March 15, 2013. U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, today announced major education legislation during a visit to Hillside High School in Durham. Hagan announced that she has introduced the School Turnaround and Rewards (STAR) Act that seeks to turn around the lowest performing schools and reward schools that make significant progress to close the achievement gap. Hagan was joined by Dr. Terry Logan, Hillside High School Principal.
“We do not have to accept continued failure in our schools, and the STAR Act will equip our lowest-performing schools and districts with the tools they need to turn around and get our students on the right track,” Hagan said. “It’s time to stop punishing schools and start rewarding them for the progress they’re making. Hillside High School serves as a model for turning around a once-struggling school, and my legislation will help build on and replicate this progress at schools and districts across our state and around the country.”
Hillside High School was one of 17 schools that received School Improvement Grants in 2011. Already, composite achievement scores have increased by 21 percent from 2010 to 2011. Furthermore, the suspension rates have decreased and attendance rates have increased.
“I am delighted that Senator Hagan has chosen Hillside High School as the site where she has launched the School Turnaround and Rewards Act,” said Dr. Logan. “The improvements that we have observed over the last year in student achievement, graduation rates, student attendance, dropout rates, and out of school suspensions thus far are directly tied to the funds provided through this legislation. These dollars have afforded us the opportunity to attract high performing educators, secure 21st century technology, implement a high functioning freshman academy, and so much more.”
The STAR Act will focus on the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools to create a competitive grant program in which states will receive funds to implement an intervention model. The intervention model must ensure significant changes to the structure and operation of the school.
The bill would also reward schools that are making significant progress in closing their achievement gap. States will compete for federal funding to design innovative programs that will reward high-poverty schools and districts that have successfully reached their targets on increasing performance for all students.
Hagan included the STAR Act in the bipartisan renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that was passed by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. That bill fell victim to partisan gridlock, but Hagan will seek to incorporate the STAR Act into education reform efforts again this year.