NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Title I Program Fails To Improve Student Achievement

April 16, 1999

Congressional committees are holding hearings on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. Title I, the largest single program under ESEA, is mostly supplemental aid to poor children -- which is nearly $7.7 billion in the current (1999) fiscal year.

Education experts say Congress should take a close look at past research on the Title I program to evaluate its effectiveness in closing the achievement gap of economically disadvantaged students. For example,

  • A review of two longitudinal studies of Title I students conducted in the late 1970s and early 1990s found that, even though the achievement of Title I students improved at the same rate as "nondisadvantaged" students, the achievement gap was not closed or even narrowed.
  • And a 1999 report from a congressionally mandated national assessment of Title I that found an increase in reading and math scores among disadvantaged children could not correlate the improvements with the Title I program.

Title I serves over 11 million students, but only about half of them live below the poverty line, leaving some 4 million poor students unserved because funding is targeted at the schools most in need -- known as Title I schools -- not needy students themselves.

Furthermore, although Title I is meant to help predominantly poor students, its dollars serve many children living above the poverty line as well because many school districts now use Title I funds for school-wide activities.

Low-income students (who are eligible for the federal free/reduced-price lunch program) perform considerably worse in standardized tests than do their higher-income counterparts. Only 13 percent of fourth-grade Title I students who took the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test scored at or above the "proficient" level, as opposed to 40 percent of higher-income students.

Source: Nina Shokraii Rees, "A Close Look at Title I, the Federal Program to Aid Poor Children," Backgrounder No. 1271, April 13, 1999, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., Washington DC 20002, (202) 546-4400.


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