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Mission Impossible? What States With Large Percentages of Rural Schools Tell Us About Federal School Improvement Grants

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 90, No. 2

Caitlin Scott, Education Northwest
Jennifer McMurrer, Center on Education Policy at The George Washington University


This article summarizes findings and lessons learned about implementing school improvement grant (SIG) initiatives in rural areas of the United States. The study examines state-level survey data based on the proportion of rural schools receiving SIG funds in the fall of 2010 in each state. In addition, the authors summarize related findings from rural-focused state and district case study work. The state survey showed that, regardless of the proportion of rural SIG schools, participating state officials (N = 46) reported providing similar supports to districts, such as technical assistance and increased monitoring and data review. However, fewer states with larger proportions of rural SIG schools believed these supports were important for improving schools. Among states with larger proportions of rural SIG schools, significantly fewer reported that replacing principals through SIG was key to improving student achievement. The case study data confirmed and elaborated on the survey findings.


Caitlin Scott is a practice expert in education policy, research, and evaluation at Education Northwest and a consultant for the Center on Education Policy at The George Washington University. Specializing in mixed methods research and evaluation, her work includes study design, data collection, analysis, and report writing, especially related to federal, state, and local education policy initiatives, school turnaround efforts, and literacy interventions. Scott holds a Ph.D. from Cleveland State University in Teaching and Learning.

Jennifer McMurrer is the director of research with the Center on Education Policy at The George Washington University. Her publications include topics related to the No Child Left Behind Act, student achievement and state assessment systems, school improvement, high school exit exams, and waivers under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. McMurrer holds a Ph.D. in education policy and research methodology from George Mason University.