Between the School Improvement Grants (SIG), the Smaller Learning Communities Program (SLC), Race to the Top (RTTT) and the High School Graduation Initiative (HSGI), it’s an exciting and challenging time to be in high school reform. With this myriad of federal funds available, it remains to be seen whether varying grant requirements allow states and districts to craft comprehensive plans to utilize all available funds in an aligned approach to high school reform. It is a challenge for states and districts to design a comprehensive plan when they may or may not receive federal funds necessary to implement the initiatives involved, but some districts have clearly risen to the challenge.
One such example is Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Gardena High School in California is or will be receiving funds from SLC, HSGI and SIG. Gardena High School’s SIG proposal centers on the ground-laying work they have done with SLC funds. All improvement plans are within the context of newly established smaller learning communities with the eventual goal of establishing autonomous small schools by 2014. All three of the grant applications place an emphasis on struggling students. LAUSD’s SIG funds will go toward literacy and math interventions for students who are not on track. Gardena proposed the use of Graduation Promotion Counselors who will help track at-risk student needs and efforts in both SIG and HSGI grant applications, while HSGI will also provide credit-recovery and outreach for students who have dropped out. Finally, other efforts, such as a Summer Bridge Academy for incoming freshman, will be supported by both efforts. SIG funds will be used to pay staff to run the summer bridge and help identify students’ academic needs. HSGI will be used to fund a parent component to the Summer Bridge Academy to provide families with information on high school transition and graduation requirements. It is clear from all three proposals that LAUSD and Gardena High School thought carefully about how to align their grant proposals so that funds from SLC, HSGI and SIG could be used in a targeted, comprehensive approach.
As districts and schools prepare applications for round two of SIG, we hope to see similar efforts to present comprehensive plans for reform that extend beyond the individual grants. The U. S. Department of Education has stated its commitment to allowing states and districts more flexibility in leveraging resources for comprehensive school reform. We look forward to sharing other examples of how these efforts are succeeding.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.