“Evidence-Based Whole-School Reform” Added as SIG Reform Option

By Abner Oakes

ISA's National Director of Outreach and Engagement


In 2009, the federal government awarded $3.5 billion in Student Improvement Grants (SIGs) to fund rapid improvement of underperforming schools. These schools — which often experience high dropout rates, poor attendance and/or rigor-less academic instruction — are often oversized and located in urban areas.

The SIG application requirements permitted states and districts to use these funds in one of four specifically outlined ways: the turnaround model, the restart model, the school closure model and the transformation model.  Although effective for some schools, these models require extensive reorganization or firing of staff, reopening the school under a charter, or closing the school altogether.

US Dept Of EducationBecause the four models had significant limitations and met significant pushback from state chiefs, district superintendents, and local communities, the U.S. Department of Education recently amended the four existing SIG requirements by adding three more improvement models, one of which is the “evidence-based whole-school reform” model. This amendment permits states and districts to fund external organizations, like ISA, to implement a strategy to completely reform a school using proven practices if the evidence for effectiveness meets the What Works Clearinghouse standards.

Creating school reform strategies based on research is something ISA has been doing since 2001. ISA’s whole school reform approach has three core areas of focus that are supported by seven research-based principles.   The three areas are 1) rigorous college prep teaching and learning, 2) strong and trusting relationships for personalized learning and support and 3) continuous improvement for students, schools and educators. The synergistic relationship among ISA’s seven principles makes ISA’s solution for evidence-based whole school reform effective, sustainable, and customizable to a school’s specific needs.  The evidence of ISA’s impact has been demonstrated in two studies. Download our brochure to get an overview of ISA’s proven results, approach and customized solutions.