ELEMENTARY & SECONDARY EDUCATION
Key Policy Letters from the Education Secretary and Deputy Secretary
August 18, 2010

August 18, 2010

Dear Chief State School Officers:

As the school year begins, I would like to thank you and your staff for your hard work and focused collaboration in developing plans for turning around your persistently lowest-achieving schools.  An unprecedented amount of funding has been committed to support this endeavor.  Tough work is ahead as you and your districts and schools move to full implementation of your School Improvement Grant (SIG).  We owe it to our nation’s students to ensure that every dollar is invested wisely to ensure that we achieve our goal of academic success for every student. 

We all know from experience that significant increases in resources create great opportunities, but also pose great challenges.  One of the challenges facing states and districts is distinguishing between high- and low-quality school turnaround partners. We want to make sure we are all doing our part in providing districts and schools with the support they need in selecting and monitoring the performance of these external partners so that all SIG funds are used wisely to improve outcomes for students.

At the Federal level, we are focused on ensuring that State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) have the information and tools they need to make informed decisions about external partnerships.  To that end, we are taking the following steps:

  • Enhanced Technical Assistance:  With an emphasis on capacity building, we will be providing SEAs and LEAs with access to the tools and resources necessary to support informed decision making, convening regional implementation support conferences, hosting webinars to support high-quality implementation, facilitating peer networks, and developing communities of practice to support both SEAs and LEAs in learning from colleagues while implementing SIG grants.
  • Rigorous Monitoring and Site Visitation:  We will evaluate SEA and LEA practices regarding recruiting, screening, and selecting external providers.
  • Greater Transparency:  Although we require SEAs to post all LEA SIG applications on their Web sites, we are also encouraging SEAs and LEAs to post on their respective Web sites all requests for proposals related to external partners.  We also expect that plans for provider partnerships will be shared with families and the community so that everyone understands how these partnerships will lead to increases in student outcomes.
  • New FY 2010 SIG Guidance:  In the coming weeks, we will issue non-regulatory guidance to SEAs to help ensure that LEAs implement an appropriate process for screening and selecting external providers.  This guidance will include sample tools and resources from States and districts. 

At the State level, you also have responsibility to ensure that SIG funds are spent wisely and that districts have the support they need.  Your SEA is accountable for the high-quality implementation of SIG programs in your LEAs, including, but not limited to:

  • Carefully reviewing LEAs’ plans to recruit, screen, and select external providers to ensure their quality;
  • Monitoring effective use of resources at the LEA level;
  • Monitoring progress on all of the required reporting metrics outlined in section III.A.3 of the SIG final requirements;
  • Fully implementing the SEA’s plans for reviewing and evaluating an LEA’s application, and for monitoring an LEA’s implementation of its SIG grant, as outlined in the SEA’s approved SIG application; and
  • Ensuring fidelity of implementation of SIG models in Tier I and Tier II schools.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at school.improvement.grants@ed.gov with questions or to provide us with suggestions for any technical assistance support we may provide.  Together, we must do everything we can to make sure that the result of local, state, and federal efforts is improved student outcomes.  I know how difficult this work is, and, for this reason, the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education has made technical assistance and support a top priority across all of our programs.  This is an unprecedented opportunity, and we cannot afford to miss it.  Our children’s futures depend on it. 

Thank you again for all of your hard work.  We look forward to continuing to partner with you to ensure all of our students have the high-quality education they deserve.

  Sincerely,
 
/s/
  Arne Duncan

 
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Last Modified: 08/19/2010