American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

Tightening Up Title I

Government that Works for Schools and Children
Defining an Effective State Role in Title I Education Reform
Brenda J. Turnbull and Leslie M. Anderson Policy Studies Associates March 2012

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1 Introduction and summary 4 The states’ Title I administrative responsibilities 7 State capacity to implement Title I 12 State efforts to assist low-performing districts and schools under Title I: A special problem 15 Options 20 Endnotes 23 About the authors

Introduction and summary
State governments continue to struggle to carry out their obligations under federal law to ensure that students in high-poverty elementary and secondary schools receive a good education. The initial push in the 1960s to oblige state departments of education to direct federal education funding to these woefully neglected schools caught the state education agencies unprepared. In the ensuing decades, the problem was exacerbated as the federal government ratcheted up the state agencies’ responsibilities for making the program work effectively to boost student skills. Now, with state budgets under considerable strain, the time has come for the federal government to take a hard look at the capacities of state education agencies to fulfill these progressive education mandates, and consider taking new steps to ensure their work is done well. State education agencies today play a pivotal role in carrying out Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which aims to improve the education and life chances of students in the highest-poverty schools of nearly every school district in the nation. Enactment of Title I of ESEA massively expanded the federal presence in education, and its amendments have spelled out increasingly clear expectations for the results expected from the program. At the time the U.S. Congress first enacted ESEA, state departments of education were by and large unequipped to comply with the new law, 1 but over time these state agencies learned and adapted (if unevenly) to the new federal funding rules. But as Congress enacted new sets of ESEA amendments, the states continued to struggle to monitor and support local school districts and schools in educating students in schools eligible for Title I funding. Title I schools in which students continue to fall short of meeting achievement standards remain a severe national problem that the states are charged with fixing. Two sets of amendments to ESEA proved to be particularly difficult for state education agencies to implement effectively and efficiently. The first was the reauthorization of Title I in the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994, which asked states to create accountability frameworks for gains in student achievement

Introduction and summary |


and the statewide systems of support that would assist struggling school districts and schools. And the second was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which brought new intensity to these existing Title I requirements as well as the new ones it added. The 2002 amendments introduced higher stakes and higher visibility to the measurement of student performance and the identification of schools in need of improvement. For years, state directors of Title I programs have collectively bemoaned the lack of time, staffing, and funding to meet the expectations of Title I. Each round of rising federal expectations exposed the growing gap between what the federal law expected in program administration and what the states could do.2 And that gap is now gaping because of state layoffs at their departments of education. Never lavishly funded in the first place, state education agencies since 2007 have lost at least 10 percent of their operating budgets in a majority of states, according to a recent survey. Even the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which directed considerable federal funds to the state education agencies, made up for this decline in state funding in only two of the states that responded to the survey.3 Now, that federal stimulus money is no longer available. But with crisis comes the opportunity to face a problem squarely and try new approaches. The problems at many state education agencies are structural and longstanding, which means that simply adding more money so they can handle their current Title I responsibilities is probably not the best solution, and certainly not the only solution. An observation made nearly 20 years ago about the capacities of departments of education by two close observers of state departments of education (one a former chief state school officer) is equally apt today: …many state agencies never have developed properly and fully as leadership organizations…. the great unspoken irony and paradox of inadequately supported state education agencies has continued into the 90’s. Thus, the fundamental weakness of many of these agencies has persisted despite the outpouring of rhetoric about the need for dynamic state leadership…[W]e must become much more attentive to the issue of state capacity to lead and implement.4 Indeed, there remains a deep mismatch between hopes for state agency leadership on Title I for elementary and secondary students in their states and what many SEAs can in fact do.5 The problem calls for new solutions that support the more effective development and use of state capacities to implement Title I.


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This paper reviews the recent history of the states’ administration of their Title I responsibilities, then describes the issues of federal Title I funding and the lack of capacity that impairs more effective implementation by state departments of education. We then detail some options for amending the Title I legislation in ESEA when Congress takes up the reauthorization of the law later this year. Our recommendations, in brief, suggest that Congress: • Craft a more manageable set of state responsibilities under Title I • Provide federal competitive incentives for state capacity development when implementing Title I • Authorize a bypass of state education agencies to award Title I funding to other agencies or non-profit groups to ensure effective implementation • Create state consortiums for Title I assistance to draw upon the expertise and combined efforts of successful state programs Taking one or more of these steps during the reauthorization of ESEA would clearly improve the current Title I funding structures at the state level—structures that include uniform expectations across states, and federal funding formulas that are mismatched with the work of improving schools and school districts. As this paper will demonstrate, there is an urgent need for new thinking about the role of state education agencies in Title I school and district improvement. Where the students in high-poverty schools are not getting the opportunity to succeed, we must demand that state departments of education administer this key federal program much more effectively, and help them find the tools to do it.

