Summary of the Improving America’s Schools Act

November 09, 1994 22 min read
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President Clinton signed the Improving America’s Schools Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for five years, on Oct. 20. The law authorizes about $11 billion in fiscal 1995 for most federal K-12 education programs and enacts program changes that are considered the most significant since the E.S.E.A. was first passed in 1965.

Following is a title-by-title narrative summary of the law.

Title I--Helping Disadvantaged Children Meet High Standards

Authorizes $7.4 billion for the Title I compensatory-education program; $118 million for Even Start; $310 million for the education of migratory children; $40 million for a program assisting neglected, delinquent, and at-risk youths; and $41.4 million to assist districts in serving eligible private school students. States may reserve 0.5 percent of their Title I, migratory, and at-risk dollars for school-improvement activities.

Part A-Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Education Agencies

Subpart 1

In exchange for Title I grants, states must develop school-improvement plans-with input from local district officials, teachers, parents, and others-that establish high content and performance standards in at least mathematics and reading or language arts. The plans may be based on those developed under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act or another process already completed or under way. Standards must be established within a year of receiving a grant. State plans must also describe what constitutes “adequate yearly progress” of schools and districts. Progress is to be linked to performance on the assessments.

Assessments aligned with the content standards must be administered “at some time” between grades 3 and 5, again between grades 6 and 9, and again between grades 10 and 12. They should include “multiple, up-to-date ... measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding” and “provide individual student interpretive and descriptive reports” as well as disaggregated results within states, districts, and schools by gender, race, limited-English-proficient status, migrant status, disability, and economic status. States have one year after receiving their allocations for fiscal 1995 to develop standards and assessments. If they do not, they must adopt approved standards drafted by another state.

Each plan must include a description of how the state will help districts and schools “develop the capacity” to help children meet high standards and other factors a state deems appropriate. Those factors can include so-called “opportunity-to-learn” standards or strategies.

To receive subgrants, districts must submit a plan to the state describing, among other things, additional assessments that may be used for evaluating Title I students, a strategy for professional development, a strategy for coordinating services among Title I students, the poverty criteria used to select school-attendance areas, and the methods teachers will use to identify children most in need. The state must give provisional approval within one year of enactment, and final approval within two years.

Eligible school-attendance areas are defined as areas where “the percentage of children from low-income families is at least as high as the percentage of children from low-income families in the agency as a whole.” Districts must serve schools in rank order if the poverty rate of their student body is 75 percent or more. Districts can divide remaining funds among other schools according to rank or use them only for a particular grade span as is now often done districtwide.

For the 1995-96 school year, schools can operate schoolwide projects if 60 percent of their students come from low-income families. Beginning with the 1996-97 school year, only 50 percent of students must be low-income for a school to use Title I funds on a schoolwide basis. A school seeking to operate such a program must develop a plan “for reforming the total instructional program in the school” that describes how it will combine the Title I funding with other funds to improve student performance through the establishment of high standards.

Schools not eligible for schoolwide projects are required to help Title I students perform to standards expected of all students by minimizing set-aside time for Title I students and by not isolating Title I teachers. Title I resources may be coordinated with other school funds. Title I money can be used “as a last resort” to provide such essential health care as providing glasses or hearing aids, paying for a comprehensive-services coordinator, and offering professional development. Schools “shall devote sufficient resources” to professional development, although a definition of sufficient is not included.

Districts may use Title I money, in combination with state, local, and private money, to establish school-choice programs for Title I students. Such students could move between Title I schools upon the agreement of all schools involved.

Schools that had been identified as needing improvement for the two consecutive years prior to enactment of the law must continue improvement activities. In addition, those Title I schools whose students do not make adequate progress as defined in the state plan for two consecutive years will be also designated for program improvement. Such schools must devote at least 10 percent of a single year’s Title I funds to professional development over a two-year period. Districts are required to offer technical assistance to schools identified for program improvement, and they must take corrective action against a school if sufficient improvement does not occur within two years. Such action may include withholding funds, alternative governance, reconstituting the school staff, transferring students, or implementing state opportunity-to-learn standards or strategies adopted under Goals 2000.

