By Theresa Harrington
Friday, October 28th, 2011 at 6:29 pm in Education.
Last July, the state Board of Education decided to required most of the school districts that had been receiving School Improvement Grants (SIGs) to submit Corrective Action Plans because they were not adhering to the federal grant requirements.
The Mt. Diablo district submitted its Corrective Action Plan in September, without presenting it the school board for approval. It is still waiting to hear if it will get the funding.
At issue was the district’s initial failure to increase instructional learning time for all students and to develop a more rigorous teacher and principal evaluation system based partially on student performance. To remedy these issues, the district negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the MDEA teachers’ union to extend the school days at the three schools receiving grants: Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shore Acres elementary schools in Bay Point.
The district and union also agreed to pilot a new evaluation system for teachers at those schools. Both of these agreements may be extended to Meadow Homes Elementary and Oak Grove Middle School, which plan to apply for SIGs later this year, as part of a second round of funding. All districts that applied for this second round (including MDUSD) were rejected by the state because they didn’t comply with the federal requirements. So, all eligible districts can reapply.
The district’s Corrective Action Plan notes that instructional learning time at the three campuses has increased by 9,369 to 16,490 minutes, depending on the school and grade level. However, it does not appear to mention that the district is seeking to reduce this school year by five days, which would substantially decrease instructional learning time gained through extending the days.
The California Department of Education is behind schedule on informing the district whether or not its grant will be approved. I spoke with a CDE rep about a month ago, who said the state was still awaiting clarification from the U.S. Department of Education on instructional learning time.
However, I received the following information in an e-mail from a U.S. Department of Education spokesperson on Monday:
Q: What is the status of the CA SIG grant
“Answer: As you probably know, the state makes determinations on whether to renew a school district’s SIG grant with respect to schools that are not meeting their goals and making progress on their leading indicators. If a SIG school does not meet its annual achievement goals established by the school district, then the state has discretion to examine factors such as the school’s progress on the leading indicators or the fidelity with which it is implementing the model in deciding whether to renew the district’s SIG grant with respect to that school.
The Department has been working with the California Department of Education and has provided additional guidance to them on increased learning time. The state has all the information it needs to make its decisions about administering its grants, including renewal decisions.”
Q: Many California school districts are reducing the number of school days due to budget cuts. Would this prevent them from qualifying for School Improvement Grants? (If the overall instructional time is reduced.)
“Answer: No, it doesn’t prevent districts from applying for a SIG grant. Two of the SIG models do not require increased learning time; for districts applying to implement the two models that do require increased learning time, their applications would likely be assessed, in part, on the amount of instructional time they added, either through the school day, before or after school, or before or after the school year.”
The reform models that do not require increased learning time are school closure and restarting the school under new management.
The district’s Corrective Action Plans also call for four-week “early back” programs available to all students in the summer.
Do you believe this plan merits renewed funding?