Introduction and summary |


The states’ Title I administrative responsibilities
The passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and successive amendments to the law placed increasing responsibility on the states not only to direct funds to high-poverty schools but also to create systems of academic standards, testing, and accountability, and then to remedy the problems of the schools and school districts that fail to raise student performance. In fact, the most resent reauthorization in 2002 charges the states with 588 compliance requirements.6 These requirements broadly range over the following mandates: • Develop standards and assessments in reading, math, and science, with attention to assessing students with disabilities and those who are learning English as a second language • Create and implement an accountability system to assess school and district progress in raising student achievement • Develop an information system that disaggregates student assessment data and can be used for determining adequate yearly progress • Communicate with parents and the public about district and school performance • Ensure that teachers and classroom assistants are highly qualified • Bring all schools and student subgroups to a proficient level of performance on challenging state assessments • Apply sanctions to persistently low-performing districts and schools • Administer supplemental educational services, such as the tutoring services offered to students in low-performing schools, as well as the school-choice provisions triggered by continuing low performance • Help districts and schools improve through a statewide system of support and school support teams • Monitor compliance with Title I The states have largely complied with the procedural aspects of the 1994 and 2002 reauthorizations of ESEA. The states created curriculum standards, assessments, and accountability systems.7 By the end of the 2006–07 school year, most state student data systems had unique student identifiers that enabled state education


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administrators to assess the growth in student performance over time. Most states could produce report cards that disaggregated student performance by subgroup, and gauge district attainment of adequate yearly progress.8 And by 2006 most states (75 percent) were able to report on the number of classes taught by nonhighly qualified teachers.9 But meeting basic procedural requirements is one thing. Fully complying with the mandates of Title I is quite another. Most states are still struggling to fully comply.10 More important than procedural compliance are the quality of the systems and the results—and this is where state departments of education are still coming up short. In-depth studies of particular areas of state responsibility reveal the degree to which state educational staff numbers and expertise are challenged and strained by Title I. The quality and rigor of state standards and assessment systems remain suspect.11 Another case in point: Supplemental Educational Services provisions that require tutoring programs for students in struggling schools—provisions that serve only a fraction of Title I schools and students—are not being met by state Title I administrators, including requirements to: • Develop an “SES provider” application process for the organizations seeking to provide tutoring • Encourage a broad array of providers to apply • Develop an application review process that includes evaluation criteria, rubrics, and committees of reviewers representing stakeholder groups • Develop a system for monitoring and reporting on provider performance Indeed, the requirement that states monitor the performance of Supplemental Education Services providers, which range from national companies such as Kaplan to community-based nonprofits, poses a significant capacity problem for most states. State coordinators report that they turn to external evaluators and other outside experts to help them determine how to assess the relative impact of providers on student performance, and states recognize they lack the staff expertise to develop a system.12 States complained as early as the 2002-03 school year that hiring freezes and spending caps limited their capacity to do their job thoroughly.13 Yet in fall of 2006, the problem persisted: a Center on Education Policy survey of state education agencies revealed that more than two-thirds of the states were only somewhat or minimally able to monitor SES provider quality and effectiveness, and three

The states’ Title I administrative responsibilities |


states were not able to monitor provider performance at all.14 By 2007, most states had largely complied with the requirement to select supplemental service providers and create systems for monitoring their performance, but were still unable to link student achievement with provider performance.15 Moreover, the way state education administrators used their waiver authority under ESEA, which enables them to lift specific requirements or whole packages of requirements for districts that apply for this relief, reveals a limited capacity or appetite for innovative or aggressive approaches on the part of most states. State education agencies did not seize the opportunity to encourage school districts to meet state educational goals in creative ways with the so called “Ed-Flex” waiver authority, which was enacted in 1994 and permitted wide-ranging relief from ESEA and other requirements. Instead, state administrators focused on the technical allowability of particular waivers, but often fell short in holding districts accountable for meeting the original legislative purpose. 16 In fact, more than a decade later, with additional waiver authority available, many districts remained unaware of the flexibility to innovate available through waivers. A former federal official who oversaw the analysis of the waivers allowed under the 2002 reauthorization commented in 2007: “local flexibility has done little to alter local spending, encourage innovation, or catalyze significant new efforts to improve student achievement.”17 The upshot: state education agencies’ limited capacity, revealed through their administration of Title I and related provisions, led to weak accountability systems and little encouragement for crafting creative local programming. More fundamentally, the evidence on waivers and Supplemental Education Services raises questions about the states’ capacity to support solutions to persistent problems of school failure. Many state education agencies remain ill equipped to elicit school districts’ best problem-solving efforts or to identify, vet, and oversee outside partners for the difficult work that Title I requires. To this we now turn.


