Atlanta (WAOK/AJC)-U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan offered some welcomed news for Georgia students Thursday. The state will receive $19.2 million to help the persistently lowest performing schools.

The financial injection is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grants Program. The funds are part of $535 million the federal government provided through the fiscal year 2011 budget to help states boost student achievement in struggling schools.

“We’ve stood on the sidelines for too long as our lowest performing schools failed our children year after year,” Duncan said. “The School Improvement Grants program is providing courageous school leaders and teacher teams in more than 1,200 schools nationwide with the means to accomplish the very difficult work of turning around some of our hardest to serve schools.”

To date, the grant program has awarded $161.3 million to Georgia since its overhaul in 2009.

The grant announcement comes on the heels of the release of  the state’s list of lowest performing schools. State officials identified 78 Georgia schools as “priority” campuses under its still-developing accountability system.

The schools, which include 14 in Atlanta, 10 in DeKalb County, three in Gwinnett County and one each in Cobb and Fulton counties, fared the poorest in terms of graduation rates and standardized test scores.


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