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$22M grant offers some of Illinois’ worst schools chance to improve

Updated: April 2, 2014 12:09AM



Illinois schools consistently at the bottom of the barrel are in line to receive millions of dollars to help them improve.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that Illinois will receive $22 million from the department’s School Improvement Grants to “continue efforts to turn around … persistently lowest-achieving schools.”

In all, about $85 million in grants was divided among Illinois, Alaska (about $1 million), New York (about $36 million), Pennsylvania (about $18 million) and South Carolina (about $7 million).

“When schools fail, our children and neighborhoods suffer,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “Turning around our lowest-performing schools is hard work but it’s our responsibility, and represents a tremendous opportunity to improve the life chances of children.”

The grants have been received by Illinois since 2011, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

School districts have to submit proposals for eligible schools and they must seek to implement one of four reform models in their plan. That includes handing the school over to a charter operator as well as so-called turnaround plans, in which the entire staff of a school is fired and an outside agency manages the school.

Last year, four schools in three school districts in Illinois received the funds — also totaling $22 million. Those joined 20 schools in eight districts already undergoing similar overhauls in Illinois.

In Chicago last year, Kelly High School got $6 million and Bronzeville Scholastic Institute got $4 million. Both high schools chose reform models called “transformations,” in which a principal works with an outside group to better the school without firing all the staff.

This year, 77 CPS schools are eligible for a piece of the grant, according to a list of priority schools on the state board of education website.

A board spokeswoman said schools selected for the three-year grant would receive funds starting this summer.

Email: bschlikerman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @schlikerman



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