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State capacity to implement Title I
State set-asides in the Title I law for program administration and, especially, for school and district improvement are arguably inadequate to support the mandated state responsibilities. State capacity issues related to improving lowperforming schools and school districts stem in part from limited dollars, but we argue that the problems go well beyond the funding challenges. So let’s first look at the state of states’ Title 1 administrative funding, and then at the special problems with the states’ ability to assist low-performing schools and school districts under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The state of states’ Title I administrative funding
The funding available to states for their administrative responsibilities under Title I is modest at best. The program has what is called a state “set-aside,” which allows state education agencies to reserve up to one percent of the Title I funds allocated to schools in their state to pay for general state-level administrative work. In the 2008-09 school year, this one percent was, on average, approximately $2.6 million per state. (see Table 1 on page 9) Since the average cost of a full-time professional staff member’s salary and benefits is in the high five figures, the average set-aside would fund 30 to 40 staff to administer the 588 provisions of the Title I program statewide. One state administrator summed it up quite simply: “The problems are many and we are few.”18 What’s worse, additional federal funds made available to states specifically to address the most challenging part of the law—the requirement that they assist low-performing schools and school districts—do not match the need.19 What states can spend for this purpose, like the general administrative set-aside discussed just above, is set by the overall Title I formula. The more schools and districts a state identifies for improvement, the fewer dollars the state can spend on helping each one.

State capacity to implement Title I |


To illustrate, in Table 1 we divided the school-improvement set-asides available to each state education agency for 2008-09 by the number of districts that the state had identified for improvement, revealing that what a state could spend in assisting each district ranged from less than $2,000 in Montana to nearly $2 million in Michigan, which had identified only one district. For most states, the allowable amount was very small in relation to the number of districts that could use state assistance, let alone the individual schools: the average for states was about $94,58020 per identified district, and the median was a mere $21,000, not enough to support even a single full-time state employee. The inadequacy of state set-aside funding for improvement support is no secret, as evidenced by the President’s Budget request for fiscal year 2009, which highlighted the problem: Current law permits States to reserve just 5 percent of school improvement funding to pay for the statewide systems of “intensive and sustained support for and improvement for local educational agencies [LEAs] and schools.” This limitation has meant that few States have been able to deliver on the No Child Left Behind promise of meaningful and substantial assistance to LEAs and schools identified for improvement. 22 At that time, the Administration said it would propose authorizing a ten-fold increase in the Section 1003(g) set-aside for school improvement, raising it from 5 percent to 50 percent.23 That proposal, however, did not make its way into the Administration’s recommendations for ESEA reauthorization, A Blueprint for Reform.24 Yet increasing Title I set-asides may not, in the end, increase state capacity because many factors limit the hiring capabilities of state agencies besides funding. State legislatures usually allow state education agencies a fixed number of staffing positions, which means these agencies “cannot simply hire an additional person to carry out the work even if they have the money to do so,” says the Center on Education Policy team that has been studying state education agency capacity for years. 25 Most state employees are tied to a particular program or funding source and cannot be redeployed. State employee salaries are seldom high, making it difficult for state agencies to attract and retain talented, highly skilled staff. And agency downsizing is frequent. Indeed, the state education agencies of Illinois, Georgia, and the New York State Education Department’s Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary, and Continuing Education all expe-


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Table 1

State Title I administrative set-asides, 2008-09
Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming Mean Median

