Cross-Cutting Guidance for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act - September 1996

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

I. Using Federal Resources to Support Reform

Background and Brief History of the ESEA

Established in 1965 as part of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, the ESEA for 30 years has provided federal assistance to schools, communities, and children in need. With current funding of about $9.5 billion annually, the ESEA continues to be the single largest source of federal aid to K-12 schools. Title I, aimed at improving education for disadvantaged children in poor areas, remains the cornerstone of the Act.

Over the years, Congress has amended, expanded, streamlined, and revised the ESEA eight times, creating programs to help migrant children, neglected and delinquent youngsters, limited-English-proficient (LEP) students, and other special children. Other programs have been added to the Act to stimulate school improvements benefitting all students. Programs have been launched to enhance math and science instruction and to rid schools of drugs and violence. Smaller ESEA programs have been created to advance school desegregation, stimulate educational innovation, and achieve other special purposes.

Thirty years of sustained federal commitment under the ESEA has changed the face of American education in many ways. Title I has helped raise the academic achievement of millions of disadvantaged children, particularly in basic skills. The Safe and Drug-Free Schools program has increased public awareness about the role of schools in curbing violence and combatting illegal drug use; most schools now have curricula and policies to prevent violence and drug abuse. The Title II Eisenhower Professional Development program has familiarized thousands of classroom teachers with new knowledge and instructional techniques in mathematics, science, and other critical subjects. Title VII Bilingual Education has helped generations of children with limited English proficiency learn English and succeed in school. Other ESEA programs have yielded a host of benefits for students, teachers, and parents that would have been difficult to realize without federal support.

Consistent with their categorical nature and equity focus, ESEA programs have concentrated mainly on assisting specific groups of children and accomplishing special objectives, rather than on addressing the general education program in local schools. At times, however, this categorical approach has unintentionally resulted in federally funded programs operating in isolation from one another and in services being delivered apart from the regular instructional program of the school--even in spite of recent endeavors to change perceptions and practices.

The 1994 passage of the Improving America's Schools Act signaled a new era for ESEA. The IASA reauthorized the major ESEA programs through fiscal year 1999, retaining a focus on children with special learning needs but making important revisions. (See Table at end of Part I--Overview of Key ESEA Programs.) The redesigned ESEA emphasizes high expectations for all children, a schoolwide focus for improvement efforts, and stronger partnerships among schools, parents, and communities. It stresses the need for States and school districts to raise student achievement, while de-emphasizing many specific process requirements that characterized prior law. And it promotes better integration of federal, State, and local programs as a strategy for producing better student results.

Federal Legislation to Support State and Local Reform

The Goals 2000: Educate America Act and the ESEA have distinct roles to play in supporting school improvement. Goals 2000 can help States and school districts lay the foundations of reform: establishing State and local content and performance standards, designing a system of assessments and accountability to determine if children are reaching the standards, planning how to use and coordinate available resources, and developing strategies to actively involve parents, teachers, and community members in school reform.

ESEA programs can complement the general reforms fostered by Goals 2000. ESEA ensures that the children who stand to benefit most from extra assistance--such as educationally deprived children, migratory children, immigrant children, limited-English-proficient children, homeless children, and Indian children--will receive high-quality instruction, extended learning time, and enriched educational experiences so that they, too, can meet challenging standards. ESEA programs also underwrite other critical components of school improvement, such as teacher professional development, educational technology, school safety, and drug abuse prevention. While each ESEA program can contribute in its own way to the bottom-line goal of increased learning for all students, the greatest potential for systemic reform ultimately comes from using the fiscal resources from all ESEA programs in an integrated, coordinated way.

Another relevant law passed in 1994 is the School-to-Work Opportunities Act. Jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Labor, this legislation spurs States and localities to develop better systems--as part of their overall school improvement efforts--that help youth make a smoother transition from school to good jobs or additional education.

Planning for Change

A strong plan lays the foundation for school reform. Whether a Title I schoolwide program plan or a Goals 2000 blueprint for reform, a good plan can present a compelling, shared vision for education and a structure for coordinating resources to make this vision a reality. It can engage key stakeholders in the reform process and set timetables and benchmarks for progress. A good plan can become a rallying point for everyone in the school, so that regular classroom teachers, special program staff, administrators, and students will see how their actions fit into a larger context and will pursue the same objectives.

Three stages of the planning process are particularly critical--establishing a vision, planning and integrating education programs in support of this vision, and sustaining ongoing improvement.

