08 Jun Tier III Schools Get no Federal Grant Money (AL)June 8, 2010
By: Jamon SmithSource: Tuscaloosa News
On May 3, the Tuscaloosa county and city school systems, along with other systems throughout the state, submitted applications to obtain federal School Improvement Grant funds to improve their Tier III schools, which are schools that rank among the lowest academically in the state.
Since both local systems had their Tier I School Improvement Grant applications rejected, school system leaders had hoped that their Tier III applications would be accepted.
But a better outcome didn’t occur.
On June 1, the Alabama Department of Education announced that no school system in the state would be awarded Tier III School Improvement Grant funds. That’s because most of the $58 million available in School Improvement Grant money for Alabama was awarded to the five school systems — Lowndes County, Marengo County, Coosa County, Montgomery County and Mobile County — that had their Tier I school applications accepted.
Tier I schools take priority over Tier II and Tier III schools because Tier I schools are the worst of the persistently lowest-achieving schools in the state.
; The five school systems that were awarded School Improvement Grant money for their Tier I schools received a total of $41.3 million of the available $58 million.
The rest of the School Improvement Grant money will be held until the 2010 fiscal year so that a new competition for the School Improvement Grant money can be held for a new list of state schools identified as persistently lowest-achieving.
“What happened was we ended up serving more Tier I and Tier II schools because the (school systems we awarded the School Improvement Grant funds to) were committed,” said Marcus Vandiver, an official with the state department of education.
Vandiver said the state department of education told school system leaders before they applied for the Tier III money that there may not be enough money left to award to Tier III schools after the winning Tier I and Tier II schools were given School Improvement Grant money.
He also said that school systems that qualified for the Tier III School Improvement Grant funds were encouraged to apply anyway because the state department of education wouldn’t know if any remaining money would be available until after the May 3 Tier III application due date.
“We were trying to get the applications in early enough to get them done so they would have time to implement any school improvement activity they had to do before the school year started,” Vandiver said.
Margaret O’Neal, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Tuscaloosa City School System, said system leaders are disappointed that no School Improvement Grant money is available to improve their Tier III schools. However, she said the system will continue its plans to improve those schools anyway.
“The funds requested would have enhanced the continuous improvement plans at each school and provided additional resources,” O’Neal said in a written statement. “Since the Tier III grants were enhancements to the continuous improvement plans, the primary focus of the goals and objectives will continue.
“There are areas that we will not be able to add at this time,” she said. “These areas may include funding for additional personnel and/or funds for technology components. We continue to be committed to student success and are hopeful that additional funds will be made available to us at a later time when new applications and awards are made.”
Tuscaloosa County School System Superintendent Frank Costanzo said he’s also disappointed that no Tier III money is available for the county school system. However, he said the system’s employees will continue to find other ways to meet the needs of the system’s lowest-achieving schools.
“Although we are disappointed that no school system was awarded Tier III grants, our system’s leadership team will continue to work with administrators, faculty, staff, parents, and the community to meet the needs of students at Holt High and Myrtlewood Elementary Schools,” Costanzo said in a written statement.