Estimated school improvement Average allocation Estimated Title I, Part A Districts allocation set aside for state grant allocations set aside for per district for state identified for state administration (5% of assistance under administration in FY 2008 4 1, 2 3 improvement (1% of TOTAL Title I, Part A) Sections 1003(a) and 1003(g)) Sections 1003(a) and (g)
$2,151,919 $400,000* $2,747,767 $1,442,678 $16,988,081 $1,353,915 $1,155,620 $400,000* $472,949 $6,562,553 $4,462,710 $443,366 $466,626 $5,939,803 $2,471,093 $727,173 $953,592 $2,085,509 $2,948,430 $515,250 $1,922,394 $2,333,536 $5,272,548 $1,269,364 $1,873,459 $2,252,054 $435,548 $602,459 $807,547 $400,000* $2,867,652 $1,131,562 $12,267,861 $3,585,703 $400,000* $5,117,965 $1,484,056 $1,399,869 $5,655,176 $529,785 $2,055,970 $415,386 $2,390,718 $12,993,563 $600,191 $400,000* $2,260,957 $1,918,529 $996,071 $1,990,303 $400,000* $2,602,338 $1,484,056 $811,416 $156,597 $1,012,641 $552,926 $6,488,027 $520,490 $421,276 $144,092 $177,278 $2,518,239 $1,682,948 $168,987 $181,919 $2,148,042 $925,710 $273,842 $378,129 $796,003 $1,113,538 $195,853 $715,249 $872,650 $1,989,492 $476,745 $699,533 $848,327 $163,659 $235,861 $305,751 $143,003 $1,071,048 $425,309 $4,520,379 $1,363,566 $125,979 $1,920,901 $559,774 $544,223 $2,130,131 $195,669 $776,555 $156,218 $904,816 $4,937,125 $227,786 $124,065 $855,151 $741,637 $373,739 $724,410 $118,539 $978,730 $559,774 0 25 63 246 299 85 36 7 0 67 37 0 72 184 42 24 11 72 0 2 2 104 1 204 0 346 97 0 0 39 42 21 27 60 20 116 0 17 54 4 59 6 3 190 3 53 0 97 26 2 3 56 26 NA $6,264 $16,074 $2,248 $21,699 $6,123 $11,702 $20,585 NA $37,586 $45,485 NA $2,527 $11,674 $22,041 $11,410 $34,375 $11,056 NA $97,926 $357,624 $8,391 $1,989,492 $2,337 NA $2,452 $1,687 NA NA $3,667 $25,501 $20,253 $167,421 $22,726 $6,299 $16,559 NA $32,013 $39,447 $48,917 $13,162 $26,036 $301,605 $25,985 $75,929 $2,341 NA $7,646 $14,375 $362,205 $39,513 $94,580 $20,419

Source: (1) Estimates based on TOTAL FY 2008 ESEA Title I, Part A allocation data downloaded from U.S. Department of Education website: sthistbypr01to08.pdf . FY 2008 funds are used in districts in school year 2008-0921. (2) Section 1004(a) stipulates that each state may reserve either one percent of its Title I, Part A allocation or $400,000, whichever is greater. Asterisks next to set-aside estimates for five states reflect our assumption that these states opted to reserve $400,000. (3) Estimates of the state set-aside for school improvement grants to districts are based on a strict calculation of the formula (i.e., 4% of total Title I allocation), although the actual amounts might vary slightly due to a hold harmless provision of the law (Section 1003(e)). (4) Obtained from Consolidated State Performance Reports retrieved from USED website.

State capacity to implement Title I |


rienced staffing reductions ranging from 27 percent to 38 percent between 1995 and 2005.26 As of 2006, 21 states reported reductions in staffing or programmatic cuts at their state education agencies due to budget deficits or their legislators’ desire to shrink bureaucracy.27 Although the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided an influx of administrative funding for states, it was probably not sufficient to fully address state staffing and resource capacity issues. A review of the winning applicants of the ARRA-funded Race to the Top grants, which provided sizable funding to help and encourage states that are working on promising reform strategies intended to transform schools, offers insight into the amount and types of staffing capacity that states want for their efforts to improve student achievement . The 12 states that won Race to the Top grants all requested funding for more staff, proposing to add an average of 46 full-time staff (a median of 32). In addition to hiring dozens of staff, these states proposed to buy services from external agencies, contractors, and colleges and universities. They planned to expend, on average, 28 percent of their Race to the Top budgets on contractual services. A review of these winning Race to the Top state applications sheds light on the capacities that the states might use to assist low-performing schools and school districts. Georgia and Florida are cases in point. Georgia, for example, plans to use its Race to the Top funding in 2010 through 2014 to finally and fully reform the schools that have failed year after year. Its plan acknowledges that the state will “need to take a bolder, more aggressive approach to school improvement in order to turn around the 30+ schools that have persisted in improvement status for the last seven years.”28 The sweep of Florida’s plan—largely dependent on external consultants rather than state employees—is even more stunning. The Florida Department of Education plans in 2010 through 2014 to contract with vendors to, among other things. • Develop lesson study toolkits in math, reading, and science • Centralize access to data, reports, and applications for teachers and principals • Provide professional development through data coaches, a data captain, and an instructional designer • Establish clear approaches to measuring student growth


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These steps by Florida and Georgia are initiatives that demonstrate the resources and capacities states need to finally turn around chronically low-performing schools and, ultimately, improve academic skills of low-income students. But these two states, buoyed by the massive infusion of Race to the Top funds, are outliers. In the next section of our paper we take a look at the special problems most states face in implementing their Title 1 programs effectively.

