MEMPHIS, Tenn. -

The U.S. Department of Education says Tennessee will receive a $9.8 million grant to continue efforts to turn around its persistently lowest achieving schools.   

In a Thursday news release, the Education Department said the money comes to Tennessee as part of the department's School Improvement Grants program.    

Tennessee, Alabama, California and Pennsylvania are among the newest states to receive continuation awards for the third year of implementing a School Improvement Grants program model.

Grants are awarded to State Educational Agencies that then make competitive sub-grants to local educational agencies that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds.

The goal is to raise student achievement in their lowest-performing schools. According to the department's findings, some of the greatest gains have been in small towns and rural communities.