The Department of Education has issued new guidance for school districts on how to devise schoolwide plans for Title I money aimed at raising the achievement of disadvantaged students.
The long-awaited “nonregulatory” guidance is intended to help steer schools through federal legislation—though the guidance itself is not binding—as schools set up comprehensive Title I compensatory education programs reauthorized under the No Child Left Behind Act. The 4-year-old law is the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The guidance allows a school with at least 40 percent of its students determined to be low-income to operate a schoolwide program, as opposed to a targeted program. A targeted program seeks to identify and specifically serve low-income students.
According to the guidance, a schoolwide program is designed to “upgrade the entire educational program” and to “ensure that all students, particularly those who are low-achieving, demonstrate proficient and advanced levels of achievement on state academic-achievement standards.”
To create a schoolwide program, a school must redesign its entire educational program to serve all students, the guidance says. The schoolwide idea has gained popularity as it reflects principles emphasized in the No Child Left Behind law, including accountability, research-based practices, and community engagement.
The guidance, issued late last month, says a school wanting to establish a schoolwide program must conduct a comprehensive assessment of the school’s strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan that lays out ways to attract and keep highly qualified teachers, identify research-based strategies to raise achievement for all students, increase parental involvement, and coordinate federal, state, and local programs.
West Virginia Acts
The guidance has long been anticipated. The department said in the Federal Register in July 2004 that the secretary of education planned to issue the guidance “in the near future.” And a Dec. 29, 2005, report from the department’s inspector general’s office chided officials for not releasing the information sooner.
Keith A. Butcher, the state Title I director for the West Virginia Department of Education, said a lack of guidance hasn’t hindered his state, however. Ninety percent of schools in the state have schoolwide Title I programs, he said. To set those programs up, Mr. Butcher said, the state and districts relied on the language in the federal education law itself.
Mr. Butcher said the new guidance would likely not change the way schoolwide programs are set up in West Virginia, but does provide excellent tools for crafting a comprehensive plan.
“I think West Virginia has been doing things right in line with the guidance,” he said. “But some of these additional tools will be a great support and help.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 2006 edition of Education Week as New Guidance Addresses Title I Schoolwide Plans