State capacity to implement Title I |


State efforts to assist low-performing districts and schools under Title I: A special problem
The states are not making notable headway on the growing challenges of assisting struggling school districts and schools. In the late 1990s, when asked about technical assistance needs that had gone unmet under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, state administrators most often said they were unable to get to every district that needed or requested help, or that they were unable to provide ongoing, sustained assistance or follow-up.29 Little did they know what demands were soon to be placed upon them by the 2002 reauthorization. Predictably, a 2007 Center on Education Policy study of state capacity found that states’ struggled to address the needs of low-performing school districts and schools due to a lack of staffing and resources.30 As the numbers of Title 1 schools and school districts grew, states prioritized assistance, ignoring the needs of the many in order to address the needs of the few, chronically broken schools. A U.S. Department of Education study of state and local implementation of the 2002 reauthorization of ESEA found that by the end of the 2006-07 school year, most states (40) had created “tiered systems of support” for districts and schools identified for improvement in order to balance the demand for assistance with states’ limited capacity to provide it. A tiered system allows states to help high-need schools more intensively while maintaining “at least a minimal level of support for other identified schools.”31 With this system of triage in place, a Center on Education Policy survey of state education administrators found that only 11 states were able to provide technical assistance to a great extent to districts with schools identified for improvement.32 And the number of districts not making adequate yearly progress continues to grow, reaching 36 percent in 2009.33 In addition to the sheer numbers, the challenges presented by persistently lowperforming schools and districts require states to work in new ways. States recognize that, despite their desire to help, there are no proven strategies for turning around districts and schools. “We don’t even have the research proof that there’s a


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design at the state level that works,” said one state education official, responding to the survey of state administrators conducted by the Center on Education Policy in 2006; another state official said: “Nobody’s figured it out . . . we certainly can’t say to the state legislature or governor, ‘Look, we know exactly what to do, just give us the money.’ I don’t think anybody’s there yet.”34 In fact, the usual ways of working at state education agencies may impede their effectiveness in tackling problems of struggling schools and districts. According to William Slotnik, founder of the Community Training and Assistance Center and an experienced provider of assistance to both states and school districts, state efforts to assist low-performing districts and schools have failed for a variety of reasons, but the reasons include states’ emphasis on regulatory compliance: Transforming underperforming districts is a nuanced and complex challenge that requires substantial changes in thinking, behavior, and systems. In sharp contrast, the strength of state departments of education is in the area of supporting the existing policies and regulations that can at times contribute to the very underperformance that is so prevalent in many districts.35 Similarly, researchers at the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University observe that state departments of education must work in different ways to change schools: “Requiring states to intervene and force change in schools and districts requires a very different sort of capacity and expertise than that required for monitoring or funneling funds to local districts.”36 Fortunately, many states are creating or finding banks of experts to support them and to help them address the problems of districts and schools. As of the end of the 2006–07 school year, 23 states used regional centers, area education agencies, or county-level offices to provide support to low-performing schools.37 In addition, 32 states used external consultants or organizations to supplement their capacity to assist low performing schools. What’s more, federal dollars support grants and contracts with organizations that offer technical assistance to states. But the availability of expert help is no cure-all. Indeed, it may not be reasonable to expect each state to find and deploy a standing army of technical assistance providers with the expertise and skill to assist them and their school districts.38 It takes time and skill for states to identify and vet the appropriate individual or organization to meet a particular district need.

State efforts to assist low-performing districts and schools under Title I: A special problem |


Early reports on state efforts under the Recovery Act to turn around lowperforming schools suggest that the success rate is modest if not poor.39 With Title I school improvement grants, states have flexibility in awarding school improvement grants to districts. But they are now saddled with the responsibility of weighing the relative strength of districts’ ability to address specific school needs. As seen in the administration of the Title I Supplemental Education Services provisions and waiver authority by the states, they may struggle to run a competition or to vet organizational capacity. In the next section, we explore different options to fix these shortfalls.


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There are several options Congress could consider when it reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act later this year to match the legislation’s demands to the states’ capacities to support Title I educational programs effectively across schools and school districts. We believe those options should include: • Craft a more manageable set of state responsibilities • Provide federal competitive incentives for state capacity development • Bypass the state education agencies to award Title I funding to other state agencies or non-profit groups • Create a state consortium for Title I assistance Let’s examine each of these options in turn.

Craft a more manageable set of state responsibilities
The states are simply incapable of successfully completing all the tasks Title I assigns to them even if funding levels returned to historical levels, which won’t happen given state budget constraints and pressures on the federal budget. The options for remedying this problem begin with scrutinizing the law’s requirements.40 Some efficiencies would follow from reducing state reporting requirements and purging redundancies such as the audits that are conducted by multiple agencies. The required state reports asserting that the vast majority of teachers in Title I schools meet the definition of “highly qualified,” for example, are almost meaningless exercises that nevertheless consume many work hours of staff at state education agencies.

