In a new January 2011 brochure directed at parents, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) asks “does your school need a fresh start?” and “are your children getting the education they need?” The brochure is intended to help parents understand the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program and encourages them to become actively involved in turning around low-performing schools. The brochure stresses that ED is offering states billions of dollars in competitive SIGs to support state and local efforts to turn low-performing schools into “models of educational excellence.” One of several key changes cited as necessary to achieve this goal is establishing “a professional learning culture where teachers can analyze data about their students’ performance, collaborate within and across grades and subjects, plan and revise lessons, and offer special help to meet students’ needs.” The brochure directs parents to ED’s website, http://www2.ed.gov/programs/sif/index.html, to learn more about the SIG program and urges parents to work with school leaders and teachers to set high academic standards for their children and their schools.
In its December 2010 SIG newsletter, School Turnaround, ED highlighted the success of efforts at Creighton School District in Arizona to partner with parents to improve student and school performance. The district’s Academic Parent Teacher Team program replaced the traditional parent-teacher conference with a group meeting three times per year where a teacher meets with all of the parents of his/her students in a single meeting. At the meeting, the teacher outlines the specific academic goals for the class. Aggregated whole class data is shared with parents and parents can compare this data with the individual performance of his/her child. Based on the data, the teacher provides support to each parent as necessary to help his/her child achieve specific academic goals.
The December 2010 SIG newsletter also reported that, according to data from 44 states, 730 schools are in the process of turning around low-performing schools using one of the four turnaround models recommended in the SIG program policies: 71% are using the transformation model (new principal working with existing teachers); 21% are using the Turnaround model (new principal working with at least 50% new teachers); 5% are using the Restart model (school conversion to a new school or closed and reopened under an independent organization); and 3% have elected School Closure (closing schools and enrolling students in higher-performing schools). A copy of the ED brochure and the SIG newsletter can be obtained at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/sif/resources.html.