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Virginia to get federal grant money to help low-performing schools

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on Saturday that Virginia is among six states and the District of Columbia receiving grants totalling $38 million in an effort to turn around persistently low-performing schools.

These new awards are part of the Department's School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. States receiving the grant money include Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Virginia will be receiving $7.6 million. The school improvement grants are to be used to assist those school districts demonstrating the greatest need for the funds as well as showing commitment to raise student achievement in their districts.

It will be up to Virginia's State Educational Agencies (SEAs) to determine which school districts are deserving of the funds. According to the DOE, "findings show that many schools receiving SIG grants are improving, and some of the greatest gains have been in small towns and rural communities."

Despite the glowing reports from the DOE insisting that improvements are possible in low-performing schools, overall, efforts have fallen short of the expected goals. According to one opponent of the DOE's initiative, there is only one way to "fix" the problem, we need to close those schools that have consistently been under-performers.

Truth be told, no one has an answer to discovering a consistent way to improve a school that is failing to educate its students. Many scholars, school officials, and even the federal government has tried, but as Maryland’s state superintendent of schools, Nancy Grasmick says,

“Very little research exists on how to bring about real sea change in schools…. Clearly, there’s no infallible strategy or even sequence of them. No one has the answer. It’s like finding the cure for cancer.”

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