Building Capacity for School Turnaround: The 2011 School Improvement Grant Regional Conferences

Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

This morning, I’m excited to help kick off the 2011 School Improvement Grant Eastern Regional Conference in Washington, DC – an intensive, two-day event for school, district, and state leaders who are working to turn around their lowest-performing schools. The conference, hosted by ED’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) in partnership with our Comprehensive Centers, is the second of four regional capacity-building sessions that will take place over the next two months. The conferences are a key part of OESE’s efforts to provide our grantees with support and technical assistance as they implement the School Improvement Grant (SIG).

From the beginning of his administration, President Obama has made the commitment to turn around America’s lowest-performing schools a centerpiece of his cradle-to-career education agenda. Through our newly redesigned SIG program, we have provided an unprecedented amount of funds to help turnaround this country’s 5,000 lowest-performing schools over the next five years.

In addition to providing unprecedented resources for school turnarounds, ED is working in partnership with schools to ensure student success. Having been a Superintendent, I know how much support is needed on the ground to implement reforms, and how difficult it is to actually turn around failing schools. But, I also know that school turnaround can be done, with the right supports.

This is why these conferences are especially important. In the next two days, grantees at the Eastern SIG Conference will have opportunities to learn from their colleagues and other education leaders on what’s working, and what looks promising, in school turnaround efforts across the country. The conference will address not only structural and organization reforms for turnaround, but also instructional best practices to meet the needs of students in schools. And perhaps more importantly, school, district, and state leaders will build new relationships, strengthen existing ones, and begin building communities of practice that will allow them to continue to share promising practices and successes they see with SIG in their schools and districts.

I’m confident that this conference – like the Western conference, held just last week, and the Central and Midwest Conferences coming up in May – will be just the beginning of continued conversations and learning among grantees and all stakeholders invested in the success of school turnarounds. And, it’s my hope that all participants will return to their states and districts re-energized and equipped with new information, resources and networks that will help transform our struggling schools into world-class centers of teaching and learning.

Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana is Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education for the U.S. Department of Education


  1. Do it then.

    I will call your bluff. If you had any sort of proof of malfeasance, someone else would have it as well. If this is a call for attention, it is not amusing.

    If you have proof, do something.

    The only way for our world to get better is for those in the know to blow the whistle for the rest of us.

    If you have proof of governmental wrong-doing, then it is your obligation to show it to the world.

    Fax copies to every telelvision station in the state, care of the lead anchors, editors and writers.

    Fax copies to every newspaper in the area care of the lead editor.

    Or, fax copies to every representative in the state.

    Someone will know what to do with your proof.

  2. I have a real concern about the SIG grants in in the State of Mississippi. They seem to be a cash cow for a particular consultant firm in the State. From all indications this firm offers its services to write the grants for school districts and then offers its services to carry out the activities of the grants. Something in this process does not meet the smell test. I am not basing my concerns on hearsay. I have evidence in my hand. I have call this to the attention of the state officials, but have not received a response. By the way, this consultant firm is made up of former state department of ed. employees. I will be happy to speak to you by phone regarding this matter. I am also aware that there are school officials bumming out on their enterviews with because they are aware of the grant content. I hate to sound as a sorehead about this, but feel that process should be fair. I am sending this comment in confidence. However,I am afraid to go public about this.Thank for your attention to this matter.

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