At a Brookings Institution event today, Education Secretary Arne Duncan put aside a lot of the rhetoric he’s been pushing lately on the “Race to the Top” to focus on those languishing at the bottom.
He seems to want to direct our attention to a less-talked-about pot of money—the $3 billion in Title I funding that’s set aside as school improvement grants for the lowest performing schools. Coupled with $1.5 billion in the fiscal 2010 federal budget, that means low-performing schools have available to them almost as much as is in the $5 billion Race to the Top fund, he told the packed crowed.
Duncan wants to target the lowest 1 percent of schools—those schools where student achievement hasn’t improved in years—to be eligible for new staff and leadership. In fact, he seems intent on seeing 5,000 of the nation’s worst schools closed and reopened within five years.
That may be an ambitious goal. After all, the new Coalition for Student Achievement (made up of leaders from the Broad and Gates foundations, along with other education advocates) declared that a measure of success would be whether 500 schools are closed by 2012.