Education Letter to the Editor

Why Title I Should Not Mandate Programs

May 09, 2011 1 min read

To the Editor:

In his Commentary “Job One for Title I: Use What Works” (March 30, 2011), Robert Slavin called for the Title I reauthorization to “ensure” that the funds be used for programs that have been proven to work, including his own, Success for All. He has made many such calls in the past, and when heeded, Success for All benefited disproportionately and the reforms failed.

The fundamental problem is that Success for All does not work, and may actually inhibit the academic development of the most vulnerable students. While there is published research showing Success for All to be effective, it includes research done by Mr. Slavin, his associates, and program distributors. Conversely, there is a large body of independent research that has not only consistently found Success for All to be ineffective, but dramatically so—for two decades. (The longer online version of this letter gives dramatic examples of such failure.)

When heeded, Mr. Slavin’s prior calls to limit the use of federal and state reform funds to programs “proven to work” were equally disastrous. Congress limited the use of Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration, or CSRD, funds to a small list of specific programs “proven to work.” There were no positive effects from CSRD. New Jersey went even further. It required low-income elementary schools receiving supplemental state funds to raise their spending levels to make Success for All the presumptive program of choice—despite my warnings. Alas, the results were poor, and, in recent years, New Jersey has moved to cut back on this mandate.

Nor is there reason to believe that programs deemed “proven to work” by the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation, or i3, initiative and the department’s What Works Clearinghouse will fare any better—especially since both have validated Success for All.

As a result, Congress and states should reject Mr. Slavin’s latest call. They should not mandate, or even recommend, which specific programs or practices Title I funds should be used for. In addition, school superintendents should stop mandating the use of Success for All in their high-poverty schools. After two decades of failure, such action is long overdue.

View the full version of this letter.

Research Professor of Educational Leadership

San Francisco State University

A longer version of this letter appeared online.

A version of this article appeared in the May 11, 2011 edition of Education Week as Why Title I Should Not Mandate Programs