A competitive program didn’t neccessarily translate into better applications, so the three states had to work with districts to boost their ability to help turnaround schools.

The report is the second this week to take a close look at the Obama administration’s School Improvement Grant program, which has been operating for the past two years. And it comes just a day after U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced rosy—but very preliminary—student-achievement results for the program.