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Education Reporter
Number 136 EDUCATION REPORTER May 1997

Title I Fails to Deliver

WASHINGTON, DC - The final report of a five-year, $29 million study has concluded that Title I, the federal government's largest K-12 education program, has failed to close the gap between low-achieving students and their peers. It is the largest longitudinal study conducted of Title I since its start in 1965. Title I costs taxpayers $7.2 billion per year.

The study, called "Prospects," monitored the academic progress of 40,000 students over four years who received remedial education under the federal Title I program, formerly known as Chapter 1. In 1991, researchers began tracking students in grades 1, 3, and 7 and tested them each year until 1994.

The students have continued to trail behind their classmates despite the extra help in reading and math. As in the 1993 preliminary findings, the final report shows that the program did nothing to help close the achievement gap that existed before entering the program. In fact, the gap "increased slightly" between students in high-poverty and low-poverty schools.

"The way the old Chapter 1 program was organized was not a sufficiently strong intervention to close the gap," says the report summary. "The study does not tell us, however, why this occurred. For example, it may be that the presence of Chapter 1 was the reason that students grew at comparable rates and that without Chapter 1 the gap would have widened more."

Despite similar preliminary findings three years ago, Congress reauthorized the program in 1993, utilizing the early data to rewrite the program and remove its concentration on remedial instruction. The revised Title I theoretically requires schools to raise standards for students in disadvantaged schools and give all students the opportunity to meet those standards.

However, while the revision increased the scope of the program, it did not require educators to follow learning methods with a proven track record. Currently, Title I lets grant recipients use whatever methods they desire, even if there is no evidence they are effective.

"It's been a federal subsidy of K-12 education," said Chester Finn Jr., a senior fellow at the Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute. "It has not been an effective compensatory-education program for low-income kids."

Title I advocates downplay the study's findings, reasoning that the 1994 overhaul has not had a chance to take effect.

The Education Department released the final version of "Prospects" after delivering copies to Congress on April 4. Some leading Republican Congressmen appear to want to give the program more time to show better-than-mediocre results.

The Education Department has awarded a contract for another five-year evaluation that will focus on the effectiveness of school reforms rather than individual improvement.

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