States can reward high-achieving districts, but must also identify districts that do not make “adequate progress” for two consecutive years and take corrective action, such as reconstituting personnel, removing schools from district governance, abolishing the district, or implementing opportunity-to-learn standards or strategies.

Districts and schools must develop with parents a written parent-involvement policy, and include parents in planning decisions. They must also convene yearly meetings on parent involvement and help parents understand the national goals and the standards-setting process. Districts must reserve a minimum of 1 percent of their Title I funds for parent-involvement activities.

No specific expenditures are mandated for professional development, although districts are required to provide professional development linked to content and performance standards. The state review of district improvement plans must insure that professional development meets such conditions as reflecting research and teaching; contributing to continuous improvement in the classroom or school; and including gender-equitable methods, techniques, and practices.

Subpart 2--Allocations

For fiscal 1995, Title I money will be allocated according to the funding formula in effect for the previous five years-90 percent of the appropriation will go toward basic grants and 10 percent will go toward concentration grants.

When the new formula takes effect in fiscal 1996, districts or counties will be held 100 percent harmless for the first year, and between 95 percent and 85 percent harmless in the remaining years, depending on the percentage of a district’s eligible children. As of 1996, 2 percent of a district’s student body must be eligible for Title I services for the district to be eligible for a basic grant; to receive a concentration grant, a district must serve 6,500 eligible children or a number that comprises at least 15 percent of their overall population. Under the new formula, each state will receive at least 0.25 percent of total appropriations; or the average of that amount and 150 percent of the national average grant per child, multiplied by its eligible population-whichever is smaller..

In fiscal 1996, allocations above the fiscal 1995 level will be distributed either through a new targeted grant formula or through a formula designed to reward states moving toward school-finance equalization, or a combination. To receive a targeted grant, a county or district must have 10 eligible students, and at least 5 percent of its total school-age population must be eligible. Targeted grants will be determined by multiplying a district’s weighted child count-determined by the percentage or number of students eligible-by 40 percent of the average state per-pupil expenditure.

In fiscal 1999, the formula will use poverty data for districts, rather than counties, if appropriate. Beginning in fiscal 1997, poverty data will be updated by the U.S. Census Bureau every two years.

Part B--Even Start Family-Literacy Programs

Provides grants to states and districts, which after four years must be matched at 50 percent by recipients, to integrate adult literacy, adult basic education, parenting education, and early-childhood education into a program run by a school district and a community organization.

Part C--Education of Migratory Children

States are to receive allocations equal to their numbers of full- and part-time migratory children, ages 3 to 21, multiplied by 40 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure in the state. Elementary students no longer migratory can receive services for one additional year, while high school students can receive services until they graduate. Eligible migratory students are those who have moved within the past 36 months and have a parent who is a migratory worker.

Part D--Prevention and Intervention for Children and Youths Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or at Risk of Dropping Out

Provides grants to states and districts that are educating children in correctional institutions or in alternative educational settings.

Title II--Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional-Development Program

Authorizes $800 million for fiscal 1995. Five percent of appropriations will fund a competitive national teacher-training program. Another 94 percent will fund state and local grants, allocated based on overall student population and Title I funding. One percent will fund grants to partnerships of school districts, community groups, higher-education institutions, and teachers’ unions to promote professional development.

The first $250 million appropriated is earmarked for professional development in math and science. Additional funds can be used by states and districts for projects in other disciplines. States and districts must submit plans describing how their professional-development activities fit in with overall reforms, are aligned with content and performance standards, and are coordinated with other professional activities. A district-level match of 33 percent is required.

Title III--Technology for Education

Part A--Technology for Education of All Students

Authorizes $250 million for education-technology programs.

Subpart 1--National Programs for Technology in Education

The Secretary of Education is required to develop a national technology plan. Up to $5 million will be distributed on a matching basis to states, districts, colleges, and other entities for research, technical assistance, and the development of national technology strategies.

