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Database on Schools Slated for Turnaround Coming Soon

Across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 2,136 schools have been identified as the most "persistently low-performing" and the first in line to receive a share of the $3.5 billion in stimulus-funded Title I School Improvement Grants.

That number—compiled by researchers at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University—is the first that I've seen that represents a total count for the Tier I and Tier II schools that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is targeting for turnaround over the next three years with the help of the supercharged pot of school improvement money. Keep in mind that not all of these eligible schools will actually receive a grant.

Tomorrow, there will be much more detail about what, exactly, those schools look like, thanks to the folks at Annenberg, who have built the first-ever national database on the schools targeted for turnaround. While many of you may still be basking in the afterglow (or weeping in disappointment) of the Race to the Top finalists' announcement, you shouldn't overlook the event related to the big debate over school turnarounds that will happen on Capitol Hill. This is where the database will be released.

A new coalition of local parent organizations from around the country called the Communities for Excellent Public Schools has organized a "Congressional briefing" to unveil a plan that its leaders say is a much better approach to bringing improvement to struggling schools than the four prescribed models that are outlined in the Obama administration's blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Those same methods of intervention are also required under the rules for the school improvement grants.

The coalition will also outline what it says are the shortcomings of the school turnaround policies of Sec. Duncan. Among the speakers tomorrow: Linda Darling-Hammond and Congresswoman Judy Chu, the California Democrat who has been one of the chief critics of the school turnaround models.

Also in the line-up is Warren Simmons, the director of the Annenberg Institute of School Reform, who will presumably talk about the new database. The folks at Annenberg combed through every state's SIG application to put the database together, and used federal demographic and economic data from the 2007-08 school year that will help all of us better understand some of the conditions at each of these identified schools.

This is going to be a tremendously useful source of information for all of who are following the turnaround debate. We'll bring you more detail following tomorrow's event.

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