Education reform continues as federal funds dry out


by Brenda Alvarez, this article originally appeared on

SIG schools receiving NEA support show strong signs of success and sustainability

In 2010, the NEA launched an effort to get America’s struggling schools closer to the Association’s vision of great public schools. Called Priority Schools, the initiative targets organizational resources to schools that need extra support and attention.

Simultaneously, the U.S. Department of Education began to fully fund the School Improvement Grant (SIG) to help schools meet high-academic standards. SIG delivered billions of dollars to 5 percent of the lowest-performing schools across the country.

NEA seized on this opportunity to leverage NEA resources as a complement to these grants.

The first round of SIG funding is now in its last year. Looking back, what’s been learned through this combined effort? More important, what will happen once the funding ends?

NEA Priority Schools

First a disclaimer: NEA shuns labels like “failing,” when referencing schools that serve large numbers of high-needs students. Instead, the schools are called priority schools.

Working with state and local affiliates to identify nearly 40 schools across 17 states, NEA partnered with a broad group to co-create support plans for priority schools.

Each plan was different, and the extra resources and attention offered by NEA included three goals. The first was to support and advocate for priority schools as they implemented SIG by including professional development, school visits, and local advocacy on behalf of schools. The next goal was to build organizational capacity by improving teachers’ and school leaders’ leadership skills, and increasing collaboration among the superintendent, the district, and the leadership of the local union. And the final goal was to make improvements in engagement and outreach to better involve the community and successfully communicate the successes of each school undergoing transformation.

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