More than any other federal education program, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides a critical lifeline for vast numbers of poor and disadvantaged children enrolled in America's public schools. On the occasion of its 35th anniversary, this report takes stock of the present Title I program, provides recommendations to guide lawmakers as they embark on its reauthorization, and examines important issues that school boards across the nation should consider in developing policies to strengthen local programs.
A Research-Driven Strategy
In accomplishing these varied objectives, this report employs a research-driven strategy that attempts to place Title I in proper historical perspective. This is not a program of fixed design, but rather, one that has evolved over a period of more than three decades. Nor has Title I been a program devoid of deficiencies. Yet, as the report will illustrate, in those instances where such deficiencies have been identified, action has been taken to address them in a positive manner. It is, therefore, this report's fundamental conclusion that, despite its inability to serve all eligible students, Title I has been largely successful in reaching the nation's most disadvantaged children and in providing support for a variety of initiatives designed to address the educational needs of the children it serves.
But there is room for improvement in any social program, and Title I is no exception. The report thus draws upon literally hundreds of evaluations, studies, and other documents to inform the development of the National School Boards Association's (NSBA) recommendations for modifying the existing program. Briefly stated, these recommendations are as follows:
- Develop districtwide capacity to evaluate and improve programs serving Title I students;
- Support districts in achieving this goal through access to technical assistance that promotes the development of a districtwide infrastructure conducive to school-based change;
- Increase the targeting of funds to those schools serving the poorest students;
- Increase funding to early childhood education programs;
- Continue the use of Title I to drive comprehensive school reforms, while improving accountability and assessment of these and other schoolwide initiatives and providing for increased research and development in this area;
- Support the development and implementation of enhanced methods for student assessment; and
- Provide for more comprehensive, coordinated research and development.
Drawing upon this same research base, the report also raises a series of critical questions to guide local education authorities in a process of self-reflection and redirection. Although a federal program, Title I's success depends, ultimately, on the ability of local policymakers to develop and implement educational strategies that will best serve the needs of America's disadvantaged school children. Thus, apart from its role in informing and shaping the legislative process, the report is intended to provide a rich source of information for school boards and district administrators seeking to improve the delivery of Title I services at the local level.
Organization of the Report
Aside from this introduction, the report is divided into two parts. Part I provides a brief historical overview of Title I, assesses the program's overall impact on raising achievement for America's disadvantaged children and, then, seeks to determine those aspects of the program that would likely benefit from modification. On the basis of this discussion, Part II presents NSBA's recommendations for amending the current program and raises several key questions that can serve as a basis for dialogue in communities across America.
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