This is one in a series of blog posts about the recent Midwest High School SIG Conference, held May 18-19, in Chicago. Schools and districts involved in turning around low performing schools received advice from leaders in the field at the Midwest High School SIG Conference last month. Braden Goetz, Group Leader of High School Programs at the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, gave advice on how to make the best use of School Improvement Grant (SIG) dollars. Here are some highlights:
- Make a plan to spend any leftover money. Many grantees end up with more money than they can spend, due to delays in implementation, and then have to return the money to the government.
- Recognize that managing a grant requires a lot of time and energy. Designate someone on staff to be the grant manager besides the principal or assistant principal. Successful grant managers could be retired personnel or the school could allocate grant funds to cover the time of a teacher to serve as grant manager.
- Use grant money to invest in people, instead of in equipment. Examples include professional development, common planning time, and math and literacy coaches.
- Use grant money to support 11th and 12 grades as well as 9th and 10th to improve graduation rates. Upper-grade students need continued support to maximize the efforts made in 9th and 10th grade, as well as opportunities to regain course credits. Resources should also be allocated to the reengagement of out-of-school youth.
- Ensure that technical assistance (TA) providers work for you. Insist that TA providers customize their programs for your context and build the capacity of your staff. Monitor the work of TA providers to make sure their work is meeting your needs.
- Create structured opportunities for school and district peers to learn from each other.