Options |


Similarly, enforcement of the supplement-not-supplant provision, which aims to ensure that Title I students receive specially designated resources, and enforcement of Title I’s schoolwide programs, which are designed to commingle resources for the benefit of students in high-poverty schools, could also be judged an exercise in futility.41 These provisions could be greatly simplified through carefully crafted statutory changes, as detailed in a companion paper by education attorneys Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric.42 To give states a better chance of living up to the important charge that they assist with educational improvement, the law could also shift the focus from struggling schools to struggling districts. This would greatly reduce the number of entities that the states would have to work with. It would also help schools, because once the districts grow stronger, they would be able to assist their schools. Some states are headed in this direction on their own. In Tennessee, for example, the statewide system of support at one time bypassed the districts and worked directly with schools. After the 2004-05 school year, however, the state recognized the need to build district capacity to assist low-performing schools and included district officials in the assistance process, particularly with respect to school improvement planning. Louisiana took a slightly different path, training school district personnel to be members of the District Assistance Teams that worked with identified individual schools on carrying out improvement plans.43 A recent report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office in California also makes the case for a district- rather than school-based approach to state assistance: …district leaders make important funding and management decisions that can help or hinder the ability of schools to improve student achievement. …, districts hire and assign school administrators and teaching staff, negotiate the terms of collective bargaining agreements, and determine how to distribute discretionary resources. Districts also provide critical support, such as selecting curriculum and instructional materials, building/maintaining student assessment systems, and offering professional development.44 In addition, the report raises the issue of state capacity as a central factor behind the need to direct attention and resources to districts rather than schools. Working with 250 to 1,000 Title 1 districts, while still daunting, appears more manageable and sustainable than working with the more than 10,000 California schools expected to be identified for Title I improvement.


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Provide federal competitive incentives for state capacity development
The Race to the Top competition provides an intriguing model for further innovation in federal-state relationships. For Title I administration, it is quite possible that treating all states alike is unwise. The Title I program may be better served by adopting two key features of Race to the Top: • Incentives for state policy change • Aid to those states that can demonstrate their capacity to use the dollars effectively This option would raise the set-aside percentage for overall Title I administration and/or for school and district improvement, but only for states that pledge a state match and that submit high-quality applications outlining their plans and capabilities. State legislatures might be motivated to appropriate more funds for state education agency staff if their appropriations opened the door to winning a competition for federal funds. In the selected states, the added funds would be seed money for the development of more effective systems of Title I administration. This competitive approach would enable states that proposed promising ideas to try out those ideas. The added federal funding would sunset after two or three years, allowing a new group of states to qualify as winners. Later rounds of applicants, who would have generally started out with less capacity than the first-round winners, would be able to incorporate lessons from these other states into their plans.

Bypass state education agencies
While the previous option focused on the sunny prospect of added federal funding for state education agencies that can rise to a challenge, there remains the problem of the many state agencies that struggle. Within current Title I law, the option of the “bypass” provides for outsourcing state functions. This option could be applied to a wider range of existing state responsibilities. Currently, for administration of Title I migrant education programs, Section 1307 authorizes the federal Department of Education to “bypass” a state department of education and award a contract to another public agency or nongovernment organization to do what the original agency cannot do or chooses not to do. The law says this authority can be invoked under the following conditions:

Options |


…if the Secretary determines that — (1) the State is unable or unwilling to conduct educational programs for migratory children; (2) such arrangements would result in more efficient and economic administration of such programs; or (3) such arrangements would add substantially to the welfare or educational attainment of such children. A state might voluntarily determine that it simply lacks the capacity or will to improve struggling schools and school districts. This proposed option would allow the U.S. Department of Education to find another entity to take on that work if the bypass authority were extended beyond migrant education programs when Congress reauthorizes ESEA later this year. Indeed, following the language of Section 1307, the federal education agency might even determine that a state must be bypassed involuntarily. While this option would raise intergovernmental hackles, the authority has precedent within Title I, and it deserves consideration as a stick alongside the carrots that a reauthorized law might offer to states.

State consortiums for assistance
Rather than rely on all states to invent their respective wheels for Title 1 administration, it seems more efficient to encourage and support states to share resources and experiences while drawing on a core group of assistance providers with relevant knowledge and expertise. This option takes a page from the state-led initiative to produce Common Core Standards in English language arts and mathematics as well as the state assessment consortia that received funding under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Such a consortium or consortiums also could draw on the organizations now working in many states with and without Race to the Top funding as partners in school turnaround programs. A national consortium or regional consortium of states and assistance providers could assemble intervention teams to work with low-performing school districts and schools. This would differ from current federal technical assistance offerings—rather than seeking to build the capacity of each state, a consortium would include states and other organizations pooling their resources to design, build, carry out, and improve approaches to the hardest Title I problems, such as school and district improvement.