Subpart 2--State and Local Programs for School Technology Resources

Up to $185 million is authorized for state grants. States must submit long-range technology plans that describe the financing of educational technology and how business, higher-education institutions and others can play a role in developing and implementing educational-technology strategies. Subgrants to districts will be used to create or build upon existing technology networks, develop links with outside sources, professional development, and adult and parent education programs-strategies for which must be included in a local long-range plan. Consortia of districts are also eligible for grants.

Subpart 3--Regional Technical Support and Professional Development

Authorizes $10 million in grants to regional entities such as the regional technical-assistance centers or regional education laboratories to collaborate with states and districts. Recipients will provide technical assistance, develop strategies for professional development, and assist in implementing state and local technology plans.

Subpart 4--Product Development

Authorizes $50 million to promote the development, production, and distribution of state-of-the-art technology to improve education.

Part B--Star Schools

Authorizes $35 million in grants to districts and consortia for distance-learning activities. Requires a grantee match of 25 percent in the first two years, 40 percent in the third and fourth years, and 50 percent in the fifth year.

Part C--Ready-To-Learn Television

Authorizes $30 million for grants to nonprofit organizations and others able to contract with television producers for the provision of educational services via television.

Part D--Telecommunications Demonstration Program for Mathematics

Authorizes $5 million for grants to nonprofit telecommunications entities or consortia to improve math performance through telecommunications.

Part E--Elementary Mathematics- and Science-Equipment Program

Authorizes $30 million to be distributed to states and districts according to total student population and the Title I population, for the purchase of equipment for mathematics and science instruction.

Part F--Elementary and Secondary School Library Media Resources Program

Authorizes $200 million for grants to states, which will distribute subgrants to the poorest or most sparsely populated districts for the acquisition of library media equipment and materials. If appropriations exceed $50 million, grants will be distributed according to the Title II formula. Otherwise, state grants will be awarded on a competitive basis.

Title IV--Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities

Authorizes $655 million for states, districts, community-based organizations, higher-education institutions, and nonprofit organizations in high-crime areas to implement crime- and drug-abuse-prevention programs. State allocations will be based on overall population and the Title I population. Up to 20 percent of a state’s allocation can be reserved by the governor for statewide programs. Districts receiving grants must perform an assessment of drug use and violence and discipline problems, and also develop a plan for drug and violence prevention. This title also authorizes money for federal programs, and grants to districts and community-based organizations for hate-crime-prevention programs.

Title V--Promoting Equity

Part A--Magnet-Schools Assistance

Authorizes $120 million for districts implementing desegregation plans approved by a court or the office for civil rights. Any amount appropriated above $75 million will go to schools that have not previously received such grants.

Part B--Women’s Educational Equity

Authorizes $5 million for grants to community-based organizations, nonprofit groups, public agencies, and others to develop and implement model gender-equity programs. Also authorizes technical assistance to states and districts to conduct research on the subject.

Part C--Assistance To Address School Dropout Problems

Authorizes $48 million for grants to districts and community organizations to establish systemwide or schoolwide dropout-prevention policies and strategies and $2 million to evaluate the programs.

Title VI--Innovative Education Program Strategies

Authorizes $370 million for a block grant modeled on the old Chapter 2 program, distributed to states according to their population of 5- to 17-year-olds. States must pass 85 percent of funds to districts, with funding “adjusted, in accordance with criteria approved by the Secretary, to provide higher per-pupil allocations to [school districts that] have the greatest numbers or percentages of children whose education imposes a higher-than-average cost per child.” Districts must spend their money in eight areas, including technology, material acquisition, literacy, and education-reform projects.

Title VII--Bilingual-Education, Language-Enhancement, and Language-Acquisition Programs

Part A--Bilingual Education

Authorizes $215 million for competitive grants to districts or consortia of districts in several categories: development and implementation of bilingual-education programs, which can include the education of families; enhancement or expansion of existing programs; and establishing or improving schoolwide or districtwide bilingual-education efforts. Priority is to be given to programs designed to insure proficiency in English and another language for all students. No more than 25 percent of grants in any category--or of the total grants can be awarded for projects using “special-alternative” instructional programs that do not use students’ native language. An exception can be made for a district or school where students speak many languages or an area with a shortage of qualified teachers.

