Title I is a federal grant program designed to give educational assistance to students living in areas of high poverty. The Title I program originated in 1965 when Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and was reauthorized in 2001 with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. Title I is one of the oldest and largest federal programs supporting elementary and secondary education in existence, and over 90% of the school systems in the United States receive some sort of Title I funding.
The Title I program provides financial assistance through State educational agencies (SEAs) to local educational agencies (LEAs) and public schools with high numbers or percentages of poor children to help ensure that all children meet challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards.
LEAs target the Title I funds they receive to public schools with the highest percentages of children from low-income families. Unless a participating school is operating a schoolwide program, the school must focus Title I services on children who are failing, or most at risk of failing, to meet State academic standards. Schools enrolling at least 40 percent of students from poor families are eligible to use Title I funds for schoolwide programs that serve all children in the school.
Title I reaches about 12.5 million students enrolled in both public and private schools. Title I funds may be used for children from preschool age to high school, but most of the students served (65 percent) are in grades 1 through 6; another 12 percent are in preschool and kindergarten programs.
Title I is designed to support State and local school reform efforts tied to challenging State academic standards in order to reinforce and amplify efforts to improve teaching and learning for students farthest from meeting State standards. Individual public schools with poverty rates above 40 percent may use Title I funds, along with other Federal, State, and local funds, to operate a "schoolwide program" to upgrade the instructional program for the whole school. Schools with poverty rates below 40 percent, or those choosing not to operate a schoolwide program, offer a "targeted assistance program" in which the school identifies students who are failing, or most at risk of failing, to meet the State's challenging performance standards, then designs, in consultation with parents, staff, and district staff, an instructional program to meet the needs of those students. Both schoolwide and targeted assistance programs must be based on effective means of improving student achievement and include strategies to support parental involvement.
Title I funds are allocated to each state, and the states in turn allocate funds to the local school systems based on poverty data gathered from many different sources. Schools are ranked by percentages of students qualifying for the free or reduced price lunches under the National School Lunch Act. Once a ranking of schools has been determined, then schools with the highest percentages of free or reduced lunch students receive Title I programs. A school must have a percentage greater than or equal to the overall percentage for the entire school system to be eligible for a Title I program. Eligible schools are then served in rank order until funds are exhausted.
The entire purpose of Title I funding is to help schools move all students toward meeting each state's content and performance standards. This is a change from the expectations of the past with regards to Title I students. In past years, Title I students and programs were evaluated at the same time each year, and were pronounced successful if they improved at all. Now Title I students and programs are evaluated with respect to how much progress they have made toward meeting the same goals we have established for everyone else. We are now expecting all children in our schools, including the poor and educationally disadvantaged, to develop the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement once expected from only the top students.
Title I school participation under the newly reauthorized law must follow one of two different models:
Schoolwide Programs: Schools with 40% or more of their students living in poverty qualify to operate schoolwide programs. Schools using this model are not required to target or identify eligible students. The goal of schoolwide programs is to assist Title I students by improving the instructional program of the entire school. The components of a schoolwide program include:
A comprehensive needs assessment of the entire school
School wide reform strategies
Provision for instruction by highly qualified professional staff
Strategies for increasing parental involvement
Plans to facilitate transition from preschool to elementary school
Measures for including teacher input to improve student performance and the overall instructional program
Provision of assistance to struggling students
Targeted Assistance Schools: Schools with less than 40% of their students living in poverty or schools with more than 40% that do not choose to operate schoolwide programs are eligible for targeted assistance programs. Under this plan, students in a targeted assistance school are identified and participate in the Title I program based on the fact that they are "failing, or most at risk of failing, to meet the state's challenging performance standards." The school determines this eligibility based on multiple, educationally related, objective criteria for students in grades 3 and above. For preschool through second grade students, eligibility criteria should be developmentally appropriate measures, teacher judgment, and interviews with parents. The components of a targeted assistance school program include:
Using resources (funds, personnel, etc.) to help participating students meet the challenging state student
Developing effective means for improving achievement
Coordinating with existing school plans
Using effective, challenging instructional strategies that minimize pull-out instruction
Supporting and coordinating with regular educational programs
Provision for instruction by a highly qualified staff
Providing professional development
Increasing parental involvement