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

Theme 2. A Focus on Teaching and Learning

High standards set goals for students, but it is everyday teaching and learning--along with the relationship between teacher and student--that motivates and equips students to reach goals. In addition to high standards, several other elements are critical for effective teaching and learning. These include professional development that prepares teachers to teach to challenging standards; high quality curricula and instruction; and technical assistance and support.

* Professional development. No matter how effective a particular instructional approach or organizational structure, it will have little impact without the informed backing of teachers and other school staff. Teachers must possess content knowledge and effective teaching skills to help children learn to high standards. Recognizing this, most of the programs under the ESEA include a renewed focus on professional development tied to challenging standards, and permit federal funds to be used for professional development for teachers, other school staff, administrators, and parents. (See Box--ESEA Programs That Can Support Professional Development Activities.)

ESEA Programs That Can Support Professional Development Activities

Title I
Helping Disadvantaged Children Meet High Standards (LEA Grants, Even Start, Migrant, Neglected and Delinquent)

Title II
Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional Development

Title III
Technology for Education

Title IV
Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities

Title VI
Innovative Education Program Strategies

Title VII
Bilingual Education: Capacity and Demonstration Grants; Research, Evaluation, and Dissemination; Training for All Teachers Program; Foreign Language Assistance Program

Title IX
Indian Education Formula Grants to LEAs; Special Programs for Indian Children; Native Hawaiian Curriculum Development, Teacher Training, and Recruitment Program

Title X
Fund for the Improvement of Education; Gifted and Talented; Arts in Education; Civic Education; Charter Schools

Title XI
Coordinated Services

Title XIII
Comprehensive Regional Assistance Centers; Eisenhower Regional Consortia

New Castle, DE: Bringing Coherence to Professional Development

Colonial School District in New Castle, Delaware, has coordinated funding from ESEA Titles I, II, IV, and V, the Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, and State and local sources to bring greater coherence to professional development across the district. All professional development in the system is aligned with State content standards and new district curricular reforms, is rooted in research on teaching and learning, and is focused on Colonial's overarching goal: "To improve the academic achievement of all students."

Each school has a team of teachers, administrators, parents, and others, which develops a schoolwide plan for improving student achievement. The district's Learning Division coordinates professional development by looking at information from school plans, a districtwide teacher need survey, and the district's curricular reform goals, then plugging in professional development funding from all sources. Recent training has focused on implementation of new curricula in language arts, math, social studies, and science, and on instructional management. "We're weaving curriculum with training, with assessment, and with instructional strategies," explained Linda F. Poole, director of learning. "We're combining dollars, planning, purposes, and goals."

Benefits have already begun to accrue from Colonial's coordinated approach. Total involvement in professional development has increased from about 8,000 person-training hours in 1992-93 to more than 13,000 person-training hours in 1995-96. Training has become longer in duration and more intensive--courses of several days instead of a few hours, followed by ongoing practice, feedback, reflection, and coaching in the participants' own classrooms. More staff development is taking place at individual school sites, as teachers share what they have learned at the district's Teaching and Learning Center with colleagues in their buildings.

* Curricula and instruction. The amended ESEA attempts to build on a decade of research about how children learn and which instructional techniques are most effective. For example, we now know the importance of content-rich instruction for all children at every stage of development. We know that technology, when carefully implemented, can enliven teaching, tailor instruction to individual learning styles, and connect classrooms with a vast world of information. ESEA programs provide support for curricula and instruction aligned with broader classroom reforms.

Boston, MA: Leveraging Funds for Schoolwide Improvement

Samuel W. Mason Elementary in the Roxbury section of Boston used to be one of the least-chosen schools in the city under the district's controlled school choice plan. Now the school is filled to capacity, with a waiting list. Student achievement at Mason has increased steadily over a three-year period and has exceeded the citywide average for reading, including advanced reading comprehension. Parent involvement has increased from 6 percent attendance at some parent activities to 94 percent. And for two consecutive years, 1994 and 1995, Mason won the prestigious City of Boston Management Excellence award, never before given to a public school.

This transformation has been fueled in part by innovative leveraging of Title I dollars in a schoolwide program. "We looked at dollars from the city and Title I as a lump sum, and we had the flexibility to do it," said principal Mary Russo. At-risk children, LEP children, and children with disabilities are fully included in all classes. Teaching for at-risk children has shifted from a remedial approach to an accelerated approach based on the best instructional practices from reading and writing research.

Title I schoolwide status has enabled Mason Elementary to use instructional staff more flexibly and reduce teacher-pupil ratios from 26:1 to 13:1 for part of the day. In the morning, groups of teachers--including a three-member "literacy team" of specially skilled teachers--work with clusters of children in grades 1-5; students are matched to teachers according to learning styles. In the afternoon, the literacy team works with kindergarten and early childhood teachers in an early literacy program for three- to five-year-olds. "Instead of serving 30 or 40 children in pullout programs, Title I was leveraged with other resources to affect all teachers and all students," Russo explained.