Also authorizes grants to states to assist school districts in developing programs, collecting data on limited-English-proficient populations and their educational opportunities, and training state officials in this area. The U.S. Education Department is to “establish and support” a National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education that will collect and disseminate data on bilingual-education programs.

Part B--Foreign-Language-Assistance Program

Authorizes $35 million for grants to states and districts for “innovative model programs” to establish or improve foreign-language instruction. The federal government will pay 50 percent of all costs. Elementary schools are to receive at least 75 percent of the funding.

Part C--Emergency Immigrant Education Program

Authorizes $100 million for grants to districts that have experienced immigration influxes. Eligible districts must have at least 500 immigrant children, or such children must make up at least 3 percent of a district’s total public and non-public student population, whichever is fewer.

Title VIII--Impact Aid

Authorizes $775 million for basic support payments to districts in compensation for property-tax revenue lost due to the presence of federal property or workers. Allocations are to be made using weighted student units. Children whose parents live and work on federal property, and children who live on federal property and whose parents are in the military, are weighted at 1.0 each. Each Indian child is weighted at 1.25. Children whose parents are in the military but who do not live on federal property, and children who live in low-rent housing are weighted at .10. Other federally connected children are weighted at .05. A district’s total weighted-student count amounts to the total of these figures. If the district has more than 6,500 federally connected students and an average daily attendance of greater than 100,000, all children otherwise weighted at 1.0 will be assigned a weight of 1.35.

Districts are eligible for payments only if they have at least 400 federally connected children or at least 3 percent of the average daily attendance qualifies. Funding levels are based on the sum of a district’s weighted-student units multiplied by the greater of one-half of the per-pupil expenditure in the state, one-half the per-pupil expenditure in the district, the “comparable local-contribution rate certified by the state,” or the average per-pupil expenditure in the state multiplied by the local-contribution rate.

Authorizes $45 million for a separate program to aid districts with federally connected disabled children.

Authorizes $2 million for districts that experience sudden influxes of military children, defined as an increase of 100 students or a 10 percent increase over the previous year.

Authorizes $25 million for construction of facilities in districts with at least 50 percent Indian or military children.

Authorizes $2 million for facilities maintenance.

Title IX--Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education

Part A--Indian Education

Authorizes $91.1 million for districts educating at least 10 Indian children, who must also comprise at least 25 percent of total enrollment. Allocations are determined by multiplying the number of eligible students by the greater of the average per-pupil expenditure of the state or 80 percent of average per-pupil expenditures in the nation. Districts must establish parent-advisory committees.

Grants can also be made to states, districts, tribes, Indian higher-education institutions, and other organizations to provide such special services for Indian children as remedial education, health and nutrition services, counseling, and early-childhood programs. Grants can be made to Indian higher-education institutions to develop consortia for professional development, higher-education fellowships, gifted-and-talented programs, adult education, and national research activities.

Part B--Native Hawaiian

Authorizes $15 million for such programs as family-based education centers, college scholarships, special education, and teacher training and recruitment.

Part C--Alaska Native Education

Authorizes $8 million for such purposes as teacher training and recruitment, preparing students from rural areas for public schools, and home-based education for preschool children.

Title X--Programs of National Significance

Part A--Fund for the Improvement of Education

Authorizes $50 million for the Secretary of Education’s discretionary fund.

Part B--Gifted-and-Talented Children

Authorizes $10 million for grants to states and districts, funding such activities as model programs, professional development, or implementing strategies such as peer counseling, cooperative learning, and service learning.

Part C--Public Charter Schools

Authorizes $15 million for aid to districts-via states-that want to establish charter schools.

Part D--Arts in Education

Authorizes $56 million to improve education in the arts and culture.

Part E--Inexpensive Book-Distribution Program

Authorizes $10.3 million to support Reading Is Fundamental.

