Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka the stimulus, was a multi-billion dollar commitment to improve failing schools through targeted grants. These School Improvement Grants (SIG) were given out to schools that agreed to adopt one of four approved models for improvement. Wednesday, two days before President Obama left office, the Education Department published a study on its website showing the expenditure of $7 billion dollars on these grants accomplished nothing.
The full report, which calls the grants, “one of the largest federal government investments in an education grant program,” can be found here. It’s a lengthy report but the conclusion on student test scores and graduation rates is relatively brief:
There were no significant impacts of SIG-funded models on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment of students in schools at the SIG eligibility cutoff… For 2012–2013, the impact on math test scores was 0.01 standard deviations, the impact on reading test scores was 0.08 standard deviations, and the impact on high school graduation was -5 percentage points, but these impacts were not statistically significant.
So the graduation rate actually went down, just not in a statistically significant way.
Andy Smarick of the American Enterprise Institute told the Washington Post this week, “We’re talking about millions of kids who are assigned to these failing schools, and we just spent several billion dollars promising them things were going to get better.” He added, “Think of what all that money could have been spent on instead.”
Smarick thinks these results will help Trump’s education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos. He tells the Post, “I can imagine Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump saying this is exactly why kids need school choice.”