Tightening Up Title I

I had the privilege of attending the Center for American Progress and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research event called Tightening Up Title I, held on March 11, 2011.

Melissa Junge, co-founder of Federal Education Group, PLLC, was the first to present the collaborative paper, An Examination of How the Supplement Not Supplant Requirement Can Work Against the Policy Goals of Title I.

There were other presenters, but this lecture was one I was captivated by. While you may understand the presentation by reading the paper, I wanted to share some take-aways from the presentation, and the main discussion during the question and answer session.

Junge argues that schools are not using the fiscal flexibility that they really have because there tends to be this overall confusion between policy and practice. She continues that school districts and states also have a generalized fear that they will be reprimanded by the federal government if they don’t get it right the first time. In this situation, it is most likely that they end up second guessing their motives, resulting in a lack of follow through on certain ideas that are perfectly legal and could contribute to student achievement. She also stated that fiscal tests scare people from good decision making.

Following the presentation, there was a question and answer session with:

  • Melissa Junge
  • Jennifer Cohen, Senior Policy Analyst at New America Foundation (also presented a paper)
  • David DeSchryver, VP of Education Polcy at Whiteboard Advisors
  • Tony Smith, Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District

Some interesting take-aways:

  • There is a reason that some fiscal laws were put into place years ago, but these laws don’t have much relevance to what we are facing in education today. Facilitating flexibility and innovative solutions for education requires loosening compliance measures.
  • Compliance is different than accountability. The intention of a policy is often interrupted by fulfilling compliance measures.
  • There are also no quality assessment tools to measure need. Schools should demand a more needs-based allocation structure.

Recommendations for legislators/policymakers

  • The legislation behind funding mechanisms and structures needs to be clear.
  • Embrace the shame of inequity. Many times legislators will try to make amends when attempting to distribute funds equally. The bottom line is getting schools what they need and how that translates to what students need.
  • Legislation should practice ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’.

Discussion on Set-Asides, Caps, and Capacity

Karen Mapp, a lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), presented a collaborative paper, Title I and Parent Involvement: Lessons from the Past, Recommendations for the Future.

Mapp discussed the importance of parental support to go along with changes that need to happen in the classroom. Research suggests that the promotion of ‘random acts’ versus systematic family engagement is more successful in the long run. The debate is that parental involvement means sitting down with their student and doing  homework with them, when in actuality parental involvement is more about a commitment to the student by being involved in collective acts of engaging family and community. There needs to be a shift in the classroom from individual teacher-student relationships to a more comprehensive and collectively-focused way of teaching. Mapp suggests that parents need to be partners with teachers.

Recommendations for legislators/policymakers

  • Change the language and revise statutes in Title I to include parents in governance and decision-making processes, making sure that family engagement is linked to learning strategies and goals of the school.
  • Provide research for innovative family engagement initiatives. In order to collect this data, Mapp suggests that schools could partner with universities or with organizations, demonstrating the benefits of family engagement
  • Legislation on evaluation of these methods needs to be approached as a flashlight not as a hammer.
  • Legislators needs to reconsider an allocation formula for distribution of family engagement funding.

Other presenters contributed to this discussion. Read more about the event and other papers.

Overall, the forum provided understanding and recommendations to policymakers and other associations about the importance of reviewing current policy, and how some discrepancies can be resolved. I mentioned some of the recommendations above. The panelists also recommended that legislators and policymakers:

  • Allow funding mechanisms and regulations that promote autonomy and innovation in school districts, giving states and schools more flexibility.
  • Provide straight forward and clear regulations.
  • Limit the amount of time teachers need to spend on compliance so they can better utilize their time to teach their students. If anything, at least broaden the lens of compliance.