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State To Receive $25.7 Million To Improve Worst-Performing Schools

By GRACE E. MERRITT

April 16, 2010

HARTFORD

Connecticut will receive $25.7 million in economic stimulus funds to improve the state's worst-performing schools, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Thursday.

The money, part of $3.5 billion distributed nationally, is aimed at helping 23 of Connecticut's lowest-performing schools, most of which are in Hartford, New Haven, New Britain, Bridgeport and Windham.

Hartford had seven schools on the lowest performing list: Weaver High School, Milner Core Knowledge School, Burns Latino Studies Academy, Sand School, Quirk Middle School, Betances School and Sanchez School.

School systems must apply to the state Department of Education for the money and each school is eligible for as much as $2 million over three years. The schools are in the lowest-performing 5 percent of Connecticut schools. Some have languished on the "needs improvement" list under the federal No Child Left Behind law for as long as nine years.

Receiving the money would require a school to restructure by choosing one of four school reform models:

Turnaround: Replace the principal, screen existing school staff, and rehire no more than half the teachers.

Restart: Convert a school or close it and reopen it as a charter school or under an education management organization.

Close: Close the school and send the students to higher-achieving schools in a system.

Transform: Replace the principal and improve the school through curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time and other strategies.

The federal grant is designed to force states to take stronger action to address failing schools, said Sandra Abrevaya, press secretary for the Department of Education.

"The idea in general is that there have been low-performing schools identified for decades and very little happens when the federal government asks for intervention because the requirements for intervention have not been rigorous enough," Abrevaya said.

State Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan said school systems have already developed improvement plans and the new funding will help accelerate them.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said the money will help turn around the state's lowest achieving schools, particularly those serving children who live in poverty.

"We have some of the highest performing schools in the nation and, unfortunately, some of the lowest. These dollars will go a long way toward closing that achievement gap," Rell said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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