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Title I could provide the opportunity and incentive for consortium membership if Congress amended ESEA to assign responsibilities to “the state educational agency or a consortium of such agencies.” Federal funding also could support consortium research and development. Alternatively or in addition, states could pay membership dues to gain access to consortium resources, and varying membership levels could entitle states to varying levels of service. Whatever types of consortia are considered, this option would still rely on state capacity to set priorities, identify needed expertise, and broker consortium services for districts. It would thus necessitate renewed efforts to build state capacity for these functions. Indeed, under any of the suggested options some basic level of state capacity for Title I administration remains essential. Continuing to support, inform, and cultivate this capacity is vital work for the Title I program as Congress takes up reauthorization of this critical law.

Options |


1 David K. Cohen and Susan Moffitt, The Ordeal of Equality: Did Federal Regulation Fix the Schools? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009); Ruby Martin and Phyllis McClure, Title I of ESEA: Is It Helping Poor Children? (Washington: Washington Research Project of the Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, 1969). 2 Cohen and Moffitt, The Ordeal of Equality. 3 Center on Education Policy, “More to Do, but Less Capacity to Do It: States’ Progress in Implementing the Recovery Act Education Reforms” (2011). 4 Steve Kaagan and Michael D. Usdan, “Leadership and State Reform: The Gap between Rhetoric and Reality.” Education Week, [May 5, 1993], available at articles/1993/05/05/32kaagan.h12.html. 5 Council of Chief State School Officers, Letter to Tom Harkin and Michael Enzi [February 1, 2011],.available at 6 Lew, Helen, Letter to Henry L. Johnson [March 29, 2006], cited in Angela Minnici and Deanna Hill, “Educational Architects: Do State Education Agencies Have the Tools Necessary to Implement NCLB?” (Washington: Center on Education Policy, 2007). 7 Gail L. Sunderman and Gary Orfield, “Massive Responsibilities and Limited Resources: The State Response to NCLB” (Cambridge MA: The Civil Rights Project, Harvard University, 2006). 8 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, “State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, Volume IX—Accountability under NCLB: Final Report” (2010). 9 Ibid. 10 Paul Manna, “Federal Aid to Elementary and Secondary Education: Premises, Effects, and Major Lessons Learned” (Washington: Center on Education Policy, 2008). 11 Nancy Kober and Diane Stark Rentner, “States’ Progress and Challenges in Implementing Common Core State Standards” (Washington: Center on Education Policy, 2011); Paul Manna, Collision Course: Federal Education Policy Meets State and Local Realities (Washington: CQ Press, 2010). 12 Leslie M. Anderson and Katrina G. Laguarda, “Case Studies of Supplemental Services under the No Child Left Behind Act: Findings from 2003-04” (Washington: U.S. Department of Education, 2005). 13 Leslie M. Anderson and Lisa M. Weiner, “Early Implementation of the Supplemental Educational Services Provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act” (Washington: U.S. Department of Education, 2004). 14 Angela Minnici and Deanna D. Hill, “Educational Architects: Do State Education Agencies Have the Tools Necessary to Implement NCLB?” (Center on Education Policy, 2007). 15 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, “State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, Volume VII—Title I School Choice and Supplemental Educational Services: Final Report” (2009). 16 Enacted in 1994 in the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the Educational Flexibility Partnership Demonstration (Ed-Flex) permitted selected states to waive many provisions of Title I and of other elementary and secondary programs within and beyond ESEA. Waivers could be granted statewide or for particular districts or schools. The idea was to remove impediments to local creativity in program implementation in exchange for accountability for educational results, with SEAs in charge of approving waivers and tracking the outcomes. For evaluation findings, see Jacqueline Raphael and Shannon McKay, “Analysis of the Education Flexibility Partnership Demonstration Program State Reports: Final Report” (Washington: Urban Institute, 2001). 17 Gayle S. Christensen, “Evaluation of Flexibility under No Child Left Behind: Volume I—Executive Summary of Transferability, REAP Flex, and Local-Flex Evaluations” (Washington: Urban Institute, 2007); Margery Yeager, “Stiff Armed: No Child Left Behind’s Unused Funding Flexibility” (Washington: Education Sector, 2007). 18 Kerstin Carlson LeFloch, Andrea Boyle, and Susan Bowles Therriault, “Help Wanted: State Capacity for School Improvement,” AIR Research Brief (Washington: American Institutes for Research, 2008). 19 From the four percent of Title I funds that states are supposed to reserve for school improvement grants to districts (Section 1003 (a)), they may set-aside up to five percent for their own work with districts or schools identified for improvement. In addition, a separate source of funding for school improvement (commonly referred to as School Improvement Grants or SIGs) was authorized under Section 1003(g) and received its first appropriation in 2007; like Section 1003 (a), states may set-aside up to five percent for state administration. 20 Including Michigan, with only one district identified for improvement, roughly doubles the cross-state average. With Michigan removed from the calculation, the average would be approximately $48,000. 21 Center on Education Policy, “Title I Funds—Who’s Gaining and Who’s Losing. School Year 2008-09 Update.” (September 2008). 22 U.S. Department of Education, “Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Summary” (February 2009). budget09/summary/edlite-section2a.html 23 Ibid. 24 U.S. Department of Education, “A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act” (March 2010). 25 Minnici and Hill, “Education Architects.” 26 Sunderman and Orfield, “Massive Responsibilities.” 27 Minnici and Hill, “Education Architects.” 28 Georgia Race to the Top Application, Appendix A30: Georgia RT3 Budget Narrative, p. 106. (Atlanta: Office of the Governor, June 2010). Downloaded from U.S. Department of Education website: appendixes/georgia.pdf


