So you’re forgiven if you missed this, since the news broke late Friday, but the committee charged with evaluating applications for School Improvement Grants (SIGs) issued its recommendations late Friday afternoon. Districts that had schools landing on the “persistent underperformers” list were eligible to apply for SIGs to help pay for the reform work already required under state law — SF Unified has 10 schools on the list and applied for $48 million in SIGs. (I wrote about our application here).
It turns out that the decision to lay out a reform plan for all 10 schools in the application was key. San Francisco’s application was rated 95.5 out of a possible 100.0 points, and recommended for full funding under the rules approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) when it laid out the SIG process and evaluation rubric last spring. By contrast, applications from Los Angeles Unified, Sacramento City Unified, San Diego Unified and Oakland Unified, among others, were disqualified by readers for receiving any funding because they did not agree to take on reforms at all of their persistently-underperforming schools in the grant application.
And perhaps you’ll be shocked, but people in those politically-connected districts weren’t very happy when they got the news, and suddenly, the SBE is getting some heat. So things got very interesting when the SBE began discussing the SIG recommendations at a special meeting today, since the SBE must approve the recommendations before districts can begin receiving money. “A pickle” is how one Commissioner described the situation, and a pickle it is. There are lots of people in Los Angeles, San Diego and other places complaining that the recommendations aren’t fair. But assuming the reviewers followed the SBE-approved rubric, it’s also not fair to change the rules in the middle and award money according to criteria that were not originally spelled out in the original grant application. Complicating matters is that all of this has to be done within a certain amount of time (not sure how much, but not enough for a complete do-over).
In the end, the SBE did what politicians are wont to do and kicked the can down the road for a week or two, hoping that a way out of the pickle will magically present itself. But expect San Francisco Unified and other districts whose applications were highly-rated to cry foul if the SBE tries to shift money around or otherwise change the rules that they themselves wrote.