Stay the Course: Maintain an Emphasis on Challenging Standards for All Students
Gains by students in the nation's highest poverty schools, coupled with evidence that aligning instruction with challenging standards can substantially increase student achievement, point to the need to stay the course of focusing instruction on challenging standards for all students. Though there has clearly been progress in implementing standards at all levels, full implementation in classrooms across the country has yet to be accomplished. States, districts, and schools need to continue to implement standards that challenge all students to achieve at high levels, and to align curriculum, teaching, and assessments with those standards. Reauthorization should address the continuing challenges that limit Title I's capacity to be a stimulus and support for better results for our nation's at-risk students.
Targeted High-Performance "Catch-UP" Grants to Strengthen the Highest-Poverty Schools
The continuing weak performance of the highest-poverty schools, those with poverty in excess of 75 percent, remains as one of America's most pressing educational problems. Although all Title I schools need additional resources and assistance, the highest-poverty schools are the neediest not only in terms of their populations served, but also in terms of the progress they must make to improve their current performance. In these schools, seven out of every ten children are currently achieving below even the basic level of reading.
Reauthorization should focus on the extraordinary needs of the highest-poverty schools to improve teaching and learning for our most at-risk students, while holding these schools accountable for continuous improvement in student results. If these grants were to target an additional $1.3 billion, or about 15 percent of current Title I funds, they would be sufficient when combined with current Title I funds and a 25 percent local match to enable the highest-poverty schools to:
These monies would raise the average amount of Title I funds that the highest-poverty schools receive annually by 50 percent to an estimated $336,000 for each school. These new monies could go out under the current formulas to states and districts for their schools with poverty rates of 75 percent or higher. If states lack schools in the highest poverty category, they would receive a minimum grant to be spent on their most impoverished schools.
The resources to support the Targeted High-Performance School Grants could come from increases in Title I funding and an off-the-top set-aside for these schools in related federal programs such as 21st Century Learning Communities, Reading Excellence Act, Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, GEAR UP and Class Size Reduction. A set-aside of one-third of the FY 2000 monies from these five programs for these highest poverty schools would provide about $990 million under the Administrations FY 2000 budget request. The remainder to bring the total to $1.3 billion could come from channeling the $320 million proposed increase in Title I funding to these new grants.
Targeting additional funds to schools with high concentrations of low-income students has advantages over targeting on low performance. First, high-performing, high-poverty schools should not be penalized for their progress. Nor should low-performing schools be rewarded for a lack of effort. High-performing schools need support, recognition, and encouragement to sustain their gains. In addition, targeting funds on the basis of poverty is consistent with the process for allocating funds currently and would not require a different mechanism.
Progress in using Title I to support improved instructional practices at the school-level remains limited by the continued use of paraprofessionals who provide instruction-particularly in the highest-poverty Title I schools. Paraprofessionals in high-poverty schools tend to have less formal education than those in low-poverty schools, and they are often assigned to teach-sometimes without a teacher present. While many paraprofessionals have invested large amounts of time and effort working in Title I schools, and are an important part of the school community, it is imperative that priorities for their services be based solely on the needs of students. Phasing out their use in instruction and promoting their use as parent liaisons or in administrative functions should be a priority.
Reauthorization should also support the establishment of career ladder programs for paraprofessionals, so that those desiring to become credentialed would be supported in doing so. These programs could include what some districts are doing already, based on recent survey data.
Reauthorization should include resources for the development of ongoing consumer guides on effective practices. Schools are moving toward adopting curriculum and whole school reform models to frame their improvement efforts. However little independent research has been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of comprehensive school reform models and better understand the conditions under which they can succeed. The federal government should make such research and evaluation of comprehensive model programs a priority through systematic study and annual reporting in a consumer guide. To ensure the integrity and independence of model appraisal, a quasi-governmental agency might be established to oversee the integrity of the evaluation process and reporting of results. This information would enable schools to become better-educated consumers in selecting and implementing models most likely to fit their circumstances and contribute to improved results.
The general direction of Title I parent involvement policies and compacts on supporting learning is consistent with research, but options that would strengthen implementation include:
The use of school profiles designed to report school results and progress has been shown to be a powerful tool for accountability and school improvement. However, profiles often do not effectively reach parents and community members. They tend to be difficult to read, even for the well-educated parent. They are also limited in their scope of information, with few school report cards presenting information on teacher quality or student rates of progress. Also schools are limited by a lack of comparable statewide or national information on what they are able to accomplish. The federal government should facilitate state and local school district efforts to provide coherent, comparative information on school progress to their communities.
The reauthorization should also ensure that accountability provisions identify schools in need of improvement based on the best measures available to states and districts-regardless of whether their final assessment systems are in place. Schools already identified for improvement, should remain so; time should not be lost as a result of reauthorization in identifying and reaching schools with the greatest needs.
Reauthorization should address eliminating dual accountability systems. For Title I to be an effective lever for improvement, it needs to be aligned and supportive of the systems states are creating.
Finally, Congress and those responsible for implementing and supporting Title I programs should recognize that state and local systems of standards, assessments and accountability are in flux and are likely to keep changing over time. Even established systems such as those in Kentucky and Kansas, which were forerunners in the development of aligned systems of standards and assessments, have revised their efforts to reflect priorities of their state legislatures and boards. The law should recognize this and offer states and districts the flexibility to continue to implement measures of school accountability under these conditions.
This National Assessment of Title I has examined the program in the context of the burgeoning standards-based reform movement in states and school districts. Though there has clearly been progress in implementing standards at all levels, full implementation in classrooms across the country has yet to be accomplished. The new directions proposed for reauthorization are designed to help speed up standards implementation, to help all children achieve at high levels. Reauthorization should address the continuing challenges that undercut Title I's capacity to be a stimulus and support for better results for our nation's at-risk students.
|Executive Summary (part 2 of 3)|||||Elementary and Secondary Education with Title I|