Many States, districts, and schools are making interrelated changes in key elements of their educational systems to improve learning experiences for all children. They are setting higher content and performance standards for what all students should know and be able to do. They are revising curricula, renewing opportunities for teacher professional growth, implementing better teaching techniques, integrating technology into their classrooms, and designing innovative assessment strategies.
The U.S. Department of Education is committed to providing information, tools, and resources to help States and localities meet the challenges of reform. Among the most important funding resources are the programs authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Amendments to the ESEA enacted in 1994 make it easier for States and school districts to use ESEA resources to augment, expand, and support State and local reforms that will help move every child toward high standards and move the nation toward realizing the eight National Education Goals. (See Appendix C--National Education Goals.)
As amended by the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 (IASA), the ESEA for the first time stresses the need for all students--especially children at risk of school failure, the primary target group for federal aid--to develop the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind once expected of only the top students. The redesigned ESEA encourages States and school districts to connect federal programs with State and local reforms affecting all children, while retaining the focus on educational equity for the neediest children. In exchange for emphasizing higher student learning outcomes, federal legislation gives States and localities more flexibility to design and operate federal programs. The revamped ESEA is intended to work in concert with another important 1994 law, the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. This Act supports State and local efforts to set challenging content and performance standards and to carry out reforms that will help all children meet these standards.
Guiding Themes of the ESEA
The companion document also seeks to encourage coordinated State and local planning that first identifies the learning needs of children, next determines actions and strategies for meeting those needs, and finally pulls in resources--both dollars and people--from federal, State, and local programs to make these actions happen. The document further invites educators to view federal programs less as separate entities and more as components that can be integrated as necessary to improve teaching and learning.
Part I of this document gives the background and brief history of ESEA, outlines the respective roles of ESEA and Goals 2000 in education reform, and describes how States, districts, and schools can plan for change. At the end of Part I is a table summarizing all of the programs authorized by the ESEA. Part II--the core of the document--explains each of the law's five guiding themes in more detail and describes key ESEA programs and statutory provisions that advance each theme. Scattered throughout the document are examples in boxes that illustrate how State and local people are actually using ESEA funds, in conjunction with other resources, to support education reform.
The guidance in this document does not impose any requirements beyond those in the ESEA and other applicable federal statutes and regulations. Nor is this companion document meant to replace the program-specific guidance already disseminated by the U.S. Department of Education on ESEA Title I, Parts A-C; ESEA Titles II, IV, VI, and XI; Goals 2000; and related programs and topics. (See Appendix B--Guidance Documents Issued by the U.S. Department of Education for ESEA, Goals 2000, and Related Programs.) Rather, this document is intended to complement those separate pieces of guidance. Both kinds of documents are important sources of information for educators implementing one or more ESEA programs.