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Arne Duncan Doles Out Grants to Help Train Turnaround Leaders

The U.S. Department of Education is giving 12 districts, states, non-profits, or post-secondary institutions $20 million total to meet one of the biggest challenges in K-12: finding, training, and keeping good turnaround principals.

The money comes straight out of the roughly $500 million Congress allocates to the School Improvement Grant program. The competition was first announced, without much fanfare, back in March.

The SIG program requires schools to replace principals that have been on the job for more than three years—but a lot of schools just can't find the right leaders. The vacuum is one of the biggest criticisms of the SIG program, which is in the process of a makeover after posting decidedly mixed results on student outcomes

The new school leadership grant program was open to states, districts, or consortiums of districts that contain at least five SIG schools, or post-secondary institutions or non-profits partnering with districts. Recipients can use the money for both finding and developing new leaders for SIG schools, and to finance incentives to entice them to stay on the job, such as offering bonus pay. The department gave a leg-up to applicants who could prove that they provide school leaders with a lot of autonomy in turnaround work.

The three-year grants range from roughly $795,000 (for the Cleveland Municipal School District) to $2.13 million (for the school board of Miami-Dade County).  That's a relatively small sum, given that SIG offers grants of up to $2 million to turnaround a single school.

The other winners include:

  • Western Michigan University, which got a nearly $2 million grant;
  • New Leaders, Inc. in Maryland, which got about $1.5 million;
  • Special School District #1 in Minnesota; which got nearly $2 million;
  • City of Patterson Board of Education in New Jersey, which got about $1.5 million;
  • Syracuse City School District, which got about $1.6 million;
  • The Center for Leadership and Education Equity in Rhode Island, which got roughly $1.6 million;
  • The Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois, which got nearly $2 million;
  • North Carolina State University, which got nearly $2 million;
  • Alabama Department of Education, which got nearly $2 million;
  • Rocky Mountain College in Montana, which got nearly $1.5 million
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