On June 16, the New Jersey Department of Education awarded $45.3 million in federal grants to 12 low-performing New Jersey schools that agreed to undertake dramatic action to improve their schools. The School Improvement Grant program is designed to fund persistently low-achieving schools, as measured by standardized tests and low graduation rates.
The reform plans proposed by the schools fit into one of four models of reform provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
Seven of the 12 schools selected the “Transformation Model,” which requires the school replace principals and improve the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.
The “Turnaround Model,” selected by four schools, mandates replacing the principal and 50 percent of the staff. The new principal must be granted sufficient control of staffing, the academic calendar and budgeting to implement a comprehensive approach to improve student outcomes, according to federal guidelines.
One school, Renaissance Academy High School in Newark, will undertake change using the “Restart Model,” which requires a school to be converted to a charter school or run under an education management organization. The Renaissance Academy will be converted from one alternative education school with 14 separate programs to two independent schools.
The fourth approved reform model requires the school to be closed and students sent to higher-achieving schools in the district. None of the schools will adopt that model.
Twenty-seven of the state’s lowest-performing schools applied for the federal funds; 32 New Jersey schools were eligible to apply. The full listing of schools receiving funds is available on the department’s website.