The Obama administration pumped more than $7 billion into an education program, first authorized under President George W. Bush, that had no impact on student achievement – according to a report released by the Department of Education in the final days of the 44th president’s term.
The Department of Education’s findings were contained in its “School Improvement Grants: Implementation and Effectiveness” report.
The study could energize the debate over national education policy just as the Senate considers President Trump’s controversial pick to lead the department, Betsy DeVos, an outspoken school choice advocate who has questioned the way federal education dollars are spent.
The School Improvement Grants program, first introduced in 2001 under the Bush administration, was created to fund reforms in the country’s lowest-performing schools with the goal of improving student achievement in test scores and graduation rates.
The program directed money to schools with low academic achievement and graduation rates below 60 percent for high schools, among other factors.
SIG was canceled under recently passed legislation, though similar funding can still be sought by school districts.
The report focused on data from nearly 500 schools in 22 states that received SIG funding, and concluded the program had “No significant impact” on reading or math test scores; high school graduation; or college enrollment.
“Overall, we found that the SIG program had no impact on student achievement,” co-author of the report Lisa Dragoset told Fox News.
The authors are “Non-partisan” researchers in the Education Department, according to Tom Wei, project officer from the department’s Institute of Education Sciences.
“We focused on districts with larger samples of schools, and so these schools tended to be more urban and more disadvantaged,” Wei told Fox News.
Deputy education undersecretary under the Bush administration – and now CEO of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools – called the results no surprise.
“Some of these schools received huge injections of cash and had an absent leader who did not know how to leverage the money constructively, and that is not a good recipe for success,” Rees told Fox News.
“The premise of the program was extremely sound, but it is simply human nature to pick things that are easier to implement as opposed to a more aggressive approach.” Rees, who is a proponent of school choice, also supports Betsy DeVos for education secretary in the Trump administration and believes charter schools need more funding and full autonomy.