From S.F. Examiner by Andrea Koskey:
Four years ago, students at Everett Middle School were afraid to walk the halls. The campus, located on the border of the Castro and Mission districts, had a reputation for violence and low test scores. The San Francisco Unified School District decided to turn to the federal government for help.

Now, the changes made possible through the School Improvement Grants program are noticeable — and federal and state officials have taken notice as well, citing San Francisco as a model for how to approach underperforming schools and how to fund them.

“With SIG funding, we’ve had the opportunity to invest in certain leaders,” SFUSD Superintendent Richard Carranza said. “We’ve said, ‘If you believe in these children and in that school and in that neighborhood, we’ll set up a system that will provide infrastructure to support you being effective.’”

The funding was awarded in 2009 to Everett and nine other San Francisco schools that were historically low-performing and had a higher number of low-income and English-language learners.

“You guys are the pioneers of the turnaround model,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of eighth-graders during a recent visit to Everett. “There’s now a waitlist to come here. You changed that culture. You’ve done something special here.”

The grant meant Everett and the other schools could purchase more books, increase teacher training, hire a literacy coach, hire more counselors and tutors, and increase after-school programs.

Education officials say the turnarounds also highlight the need for investment in the nation’s underserved students, because all the schools have increased test scores and improved their learning environments.

Duncan said the results from Everett show what can happen when consistently low-performing schools are funded properly.
“We made the investment because we thought this would work,” he said. “It takes a lot of commitment and it’s hard to do, but it can happen.”

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