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New York to get $36M from feds for struggling schools

This file image shows teens sitting in a

This file image shows teens sitting in a classroom and raising hands to answer aquestion. Credit: iStock

New York State will receive $36 million in federal funding to help academically struggling schools improve, and at least three districts on Long Island said Tuesday they will apply for some of the money.

Five states, including New York, are getting about $85 million from the U.S. Department of Education's School Improvement Grants program, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced.

The money is aimed at turning around some of the nation's persistently lowest-achieving schools. Alaska, Illinois, Pennsylvania and South Carolina also will receive funding.

New York will get the largest amount, followed by Illinois with about $22 million.

Officials in some Long Island districts hailed the new funding.

"I think it's fantastic," said Roosevelt schools Superintendent Deborah Wortham, whose district plans to apply for money from the new grants.

Roosevelt High School just finished using a three-year School Improvement Grant that provided $1.8 million a year, and it helped the school tremendously, she said. The money strengthened instruction in core subjects, which boosted the passing rates on state Regents exams, she said.

The grants "made a major change in the culture, the climate and achievement" in the school, Wortham said.

Wyandanch Superintendent Mary Jones said she was "very pleased" the new grants are available. "It's not enough, but it's a step in the right direction. It couldn't have come at a better time."

Hempstead School officials said they intend to also apply for some of the funding.

The federal funds are earmarked for school districts that demonstrate the "strongest commitment to provide adequate resources to substantially raise student achievement in their lowest-performing schools," the U.S. Department of Education said.

Grants typically require drastic changes at the schools, such as replacing the principal and half the staff, or turning them into charter schools.

"When schools fail, our children and neighborhoods suffer," Duncan said in a statement. "Turning around our lowest-performing schools is hard work, but it's our responsibility and represents a tremendous opportunity . . . "

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