The Obama administration will spend at least $3.5 billion to push local officials around the country to close failing schools and reopen them with new teachers and principals, and applications for the money are now available to states.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan hopes to see the 5,000 worst-performing schools, about 1 percent of all U.S. schools, turned around in five years under the Title I School Improvement Grant (SIG) program.

The administration is beefing up the federal school turnaround program, which was created under the No Child Left Behind law championed by former President George W. Bush.

"As a country, we need to


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