Union City, NJ: Technology As Resource for Instructional Reform

Threatened with State takeover, the Union City, New Jersey, school district launched a massive restructuring and curriculum reform in 1990. The district's high need and interest attracted the attention of Bell Atlantic Corporation, which wanted to become involved in a program to demonstrate how interactive, multimedia technology could foster education reform. Thus was born Project Explore, a program based at Christopher Columbus School--a public middle school housed in an old parochial school. In September 1993, corporate and local funding provided the whole seventh grade class and their teachers with numerous computers at school and at home. Digital subscriber lines and audio/video server technology were later integrated into the network.

Federal funds from Title I, Bilingual Education, and other programs have helped support curricular reforms across the district that stress development of high-level thinking skills. Columbus students are expected to demonstrate proficiencies by writing research papers and completing projects. Students and teachers in Project Explore use e-mail to communicate with each other and turn in and evaluate homework. Parents, including many with limited English proficiency, send frequent e-mail messages to school and take an active interest in the children's use of computers. Currently the district is using funds from the National Science Foundation and other sources to equip all the grades at Christopher Columbus with the kinds of technology that have enriched Project Explore. Meanwhile, Project Explore--along with the home computers--has followed the original cohort of students into the 10th grade at Emerson High School for 1996-97.

Both the curricular reforms and the investment in technology appear to be paying off. Union City students are consistently outperforming other special needs districts in the State by approximately 27 percentage points in reading, writing, and math on the State Early Warning Test. Students in Project Explore are doing even better. In writing, for example, the average 9th grade score of the Explore cohort was 71.2, compared with 50.3 for Union City as a whole. Among these students, attendance is high, and the dropout rate has decreased to a very low level.

How Title I and Title VII Can Work Together to Help Schools, Districts, and States Raise the Performance of LEP Students

With continuing growth in the number of LEP students, SEAs and LEAs face special challenges in raising performance of LEP students. The revised ESEA contains several provisions that can help SEAs and LEAs use Title VII and Title I in a more coordinated way to improve achievement of LEP students.

  • The overriding purpose of both Title I and Title VII is the same--helping participants reach challenging State standards established for all children. The purpose of Title I is to help disadvantaged children "acquire the knowledge and skills contained in the challenging State content standards and to meet the challenging State performance standards developed for all children." The purpose of Title VII is "to educate limited English proficient children and youth to meet the same rigorous standards for academic performance expected of all children and youth, including meeting challenging State content standards and challenging State student performance standards in academic areas."

  • Both Title I and Title VII promote coordination, schoolwide programs, and comprehensive reform. Title VII, Subpart 1 has four discretionary grants: Program Development and Implementation grants to initiate new programs; Program Enhancement grants to expand or enhance State and locally funded programs; five-year Comprehensive School grants to develop and implement schoolwide bilingual education programs; and five-year Systemwide Improvement grants to develop and implement districtwide programs that serve all or almost all LEP students. As in Title I, Title VII grantees must ensure that programs are not isolated from the overall school programs. Schools with Title I schoolwide programs may combine their Title VII funds with their Title I funds for comprehensive reform. In addition, under Title VII Comprehensive Schools grants, schools with high concentrations of LEP students may implement schoolwide bilingual or special alternative instructional programs to upgrade all relevant programs and activities serving all LEP students. Coordination of Title I and Title VII through schoolwide approaches can ensure access of LEP students to the full mainstream curriculum.

  • Both Title I and Title VII encourage schoolwide staff development. Most teachers serving LEP students have little training in how second-language acquisition and cultural diversity influence learning or the educational experiences of students. Only about one-third of those who teach LEP students have ever taken college courses addressing these issues. Titles I and VII recognize that staff development is key to increasing the performance of all students. Title I requires and Title VII encourages recipients to demonstrate how they will provide intensive, sustained professional development to help all teachers teach to challenging State standards.

  • Title I and Title VII promote increased parental involvement. Participation of parents of LEP students in school activities tends to be low, in the aggregate; thus, improving parental participation is a vital step in boosting LEP student achievement. Parental involvement is a major theme of the ESEA as reflected, for example, in the Title I school-parent compacts. More effective cooperation among staff supported by Title I and Title VII can go a long way toward increasing participation of parents of LEP students. For example, Title I requires schools and LEAs to "ensure, to the extent possible, that information related to school and parent programs, meetings, and other activities is sent to the homes of participating children in the language used in such homes."

  • The IASA supports a comprehensive system of technical assistance. Comprehensive regional technical assistance centers promise to enhance Title I and Title VII coordination compared with the prior arrangement of different centers for the two programs. (See the following section on "technical assistance and support.")

  • LEAs have flexibility under ESEA to develop sensible local arrangements for meeting the needs of LEP children. Schools and districts can coordinate resources, staff, and services under Title I and Title VII to produce a sound, effective instructional program. For example--

    • Title I funds may be used to pay the salaries of instructional staff who work with students having academic difficulties, including LEP students. These staff could work closely with ESL/bilingual teachers and regular classroom teachers.

    • With Title I aid, a school district could develop an accelerated before- and after-school program for LEP students. One type of program would pair high school and elementary school students for activities such as shared reading and writing time. Guided reading, math, and science activities and reinforcement of content concepts studied during the day would also be an integral part of these sessions.