Part F--Civics Education

Authorizes $15 million for the Center in Civics Education to continue a program called “We The People ... The Citizen and The Constitution” that provides instruction in civics, government, and the law, and for similar programs in states and districts.

Part G--Allen J. Ellender Fellowship Program

Authorizes $4.4 million for scholarships for low-income students under the Close-Up Foundation program, which brings students to Washington to learn about the federal government.

Part H--De Lugo Territorial Education Improvement Program

Authorizes $3 million for school improvement in the U.S. territories.

Part I--21st Century Community Learning Centers

Authorizes $20 million for grants to schools or consortia of schools to develop or expand projects “that benefit the education, health, social-service, cultural, and recreational needs of a rural or inner-city community.”

Part J--Urban- and Rural-Education Assistance

Authorizes $125 million in grants to states and districts to help rural and inner-city schools improve student performance. Another $25 million is authorized for grants to higher education institutions to help rural schools.

Part K--National Writing Project

Authorizes $4 million for the National Writing Project.

Part L--The Extended Time for Learning and the Longer School Year

Authorizes $90 million for grants to districts as seed money to help them expand the learning day and year.

Part M--Territorial Assistance

Authorizes $5 million in general assistance to the Virgin Islands.

Title XI--Coordinated Services

Allows schools, consortia of schools, or districts to use up to 5 percent of their E.S.E.A. money to coordinate the delivery of education, health, and other social services.

Title XII--School Facilities

Infrastructure Improvement Act

Authorizes $200 million in grants for school construction, renovation, and repair. Priority will go to schools serving a high percentage of Title I-eligible students, with facilities in the greatest state of disrepair, or in the most financial need.

Title XIII--Support and Assistance Programs To Improve Education

Part A--Comprehensive Regional Assistance Centers

Establishes 15 networked comprehensive regional assistance centers to provide technical assistance to E.S.E.A. grant recipients. Authorizes $70 million. Currently operating technical-assistance centers can be funded through fiscal 1996.

Part B--National Diffusion Network

Authorizes $25 million for research on and the dissemination of promising educational practices and education-reform strategies.

Part C--Eisenhower Regional Mathematics- and Science-Education Consortia

Authorizes $23 million to establish regional assistance centers that focus on mathematics and science.

Title XIV--General Provisions

Part B--Flexibility in the Use of Administrative and Other Funds

Allows states and districts to consolidate administrative funds from such programs as Title I, Eisenhower mathematics and science, and bilingual education, with administrative funds under Goals 2000.

Part C--Coordination of Programs; Consolidated State and Local Plans and Applications

Allows states and districts, with approval from the department, to apply for some E.S.E.A. funds jointly-as well as grants under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied-Technology Education Act, the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act. Allows amendments to state and local plans submitted under Goals 2000 to serve as improvement plans for the purpose of the E.S.E.A.

Part D--Waivers

Gives the Secretary of Education broad authority to waive certain regulations if he determines that this would improve instruction and student performance.

Part E--Uniform Provisions

Prohibits federal funds for school districts that violate court orders upholding prayer in public schools.

Bars use of E.S.E.A. funds to “promote or encourage sexual activity, whether homosexual or heterosexual"; “to distribute ... legally obscene materials to minors on school grounds"; to provide condoms, or for sex education that does not include “the health benefits of abstinence.”

Prohibits the federal government from taking any action to “mandate, direct, or control” the curriculum, instructional program, or expenditures of states or districts.

Part F--Gun Possession

Requires states to enact laws, and districts to enact policies, expelling for a year students who bring guns to school. Allows local officials to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Requires districts to refer such students to the criminal-justice or juvenile-delinquency systems.

National Education Statistics

Provides for continuing operation of the National Center for Education Statistics and the Advisory Committee on Education Statistics, with authorizations totaling $65 million; the National Assessment of Educational Progress, with an authorization of $35 million; and the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets guidelines for NAEP, with an authorization of $3 million.

A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 1994 edition of Education Week as Summary of the Improving America’s Schools Act


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