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Pennsylvania Receives Millions of Dollars to Turn Around Struggling Schools

Pennsylvania will get $19.6 million to help prop up some of its lowest-performing schools. The School Improvement Grants (SIG) program comes with some hefty strings attached though. When a school system applies for funding, it has to indicate that it will implement one of four intervention models in each of its persistently lowest-performing schools.

"One of the models is the turnaround model, in which communities decide that in order to create condition for success and in order for teachers to really be ambitious about their teaching, they will replace 50% of the faculty at that school," said Jason Snyder, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

There is also a re-start model which converts a school or closes it and reopens it as a charter school or under an education management organization. The school closure model closes a school entirely and sends its students to higher-achieving schools in the district. The transformation model replaces a school principal, and aims to improve the school through curriculum reform, professional development, extended learning time, and other strategies.

Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states receiving SIG funding.

"The states are allocated funds based on a formula, and the states can give out the funds to the districts," said Snyder. "When the states decide who's going to receive these funds they look to the district applications and they say, 'Who is really going to use this money? Who has both the capacity and the will to do things in a dramatically different way than before?'"

Snyder said the districts can get up to $2 million a year for up to 3 years to make improvements. There are dozens of eligible schools throughout the state, including Arsenal Elementary School, Arsenal Middle School, Murray Elementary School, Northview Elementary School, and Peadboy High School.

To date, Pennsylvania has received $182.2 million since the SIG program was redesigned in 2009.