Obama proposes $900 million in grants to stop school drop outs
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is offering $900 million in grants to states and school districts to turn around low-performing schools — but recipients would have to take drastic action, such as replacing principals, reopening schools as charter schools or closing them outright.
Obama was to announce the plan Monday at an education event sponsored by the America’s Promise Alliance, the youth-oriented organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma. Obama also planned to discuss ways to better prepare students for college and careers.
The White House says 1.2 million students drop out of school each year, and only about 70 percent of entering high school freshmen go on to graduate. About 2,000 high schools turn out half of all dropouts, and the administration says it will work with states to identify those schools with graduation rates below 60 percent.
Obama’s 2011 budget proposal includes $900 million for School Turnaround Grants. That money is in addition to $3.5 billion to help low-performing schools that was in last year’s economic stimulus bill.
To get a share of the new money, states and school districts must adopt one of four approaches to fix their lowest-performing schools:
—Turnaround Model: The school district must replace the principal and at least half of the school staff, adopt a new governance structure for the school, and implement a new or revised instructional program.
—Restart Model: The school district must close and reopen the school under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization or an educational management organization. A restarted school would be required to enroll, within the grades it serves, former students who wish to attend.
—School Closure: The school district must close the failing school and enroll the students in other, higher-achieving schools in the district.
—Transformational Model: The school must address four areas, including teacher effectiveness, instruction, learning and teacher planning time, and operational flexibility.
The administration also is putting $50 million into dropout prevention strategies, including personalized and individual instruction and support to keep students engaged in learning, and better use of data to identify students at risk of failure and to help them with the transition to high school and college.