CDE sets timeline for second cohort of SIG schools

Fallout from last spring's federal and state compliance review of School Improvement Grant mandates resulted in the California Department of Education asking to push back application for a second cohort.

With permission recently granted from the U.S. Department of Education for the delay, the CDE has announced Nov. 18 as the new deadline for the second round of funding.

The request for applications for Cohort Two, years 2012-13, has been posted at the CDE website: http://1.usa.gov/vOBSeK

Local educational agencies interested in applying for the SIG funding must be prepared to implement one of the four federal school restructuring models at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

The CDE has also set Nov. 9 as the date that participating LEAs can submit SIG applications for an optional format screening prior to final submission.

A two-day readers conference will be conducted by CDE for application evaluations on Dec. 5 through Dec. 7.

Expectations are that the California State Board of Education will take action on the application approvals at the January, 2012 meeting. CDE will provide immediate notification of approval status.

Sub-grant award letters will go out by Feb. 1, 2012.

Under the program, LEAs will receive a minimum of $50,000 and a maximum of $2 million per year for each of the eligible schools identified in the application.

Requirements of the SIG program - including implementation of school turnaround - will no doubt receive special attention in the years ahead.

Findings from a federal monitor team in March and follow up review from the CDE last spring found that many LEAs funded in the first SIG cohort had delayed spending their grant money.

Further, only a handful of the districts that accepted that money on the condition of carrying out school restructuring had actually implemented the changes by the time of the visit.

Finally, based on the performance of the first cohort, state officials have determined that districts that had been thought to be qualified for grants this year are unqualified as a result of inadequate applications.

The SIG program, a point of emphasis by the Obama administration, offered low-performing schools additional federal support on the condition that district administrators undertake one of four aggressive models for restructuring target schools that include replacing most of the staff or reopening as a charter.

Among their findings was that only two of 91 schools had spent even half of their SIG money as of March 31 while 37 of those schools had spent less than 20 percent by the same date.

In addition to failing to implement school restructuring, most districts were also found to have not undertaken SIG requirements related to providing increased learning time in core subjects, enrichment instruction as well as professional development for teachers.

For those districts out of compliance, the CDE has undertaken corrective action plans that are currently underway.

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