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For better education in OKC, have a SIG (School Improvement Grant)?


By Patrick B. McGuigan

Associate Publisher


OKLAHOMA CITY – Public records posted at the Oklahoma state Department of Education website ( document millions of dollars in spending on school improvement grants (SIGs) in the Sooner State’s largest public school district.

SIGs for the Oklahoma City Public School District ( are financed through a federal program (Title I), monitored by the state government and implemented at the school district level.

Alongside student and site performance, as assessed in the state’s grading system (, the picture that emerges is a sobering one. Simply stated, the performance outcome indicates nominal return on the taxpayers’ investment at all but one of the seven sites.

On the brightest note, the one success story is at Ulysses S. Grant High School in south Oklahoma City. From the SIG program, Grant garnered $1,737,432 in both Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012, and $1,612,338 in FY 2013, for a total of $5,087,202. (

In the most recent version of the state Department’s A-F grading system, U.S. Grant’s letter grade improved from a C to a B+.

Professional Development contractors at U.S. Grant have included Solution Tree, Books for Solution Tree Training, Marzano, a University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) program called ELL Strategies, and November Learning.

Grant’s total for professional services was $1,521,600.

However, the federal funds, accompanying programs and professional services are likely not the full explanation for U.S. Grant’s progress.

Principal Tami Sanders, previously acclaimed for her work at Northwest Classen High School, is a charismatic, motivated and highly effective site leader known both for supporting her best teachers and sending below average instructors on their way.

And, large portions of the federal grants to U.S. Grant were devoted to paying salaries and benefits for “increased learning time,” stipends to attend training sessions, and for travel costs.

All told, in Oklahoma City, federal Title I “turn-around” grants have flowed from the district’s main office to two high schools, three middle schools, and two elementary schools since Fiscal Year 2011.

Staggered timing for the grants – typically three years in duration, with some sites now in their second year of receipt – makes firm conclusions about program effectiveness difficult.

To sum up, of the six sites other than Grant, one had flat achievement, while the remaining five declined in the statewide assessments.

District-wide, the grants (projected through FY 2015) have totaled $27,566,250 since 2011 — with $7,907,380 of that for “professional services.”

Professional services across the seven sites have come from several of the nation’s best-known education consulting firms, including

Solution Tree (, an Indiana company, Marzano (, with offices in Colorado and Indiana, Pearson (, which describes itself as “the world’s leading education company,” and Max Teaching (, based in Ohio.

At least one state-based vendor is listed, OK Educational Services, LLC, of Asher, Oklahoma.  (

Other contractors listed include Middle Matters, a collaborative partnership, local education consultant Dedra Stafford (, and ACT America’s Choice, now an arm of Pearson. (

Performance at five grant recipient schools declined from 2012 to 2013, including Douglass Middle School, OK Centennial Middle School, Moon Elementary, Shidler Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary.

Douglass MS and Moon MS each began three-year cycle of SIG grant participation in Fiscal Year 2011.

At Douglass MS, the annual sums were $1,139,499 in both FY 11 and FY 12; and $802,499. Of that $3,081,497, a total of $1,403,000 was for professional services. (

The A-F ranking for the site fell from D to F in 2013.

At Moon ES, annual sums were $1,527,156 in FY 11, $1,295,656 in FY 12 and $1,133,656 in FY 13. Of the $3,956,468 total grant, $1,046,000 went to professional services. (

The A-F ranking for the site fell from D to F in 2013.

Three sites where performance declined did not receive grants until FY 2012 or thereafter.

Shidler ES received $557,375 in each of three years: FY 2013, 14 and 15. ( Of the $1,672,124 total grant stream, $347,640 went for professional services.

The A-F ranking for the site fell from D to F in 2013.

The grant to Roosevelt MS was $938,752 in FY 13, $892,701 in FY 14, and $891,240 in FY 15. ( The grant total for Roosevelt was $2,722,693; $347,640 of that was for professional services.

Performance at the site declined from D in 2012 to F in 2013.

At OK Centennial MS, the grants totaled $1,573,604 in FY 12, $1,814,089 in FY 13, and $1,769,259 in FY 14. (

Performance at the site dropped from D to F in 2013.

At OK Centennial High, performance on the A-F system was flat in 2012 and 2013, with the school getting a grade of D on both assessments.

Centennial High’s grants were $1,899,899 in FY 12, $1,989,613 in FY 13, and $2 million even for FY 14. (

The grant stream at Centennial High totaled $5,899,512; $1,556,500 went for professional services



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