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E.S.E.A. Plan Would Retool Chapter 1, Eliminate Block Grant

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WASHINGTON--The Clinton Administration plans to call for major changes in the Chapter 1 remedial-education program and elimination of the Chapter 2 block grant when it unveils its proposal for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Specifically, the Administration is likely to propose that Chapter 1 be linked to a new national system of standards and assessments and that the program's funding formula be changed to target more funds to high-poverty schools. In addition, it plans to seek enactment of new programs to support finance equalization, school technology, and charter schools.

The Administration's E.S.E.A. proposal is not scheduled for release until next month, and many of the details are still unsettled. But interviews with Administration officials, lobbyists, and Congressional sources, as well as a draft outline obtained by Education Week, reveal the likely shape of the proposal's key features.

In Chapter 1, the Administration plans to propose what would be the most significant revision of the flagship federal education program since it was enacted in 1965.

Although it is apparently not as far-reaching, the Administration proposal resembles a plan released last year by the Independent Commission on Chapter 1, a panel of educators, researchers, and child advocates. Undersecretary of Education Marshall S. Smith, who is overseeing the drafting of the Administration proposal, was a member of that commission. (See Education Week, Dec. 16, 1992.)

The Administration plan would dramatically alter the way Chapter 1 programs are evaluated by tying that function to state standards and assessments that are to be developed under the separate "goals 2000: educate America act.'' The "goals 2000'' measure is awaiting floor consideration in both chambers of Congress. (See related story, page 36.)

"The idea is to have the same standards for all kids,'' an Administration official said.

A Link to Standards

Chapter 1 programs are currently evaluated primarily on the basis of student scores on standardized tests, although schools are also encouraged to use other measures. Schools whose students do not show sufficient gains are required to enter the "program improvement'' process, which involves the drafting of improvement plans and can lead to state intervention if gains are not achieved within several years.

The "goals 2000'' bill would establish a process for developing model national standards for curriculum content and student performance, as well as "opportunity to learn standards'' for school services. It would also create a grant program to support state and local reform plans.

To participate in the grant program, states would have to adopt standards for their schools, as well as assessment systems that state officials could submit for certification by a national board.

The Administration plans to require that Chapter 1 programs be evaluated based on progress toward the state standards--effectively mandating state participation in the standards-setting initiative.

Such an approach would seem to bolster the arguments of critics who fear that the "goals 2000'' standards-setting initiative would increase federal authority and ultimately tie receipt of federal funds to compliance with national standards. However, those critics have been most concerned that funding would be tied to compliance with opportunity standards, which the Administration proposal apparently would not do.

The proposal would skirt the difficult question of how to move from the current assessment system to the new one by requiring states to include in their Chapter 1 applications plans for evaluating the programs while the new assessment systems were being developed.

All schools would be required to draft plans similar to those now required of schools in the program-improvement process. Schools that do not show sufficient movement toward the new state standards would be subject to unspecified sanctions.

Chapter 1 Eligibility

The Administration also plans to propose altering which schools and students are eligible for Chapter 1 funds.

A battle is expected in Congress over the Chapter 1 funding formula, as representatives of urban and rural schools, as well as of different regions of the country, fight for changes that would send more funds to their constituents.

The Administration plans to wade into the fray by proposing a new formula, which officials confirmed would funnel more funds to districts with the highest concentrations of poor students. The intent is to direct at least 50 percent of all Chapter 1 funds to the 25 percent of counties with the most poor children.

The proposal would continue to tie schools' eligibility for Chapter 1 funding to the proportion of poor students they enroll. But current provisions that require selection of individual students for Chapter 1 services based strictly on poor academic performance would be eliminated.

"Teachers would use a wide variety of criteria not pegged to norm-referenced tests,'' an Administration official said.

