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Billions Up For Grabs For School Improvement

Education department points to work funded by NEA Foundation as example of positive transformation

By Cynthia McCabe

Friday, December 4, 2009 -- Help is on the way for the nation’s lowest performing schools, in the form of $3.5 billion in school improvement grants, the rules for which were released yesterday by the Department of Education.

"As a country, we all need to get into the turnaround business," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, calling the multi-billion investment in education an incentive, “so that school districts, unions, charter operators, universities and the business community can come together to turn around our nation's lowest performing schools."

These funds are made available to states by formula and competed for by school districts. As they compete for the funds, school districts must identify the schools they want to transform and then determine which of four improvement models they will use to do that.

In releasing the rules Thursday, the Department of Education touted work in Hamilton County, Tennessee, where the school district, local education association, and community partners used the “transformation model” thanks to a pilot program paid for under the NEA Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative.

During the last five years, Hamilton County received $2.5 million to fund its Middle Schools for a New Society initiative, which places educators at the center of efforts to improve teaching and learning, particularly for low-income and minority students. 

To learn more about the school-union partnership transforming Hamilton County schools, click the video in the right-hnd column of this page.

Applications for School Improvement Grants are now available here. They are due by February 8.


Click to read a story and watch a video about NEA Foundation's work in Hamilton County, TN and other parts of the country.

Learn about NEA's Priority Schools Campaign to boost achievement at the schools of greatest need