Center for American Progress | Government that Works for Schools and Children

29 Leslie M. Anderson and Megan Welsh, “Making Progress: An Update on State Implementation of Federal Education Laws Enacted in 1994” (Washington: U.S. Department of Education, 1999). 30 Minnici and Hill, “Education Architects.” 31 U.S. Department of Education, “Volume IX.” 32 Minnici and Hill, “Education Architects.” 33 Center on Education Policy, “How Many Schools and Districts Have Not Made Adequate Yearly Progress? Four-Year Trends” (2010). 34 Minnici and Hill, “Education Architects.” 35 William Slotnik, “Levers for Change: Pathways for State-to-District Assistance in Underperforming School Districts” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2010). 36 Sunderman and Orfield, “Massive Responsibilities.” 37 U.S. Department of Education, “Volume IX.” 38 In California, the county offices of education (COEs) had some internal capacity to support district needs related to the alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessments to state standards, but they had limited or no capacity to help districts in such areas as fiscal operations and human resources. To meet their districts’ needs, providers relied on outside experts such as retired faculty and administrators, private providers, or personnel from neighboring COEs.

39 Center on Education Policy, “An Early Look at the Economic Stimulus Package and the Public Schools: Perspectives from State Leaders” (2009). 40 For suggestions about where to start, see Gene Wilhoit, Testimony, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce, March 1, 2011. news/Wilhoit_Testimony_Education_Regulations_Burden%20_ March_2011.pdf 41 Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, “An Examination of How the Supplement Not Supplant Requirement Can Work Against the Policy Goals of Title I” (Washington DC: Center for American Progress, 2011). 42 Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, “How the Supplement-Not-Supplant Requirement Can Work Against the Policy Goals of Title I A Case for Using Title I, Part A, Education Funds More Effectively and Efficiently” (Washington DC: Center for American Progress, 2011). 43 U.S. Department of Education, “Volume IX.” 44 Elizabeth G. Hill, “A New System of Support for Low-Performing Schools” (Sacramento, CA: Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2008).

Endnotes |


About the authors
Brenda Turnbull is a co-founder and Principal of Policy Studies Associates, a

research and evaluation organization that studies improvement initiatives in education and youth development. Her studies of intergovernmental school-improvement efforts under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act have included leadership of many state and local studies for the Policy and Program Studies Service of the U.S. Department of Education. Currently, for the Institute of Education Sciences, she is co-Principal Investigator for the National Evaluation of the Comprehensive Technical Assistance Centers. In the 1990s she was a member of the Chapter 1 Commission. She conducted research and participated in reporting to Congress for three National Assessments of Title I in the 1980s and 1990s. She holds an Ed.D. in Social Policy Analysis from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she co-chaired the Editorial Board of the Harvard Educational Review.
Leslie Anderson is a Managing Director at Policy Studies Associates where she directs research and evaluation studies of national, state-, and local-level education and youth development policies and programs. Much of her work has focused on studying the implementation of federal programs and policies, including the No Child Left Behind Act and earlier authorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. For the U.S. Department of Education, she directed the Study of Implementation of Supplemental Educational Services under the No Child Left Behind Act, the Study of State Implementation of the Improving America’s Schools Act and Goals 2000, the Study of Education Resources and Federal Funding (under subcontract to AIR), and the National Evaluation of the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act: Education of Homeless Children and Youth. In addition, from 2003 to 2006, she directed the study of district implementation of NCLB for the Center on Education Policy’s report series, From the Capital to the Classroom. She holds an M.P.P. from the University of Chicago.


Center for American Progress | Government that Works for Schools and Children

About the Center for American Progress
The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

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