* establishing a vision:

A vision for school improvement ultimately must come from States and localities. A vision will be meaningful only when the broader community has helped shape it and has assumed a sense of ownership for it. The vision must be conceived by teachers who know what works in the classroom, parents who want the best opportunities for their children, and community leaders who see the broader benefits of a strong educational system. In formulating a vision, States, districts, and schools must articulate what they expect their students to learn, how they want their teachers to teach, and how they want their schools to function as effective places for teaching and learning. Once a community has determined what is best for its children, it will be in a much better position to use federal dollars to provide maximum learning benefits for those children.

Both Goals 2000 and ESEA ask States and communities to start with their own visions of educational success, then identify the programs that will make it possible to achieve that vision--rather than starting with program requirements and working backwards. Looking at the needs of the whole school and the whole student is a more sensible and educationally sound approach than designing instruction solely to fit the parameters of funded programs.

Many States have begun their school improvement efforts by developing content and performance standards for students, which they then use to help clarify their visions, identify reform goals, and guide State and local planning.

* planning and integrating education programs in support of this vision:

The revised ESEA calls upon States and communities to integrate federal programs with each other and with State and local programs, while keeping many of the law's special emphases and its focus on at-risk children. Program integration is emphasized not for its own sake, but because integrated programs have a better chance of raising achievement for all students, particularly at-risk children. When federal, State, and local programs are working toward the same goals, they create a synergy that can produce greater results for students than programs operating in isolation. Other possible benefits of integration are improved efficiency and lower administrative costs.

The law contains a number of strategies that make it easier for States and communities to plan programs around a common vision and integrate them with each other:

Hattiesburg, MS: One Plan, Not Eight Plans

In 1994, with funds from the former Chapter 2, more than 300 educators, parents, and citizens in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, spent countless hours developing a districtwide strategic plan that would chart a community vision for school reform. The resulting plan addressed all important components of the educational system--including curriculum, instruction, staff development, assessment, parent and community involvement, school organization, and school climate--and aimed to prepare all Hattiesburg students to become analytical thinkers, lifelong learners, and productive citizens. The plan contained specific objectives, such as annually improving student test scores and attendance, and spelled out specific strategies, such as implementing curricula based on voluntary content standards and encouraging students to undertake community service projects.

But the real impact of the plan would depend on whether individual school sites embraced it. In 1995-96, using Goals 2000 funding, the Hattiesburg school district again worked with educators, parents, and community people, this time to initiate similar school-community plans at the building level. This strategic planning process has also become the vehicle for Title I schoolwide program planning and parent-school compacts. (All Hattiesburg elementary schools and one middle school have Title I schoolwide programs.) Site planners are encouraged to specify what they want to accomplish, then "figure out how they will apply time, money, and human resources" from all available sources to achieve their goals, according to Perrin Lowrey, director of planning and evaluation. "We need one plan, not eight plans," Lowrey explained. "It's important that we're all in the same canoe, we all have a paddle, and we all know where we're going."

* sustaining ongoing improvement:

The revised ESEA links federal program accountability with the same accountability measures--based on challenging State standards and assessments--that each State uses to measure progress of all its children. These new accountability strategies are intended not only to improve coordination of federal programs with State reforms, but also to promote high expectations for all children and instill in federal programs a culture of accountability and continual improvement.

The most influential new accountability provisions are found in Title I. State standards and assessments form the framework of a Title I accountability approach that rewards the continued success of schools and districts and takes corrective actions for repeated failure to help at-risk students progress adequately toward State standards. This accountability approach is also connected to a formative evaluation process. Educators are encouraged to use Title I assessment results to revise their classroom instruction and develop learning experiences to help all students meet State standards. Provisions linking accountability to State and local standards can be found in several other programs including Migrant Education, Bilingual Education, Indian Education, and the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program.

Ongoing improvement is also an important part of State and local reforms under Goals 2000. A primary objective of Goals 2000 is to catalyze development of high-quality State assessments to monitor students' progress toward State and local performance standards. States must have procedures in place for revitalizing schools that are not making adequate progress. States will also monitor the progress of themselves and their local educational agencies in carrying out State and local improvement plans.

