"So the U.S. Department of Education released summary data last week on the School Improvement Grant or SIG program. In a nutshell, the data showed that after $3 billion in stimulus funding, plus more than $1 billion in regular congressional appropriations, roughly two-thirds of SIG schools that were in the program for two years showed some improvement. But another third of SIG schools stagnated—or even slid backward.
"There are big differences of opinion over whether that constitutes "incremental progress" (U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's view) or whether that's a total disaster for the already controversial, much maligned SIG program.
"But almost everyone agrees that the data left out a lot of things that could prove pivotal when trying to make claims about the efficacy of the program..."
What was not pointed out was the success of Wyoming, Michigan's Lee High School (Godfrey-Lee Public Schools) during the three years it effectively employed a SIG grant after being notified in 2010 that it was on the dreaded list of persistently low-achieving schools (PLA). In short, the school went from the 9th percentile of all Michigan schools to 63rd percentile in just the first two years of the grant. During the third year it lost a few points but still leads most of the surrounding high schools in the rankings.
Also not pointed out was the fact that the staff, students and parents of Lee High School were able to do this in spite of being located in a one-square-mile school district of 1,900 that:
1. Has the 5th lowest property value per pupil in the State of Michigan.
2. Has the highest poverty percentage in the county for school-age children ages 5-17.
3. Has the second highest percentage of limited English language students in the state.
4. Has a student body that is 85% "minority."
5. Has a transiency rate by the end of 8th grade of nearly 50% of its students, where less than half of the students have been attending district schools for 3 or more years.
6. Has had to cut staffing and trim critical programs due to a 14% real dollar decline in the per pupil foundation allowance over the past ten years, including a $470 per pupil cut by the current Governor.
Despite the obstacles listed above, nearly 30% of students who attend the district are enrolled through schools-of-choice having decided that Lee High and our other schools have the programs and family-centered learning climate they want. In fact, the district's overall enrollment has ballooned by more than 33% since 2002 and Lee High School currently has the largest enrollment in its history.
And despite occasional accolades from Michigan Department of Education staff delivered to us second-hand, not one elected leader in this state or elsewhere has ever stopped by or even bothered to communicate "job well done."
And people wonder why our students and staff call themselves Rebels.