The Administration also plans to encourage more schoolwide projects, in which Chapter 1 funds are used to improve an entire school, rather than to provide extra help only to Chapter 1 students. Currently, at least 75 percent of the students in a school must be poor to qualify; the new proposal would reduce that threshold first to 65 percent and later to 50 percent. (See related story, page 1.)

The proposal would also eliminate a provision that effectively bars limited-English-proficient children from Chapter 1, a high priority for advocates of bilingual-education and Hispanic students.

Administration officials do not plan to include a proposal for reauthorizing the Even Start program, which provides a variety of services to disadvantaged preschoolers and their parents. Instead, they will attach recommendations for Even Start to their proposal for reauthorizing the Head Start program, which is being developed jointly by the Education and Health and Human Services departments and is due later in the year.

Block-Grant Merger

The E.S.E.A. proposal would effectively eliminate the Chapter 2 block-grant program, a move likely to be opposed by the education lobby.

Chapter 2 and the Eisenhower program would be replaced by a program focusing on the professional development of teachers and administrators in all "core'' subjects. The Eisenhower program currently funds a variety of initiatives, including teacher training, all related to math and science.

"What they are doing is taking a couple of programs that are working and that people like, the only source of flexibility in the federal budget, and slicing and dicing them,'' one lobbyist complained.

The Administration also plans to propose several new programs, including ones focused on:

  • Finance equalization. This initiative would provide technical assistance to states and districts seeking to "move toward equitable allocation of resources,'' an idea officials characterized as a way to encourage increased equity without committing the federal government to massive expenditures. (See story, this page.)
  • Educational technology. Like bills that have been introduced in Congress, this grant program would support increased use of computers and other high-tech equipment in schools.
  • Charter schools. This program would provide "seed money'' for demonstrations of the charter-school concept, in which teachers or others contract with a district to operate innovative schools free of some regulations.

An official said the Administration's proposals for revamping the Bilingual Education Act, Title VII within the E.S.E.A., "isn't far from'' the recommendations of the "Stanford working group,'' a panel that released a report on federal programs for limited-English-proficient students in June. (See Education Week, June 9, 1993.)

Like the Stanford report, the Administration plan would restructure the program into three categories: continuation grants for existing programs and funding for programs designed to meet the needs of L.E.P. students either on a schoolwide or on a districtwide basis.

Aiming for Coherence

The Administration's legislation is also likely to include a series of "cross-cutting'' changes designed to foster greater cohesion among federal precollegiate programs and encourage schools to adopt a whole school strategy toward designing their own curricula.

For example, the Administration will propose deleting technical-assistance provisions from many programs, instead combining these initiatives into one effort intended to help schools make better use of the whole array of federal resources.

The National Diffusion Network, a program that disseminates innovative curricula, would be revamped as part of that effort.

The Administration also plans to propose:

  • Simplifying--and reducing--the impact-aid program. This program, which compensates districts for tax revenue lost as a result of the presence of federal property or workers, now uses a complex structure of funding categories.

The Administration plan would reduce the number of categories and eliminate funding for what are now called "b'' students, whose parents either live or work on federal property. Districts would receive funding for federally connected Indian and disabled students through separate grant programs, rather than through the impact-aid formula.

  • Retooling the Javits program, which now supports programs for gifted and talented children, to "focus on schoolwide strategies to develop the gifts and talents of all students, particularly students from low-income areas.''
  • Revising the migrant-education program along the lines of legislation introduced last week by the bipartisan leadership of the House Education and Labor Committee. The bill, which would focus services on currently migrant children and eliminate the widely criticized Migrant Students Record Transfer System, is based on recommendations issued last year by a Congressionally mandated commission.
  • Expanding the purpose of the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act. The funding formula would not change substantially, but schools would be free to spend their funding on a variety of initiatives promoting school safety.
  • Eliminating small grant programs supporting foreign-language- and arts-education initiatives.
  • Renewing the Star Schools distance-learning program, the Women's Educational Equity Act, and the inexpensive-books-distribution program, which supports the Reading is Fundamental literacy program.

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