The ESEA and Goals 2000 improvement strategies revolve around far more than assessment and external rewards and sanctions, however. Primarily they depend on teachers and parents--those persons who are closest to children--possessing the authority, information, and training to improve teaching and learning, and accepting the responsibility to intervene until all children achieve at higher levels. To foster the conditions in which this kind of "self-generated" accountability can thrive, the federal legislation furnishes additional supports, such as professional development and technical assistance, greater decisionmaking authority at the school level, stronger parental involvement, and annual reviews of school and district progress in raising student performance.

Shelby County, KY:
Deciding What Students Need and Making It Happen

District transformation plans are a cornerstone of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, which propelled a massive overhaul of the State educational system. As with other Kentucky school districts, planning in the Shelby County Public Schools comes down to answering two questions: What do our students need? And how do we make it happen?

In the past, district planners often worked backwards from grant requirements, without fully considering the broader needs of the district. "I would receive a Title II application, see the kinds of things that I could and could not do, then I would design a project that fit those goals," said Molly Sullivan, director of curriculum in Shelby County. "Now we assess the county program needs before deciding how best to use our funds." When Shelby County teachers and administrators developed a district transformation plan for 1996-98, they first did a needs assessment. Based on the results, they determined priorities for reform, then planned activities and strategies to address those priorities. "Once we have identified all of our activities," Sullivan explained, "then we look at our available budget and the kinds of things that they are designed to support and the kinds of things that they cannot support." The more targeted funding programs are budgeted first, saving more flexible authorities, such as ESEA Title VI (the former Chapter 2), to pay for activities that cannot be supported from targeted programs.

After looking at assessment results and other indicators, Shelby County planners realized that their greatest need, prekindergarten through grade 12, was for improved science education. With funding from Goals 2000 and other sources, the district is pursuing a multi-pronged approach to reform science instruction. A science resource teacher provides instructional suggestions, materials, modeling, and training to all schools. Teachers engage in professional development concerning effective science curricula, teaching strategies, and assessment methods. Students conduct experiments and projects inside and outside their classrooms and participate eagerly in after-school science clubs at least once a week. Some effects of this concerted attention are already emerging. Elementary teachers are doing a better job of integrating science content into a variety of instructional areas, such as reading. Teachers are talking more among themselves about how to improve science teaching. "More children are doing good minds-on, hands-on science," observed Kricket McClure, Shelby County science resource teacher, "and it has to pay off."

Walsh and Pembina Counties, ND: A True Community Vision

Inspired by Goals 2000 funding, nearly 70 citizens of Walsh and Pembina Counties, North Dakota, met intensively over several months of 1995 to develop a plan to improve teaching and learning in 17 small, rural school districts covering a wide region. Teachers, counselors, administrators, parents, religious leaders, civic leaders, and employers met in eight committees to draft a plan that identified strategies for achieving the National Education Goals. At a large public meeting, over 150 citizens from the wider community debated, revised, added to, and prioritized the draft strategies. "We had one of the largest gymnasiums in the area filled with moms, dads, and business leaders," said Bernie Burley, special projects coordinator for the North Valley Vo-Tech Center. "This was far more than rubberstamping," he explained. "At that meeting, the farm family who lived several miles from town had as much power as the school board members."

From this process emerged 34 strategies that set a course for reform, in many cases spelling out the "who," "what," "when," "where," and "how." One strategy, for example, concerns more effective use of technology; it calls on districts to provide all teachers with professional development in technology, to encourage teachers to use technology for assignments and recordkeeping, and to install computers in every classroom by May 31, 1997. Other strategies include providing professional development in effective teaching techniques at all grades, mounting a coordinated drug-free schools effort, and upgrading the quality of kindergarten programs. Since most of the affected school districts received Goals 2000 grants of less than $2,000, they are drawing upon other resources to implement the strategies, such as ESEA Titles II and IV, School-to-Work Opportunities, Head Start, and State, local, and foundation dollars.

Table: Overview of Key ESEA Programs

Title I Helping Disadvantaged Children Meet High Standards
Part A
Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies: Supports local educational agencies in improving teaching and learning to help low-achieving students in high-poverty schools meet the same challenging State content and performance standards that apply to all students. Promotes effective instructional strategies that increase the amount and quality of learning time for at-risk children and that deliver an enriched and accelerated curriculum. Also expands eligibility of schools for schoolwide programs that serve all children in high-poverty schools; encourages school-based planning; establishes accountability based on results; promotes effective parental participation; and supports coordination with health and social services.

Part B
Even Start Family Literacy: Improves the educational opportunities of low-income families by integrating early childhood education, adult literacy or adult basic education, and parenting education into a unified family literacy program.