    • A school district could use Title I funds for an accelerated summer academic program for LEP students to fortify the literacy skills and content knowledge developed during the school year. One type of program would group Title I-eligible LEP students by grade level, teaming them with English-proficient Title I students. This affords the LEP students extra opportunities to use English. The content-based language instruction program would be taught by a team of teachers, pairing a bilingual and non-bilingual staff member in each class. A variety of activities such as field trips are a vital part of the instructional program and provide opportunities for enriched language experiences.

Lamar, CO: Raising Achievement of LEP Children through a Schoolwide Program

In the Colorado prairie town of Lamar, educators at Lincoln Elementary have woven together funds from Titles I-A, I-C, II, IV, VI, and VII of ESEA and from the State's English Language Proficiency Act to implement a combined schoolwide Title I-Title VII program. Boosting achievement of LEP students is a major goal of the schoolwide program. More than 90 percent of the school's children are from low-income families, 71 percent are Hispanic, and 60 percent are limited-English-proficient. The schoolwide concept has resulted in "a 180 degree attitude change," according to federal programs coordinator Diana Rankin, transforming Lincoln School "from the 'outcast' school to the 'prominent' school that other schools want to emulate." And scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills have risen throughout the school.

Drawing on the resources of their regional technical assistance center, teachers at Lincoln are implementing the best research-based instructional practices for all children, particularly LEP children. To make time for a once-a-week in-school staff planning session, Lamar added 15 minutes to the school day four days a week; teachers use this weekly time for joint problem solving, curriculum development, and decisions about how to use resources. Teaching strategies have shifted from providing pullout English as a Second Language (ESL) services to strengthening the ability of all classroom teachers to work with LEP children. With ESEA support, teachers are receiving intensive staff development, including a Spanish language and culture immersion course. As a result, seven teachers expect to obtain ESL endorsements this school year and one expects to receive a bilingual teaching certificate.

The extra funding from ESEA has enabled Lincoln School to hire additional elementary classroom teachers, support more teaching assistants to work with LEP children, and establish a bilingual computer lab, The school has also instituted an extended-day kindergarten, a summer school program, drug-abuse prevention education, and parent activities, including evening ESL training for parents.

* Technical assistance and support. Schoolwide reform is hard work. To carry out their new responsibilities under ESEA, States, districts, and schools may need information and assistance. The ESEA contains new avenues for providing technical assistance. In addition, the Department of Education has taken several steps to upgrade the quality and availability of technical assistance.

Texas Education Agency: School Support Teams as Change Agents

A 1994-95 Texas pilot program brought school support teams (SSTs) to 12 sites across the State. Currently each of the 20 regional service centers in the State is striving to provide SSTs to keep pace with the dramatic increase in the number of Texas schoolwide programs. This is evident in Region III, where the number of schoolwide program campuses increased from 34 in 1995-96 to 70-plus this year. Composed of exemplary educators, experienced administrators, college faculty, and technical assistance personnel from across a region, SSTs are "external change agents" that help guide Title I schoolwide programs through the processes of setting school improvement goals, planning effective actions to change school practice, and productively using all resources to reach high performance goals.

In 1995-96, each school slated for SST assistance received a "pre-visit" by the team coordinator, an on-site visit by the entire team, phone and mail support from team members, and a follow-up visit later in the school year. An evaluation of the pilot year of the Texas SST initiative found that it had stimulated changes that have the potential to improve curriculum, instruction, school organization, and, ultimately, student academic success. "One of the outstanding attributes of the SSTs is their ability to respond to each unique school situation," observed Ann Fiala of the Region III Education Service Center. "In our region, each of the support visits has a slightly different look." For example, SSTs may review school improvement plans and make recommendations, examine the components of schoolwide programs, provide appropriate staff development, or help implement instructional technology in a new way. "It takes time to build the trusting relationship that is essential to the SST process," said Fiala, noting that schools must be willing to share their strengths and their aspirations for student success.

North Dakota: An Integrated Program Review

North Dakota was the site of the first integrated program review across an entire State agency conducted by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Staff from all programs administered by the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education joined with representatives of the Offices of Vocational and Adult Education, Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs, and Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. ED looked at how federal funds from the programs involved were being coordinated to improve services to children. The Department also provided technical assistance on program compliance and learned more about State reform efforts.

The SEA, the LEAs involved, and ED benefitted in several respects from this integrated approach. State officials from a variety of program areas sat at the same table discussing how to coordinate teaching and learning options, and in the process formed new relationships and gained greater understanding of how their roles were interconnected. Suggestions from the ED team helped the SEA and LEAs consider new ways to use federal, State, and local funds to improve teaching and learning. ED also provided technical assistance on such issues as how to pool resources, use waivers, and compile multiple data sources to show the outcomes of Title I schoolwide programs. Staff from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education discussed with State officials the upcoming State plan process and the impending reauthorization of the Perkins Act. In addition, the integrated review was a more efficient use of State and local time than multiple visits. ED team members benefitted through exposure to different perspectives and newly forged communication networks. The North Dakota experience provided valuable insights that will inform subsequent integrated program reviews.


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