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Transmittal Letter for National Assessment of Title I Final Report

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November 15, 2007

Honorable George Miller
Chairman
Committee on Education and Labor
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am pleased to submit to you the National Assessment of Title I Final Report. This report is based on data spanning several years from all 50 states, and updates the information provided in the National Assessment of Title I Interim Report that was released in April 2006. The report provides new data on the implementation of Title I and on an experimental study of four promising remedial reading programs. Also included are the reviews of the report by two independent experts in evaluation, as required by Section 1501 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

This report clearly demonstrates that we need to continue the hard work of assessing all children, while maintaining our commitment to helping states develop challenging standards. As Secretary, I rely on data to make informed decisions regarding NCLB and other important federal laws. The report provides many key findings on the nation's implementation of NCLB and describes the progress made through school year 2004-05 in achieving our shared goal of enabling every student to reach proficiency in reading/language arts and mathematics by 2013-14.

As the recently released results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) make clear, student achievement is improving in the United States, and student achievement gaps are closing, particularly for mathematics and for early elementary students. Yet there is still work to be done, as the results remain mixed for middle and high school students.

Further, as this report shows, states have made substantial progress in implementing the provisions of NCLB. In fact, during the 2005-06 school year, all states administered assessments intended to meet the NCLB requirements for reading and math, which is critical to our ability to monitor the progress of all students. Five years after the passage of NCLB we now have a much better idea of where we are going. I want to take the opportunity to highlight a few findings from the report and discuss what needs to be done as we move forward.

Student Achievement

In addition to the NAEP results, the state assessment results are beginning to show achievement gains. In states that had three-year trend data available on their state assessments, the percentage of students achieving at or above each state's proficient level rose for most student subgroups in a majority of states. More importantly, both NAEP and state assessments indicate that achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and other students may be narrowing. The 4th-grade NAEP data, in particular, indicate that minority students and students in high-poverty schools have made substantial gains in reading, mathematics, and science. Similarly, state reading assessments showed achievement gains for 4th-grade low-income students in 28 out of 35 states. On the separately administered Trend NAEP, which has used a consistent set of assessment items since the 1970's, achievement gaps for black and Hispanic students have also narrowed. We remain concerned, however, that high school students are not making similar gains.

Implementation of State Assessment Systems

An important NCLB milestone has been reached, in that all states administered assessments in 2005-06 that were intended to meet the NCLB requirements for reading and math in Grades 3-8. Additionally, 24 state assessment systems have been approved through the Department's peer review process, eight are designated as "approval expected," and 20 are "approval pending." States are also making progress in meeting the goal of assessing 95 percent of all subgroups. In fact, 48 states assessed at least 95 percent of their low-income students, and 45 states assessed at least 95 percent of their students with disabilities. This is a major accomplishment, as all states now have a baseline against which to measure their progress. We are continuing to work with states through the LEP Partnership in the development of assessments for students with limited English proficiency to make sure that all states will meet this requirement as we move forward.

Accountability and Support for School Improvement

One of the most critical provisions of NCLB is that states demonstrate that their districts and schools are making adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward bringing all students to proficiency in reading/language arts and mathematics. In the 2004-05 school year, 75 percent of all schools and districts met all applicable AYP targets. Schools and districts most commonly missed the AYP target for the "all students" group or for multiple subgroups. Few schools missed AYP solely due to the achievement of a single subgroup; nine percent of schools missed AYP for students with disabilities only and four percent missed AYP for limited English proficient (LEP) students only.

Overall, 12 percent of schools nationwide were identified as being in need of improvement. Most of these (84 percent) were Title I schools. One area in which there is still work to be done is the notification of districts and schools of their AYP status. Only 15 states notified schools prior to September 2004 of their status for the 2004-05 school year. In addition, as of the 2004-05 school year, 22 percent of principals and 30 percent of elementary teachers in identified schools were not aware that their school had been identified as in need of improvement. More current data suggest that this has improved substantially in recent years.

School Choice and Supplemental Educational Services

Participation in both public school choice and supplemental educational services (SES) continues to grow. Although still quite low, the number of students opting for public school choice doubled over the three-year period from 2002-03 to 2004-05, and SES participation increased ten-fold. In a sample of nine urban districts, minorities, LEP students, and students with disabilities had relatively high participation rates in the SES program. More importantly, a Departmental study conducted by the RAND Corporation found that SES produced significant positive effects in reading and math achievement for participants that appear to be cumulative. Although the demand for these programs is clearly expanding, communication with eligible parents still needs to improve. For example, of the parents surveyed in eight urban districts, only half of those with a child eligible for SES and one-quarter of those with a child eligible for public school choice were aware that these options were available for them.

Title I Participation and Funding

The number of students counted as Title I participants tripled from 6.7 million in 1994-95 to 20.0 million in 2004-05. This is partially due to the growing use of schoolwide programs. In addition, the number of private school students participating in Title I has gradually increased over the past 20 years to 188,000. Not only has the number of students being served by Title I grown, but the funding for Title I has also increased substantially. After adjusting for inflation, total funding for Title I, Part A, has increased by 35 percent over the past seven years, from $9.5 billion in FY 2000 to $12.8 billion in FY 2007. In terms of the distribution of these funds, in the 2004-05 school year more than three-fourths of Title I funds went to high-poverty schools, those with more than 50 percent of students eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch. However, it appears that the targeting of Title I funds to schools with higher concentrations of poverty is not being realized. Although the highest-poverty schools receive a relatively large share of Title I funds, their average Title I allocation per low-income student has not changed since 1997-98. The report found that most Title I funds were used for instruction, supporting salaries for teachers and instructional aides, providing instructional materials and computers, and supporting other instructional services and resources.

Remedial Reading Programs

As part of the National Assessment of Title I, the Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funded an experimental study of four promising remedial reading interventions for struggling readers in the 3rd and 5th grades. The study, conducted from the fall of 2003 to the spring of 2005, showed that one year after implementation, the programs continued to have a positive impact on phonemic decoding, word reading accuracy and fluency, and reading comprehension for the 3rd-grade cohort. There was no consistent pattern of positive effects for the 5th-grade cohort. For 3rd-graders these interventions reduced the reading gap by two-thirds on word-attack skills and by one-sixth to one-third on other word level tests and reading comprehension compared with students in the control group. We need to continue to focus on the earliest grades in order to prevent later reading difficulties.

Thank you for allowing me to highlight the key findings from the final report. I hope that this report will be useful to you. We have made substantial progress in the last six years, but more work needs to be done. We will continue to work with states in developing challenging assessments, while focusing on secondary education. In addition, we need to expand participation in public school choice and SES. Finally, as the report indicates, many states are going to have to redouble their efforts in order to reach the 100 percent proficiency target by 2014, but the progress made through 2004-05 suggests that it is possible. If you have any questions, please have your staff contact the Department's Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at (202) 401-0020. I look forward to our continued work together to raise student achievement and fulfill the promise of No Child Left Behind.

Sincerely,

 

/s/

 

Margaret Spellings


 
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Last Modified: 11/15/2007