Part C
Education of Migratory Children: Supports educational programs for migratory children to help reduce the educational disruptions and other problems that result from repeated moves. Helps provide migratory children with the same opportunities as other children to meet challenging State content and performance standards. Targets efforts on the most mobile children, whose schooling is most likely to be disrupted.

Part D
Education of Neglected and Delinquent Youth: Extends educational services and learning time in State institutions and community-day programs for neglected or delinquent children and youth. Encourages smooth transitions to enable participants to continue schooling or enter the job market upon leaving the institution. Supports programs in which school districts collaborate with locally operated correctional facilities to prepare youth in these facilities for high school completion, training, and employment and to operate dropout prevention programs.

Title II Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional Development

Concentrates on upgrading the expertise of teachers and other school staff to enable them to teach all children to challenging State content standards. Supports sustained and intensive high-quality professional development, focused on achieving high performance standards in mathematics, science, and other core academic subjects.

Title III Technology for Education

Technology for Education of All Students: Creates a broad authority for challenge grants to develop and demonstrate technology to help all students meet challenging content standards, as well as for projects to design better technology-based learning tools and resources in the areas of literacy, English as a Second Language, and school-to-work transition.

Star Schools: Supports partnerships to provide distance learning services, equipment, and facilities and encourages national leadership activities.

Title IV Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities

Supports Goal Seven of the National Education Goals by encouraging comprehensive approaches to make schools and neighborhoods safe and drug-free. Provides funds to governors, State educational agencies (SEAs), LEAs, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit entities for a variety of drug and violence prevention programs.

Title V Promoting Equity

Magnet Schools Assistance: Promotes desegregation through magnet school programs that are part of an approved desegregation plan and that attract students from different social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds with a distinctive curriculum.

Title VI Innovative Education Program Strategies

Provides broad support for activities that encourage school reform and educational innovation.

Title VII Bilingual Education, Language Enhancement, and Language Acquisition Programs

Bilingual Education: Helps ensure that limited-English-proficient children have the same opportunities to achieve the same high performance standards as all other children. Builds local capacity to provide high-quality bilingual programs.

Immigrant Education: Supports LEAs that have had recent, significant increases in immigrant student populations, emphasizing transition services and coordination of education for immigrants with regular educational services.

Foreign Language Assistance: Assists State or local educational agencies in carrying out innovative model programs that establish, improve, or expand foreign language studies for elementary and secondary school students.

Title VIII Impact Aid

Provides financial assistance to LEAs whose local revenues or enrollments are adversely affected by federal activities, including the federal acquisition of real property, or the enrollment of children who reside on tax-exempt federal property or reside with a parent employed on tax-exempt federal property.

Title IX Indian Education

Indian Education: Supports LEA efforts to meet the special educational and culturally related academic needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives, so that these children can achieve the same challenging State standards expected of all students.

Native Hawaiians: Supports supplemental educational programs to assist Native Hawaiians in reaching the National Education Goals.

Title X Programs of National Significance

Javits Gifted and Talented Education: Supports State and local efforts to improve the education of gifted and talented students.

Public Charter Schools: Provides seed money for the development and initial implementation of public charter schools, in order to demonstrate how increased flexibility within public school systems can produce better results for children.

Other Title X programs include the Fund for the Improvement of Education; Civics Education; Arts Education; and Inexpensive Book Distribution.

Title XI Coordinated Services

Allows LEAs, schools, and consortia of schools to use five percent or less of the funds they receive under ESEA to develop, implement, or expand coordinated services that increase children's and parents' access to social, health, and educational services.

Title XIII Support and Assistance Programs to Improve Education

Comprehensive Regional Assistance Centers: Builds a comprehensive, accessible network of 15 technical assistance centers that link schools, districts, States, and the U.S. Department of Education to improve access to and exchange of information and assistance about federal programs and school reform.

Title XIV General Provisions

Provides a general waiver authority for federal education programs to allow flexibility in return for clear accountability for improved student performance. Authorizes consolidated plans and consolidation of administrative funds. Establishes uniform provisions governing maintenance of effort and equitable participation of private school students and teachers. Requires States receiving ESEA funds to have a State law mandating expulsion of students who bring weapons to school. Permits LEAs, with State approval, to use unneeded funds under any ESEA program (other than Title I, Part A) for another ESEA program.

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[Introduction] [Table of Contents] [II. Improving Teaching and Learning with ESEA Resources]