For my entire teaching career, I have worked in title 1 schools, so I know quite a bit about the nuts and bolts of what that experience is like in the communities where I have worked.
Still, I find that most parents have no idea what a title 1 school really means from a practical standpoint.
I have also noticed that if you Google “what does title 1 school mean?” you will find mostly government websites that are usually not written in plain enough language for the average parent to digest quickly.
Hopefully this blog post can help some parents know more about schools they are considering attending, or provide more insight into why their own school operates the way it does.
It IS possible for a child to get a high-quality education at a title 1 school.
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What does title 1 school mean?
A title 1 school is one that receives funding from the federal government that is used to support low-income students in their academic progress.
These high poverty schools must use their supplemental funds for school improvement projects that are research-based. This might include reducing class sizes, offering a lunch program to eligible students, and providing summer school programs when necessary.
What is the purpose of Title 1?
Title 1 federal funding exists to help economically disadvantaged students have an equal opportunity for education.
Each state has rigorous academic achievement standards and tests that students must take to demonstrate mastery in a set of a knowledge and skills. Schools are held accountable to meeting these standards under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act.
Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons why kids living in poverty and attending schools in under-resourced communities might have a harder time excelling on those standardized tests.
Title 1 isn’t intended to help students achieve better test scores, but studies have shown that title 1 schools do see improvements in standardized test scores over time.
While almost no one likes the increase in standardized testing in public schools, these tests do provide a way to monitor the academic progress of students from all different backgrounds and hold school districts accountable for students meeting those academic standards.
How are title 1 funds spent?
Title 1 funding supports schools and its students in many different ways.
First of all, title 1 schools are required to have an accountability plan for how they will use federal funds to support low-income students.
They also must establish programs that are proven effective at helping low income students succeed academically. For example, if research shows that being read aloud to is an important predictor of academic success for children under 5 years old, then title 1 schools would need to have a way for this practice to happen on a regular basis.
The primary goal of title 1 is to help level the playing field for low-income students by providing additional resources to high-poverty schools or school districts.
Is Title 1 a state or federal program?
Title 1 is a federal entitlement program. The money is passed down to the state level and then allocated locally through the school districts.
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What is the history of Title 1?
Before you can understand what “title 1 school” means, you have to know what Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is.
Title I of ESEA was passed in 1965 to provide additional funds for schools serving children living in poverty.
More recently, under Title 1 of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, all schools, districts and states are required to make “adequate yearly progress” toward student growth and achievement.
This was the beginning of a significant uptick in student testing and marked a new era of accountability.
When the entire law as we know it went into effect in 2001, two different programs were created: the targeted assistance program and the school-wide program.
Both of these programs attempt to increase academic achievement of students who come from low income families by supporting their educational needs.
It has most recently been reauthorized in 2015 with the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).
What does title 1 school mean in a targeted assistance program?
About 35% of Title 1 schools operate a targeted assistance program. This means that they do not operate a school-wide Title 1 program, but rather target specific eligible students most at risk of failing or who are already failing to meet challenging state standards. They aren’t required to meet all the same standards as a school-wide program.
“Part A funds” are used to provide those specific students with additional academic supports. This may mean the school is receiving funding to hire extra teachers to lead small groups of at-risk students, provide after school tutoring, or even offer one-on-one tutoring to migrant students. This is considered a significant opportunity for at-risk students.
What does title 1 school mean in schoolwide programs?
About 65% of title 1 schools operate under the title 1 school-wide program because they have such high numbers of students in poverty. This means that all students in the school are eligible to receive Title 1 funds and supports determined through need based assessments, regardless of their family’s income level.
The title I funds include: professional development of teachers and staff, focused interventions for struggling students, before or after school tutoring supports, and sometimes activities such as art or music enrichment.
This program is decentralized, which means that each district can decide how title 1 funds will be spent within the guidelines set by No Child Left Behind.
My own children receive Title 1 support despite attending a very middle-class school. That’s because our entire school district is considered Title 1 due to the high rates of poverty on one side of town, which encompasses a large number of children and schools.
Which schools are eligible for Title 1 funds?
Only title 1 schools are eligible for title 1 funds.
In order to be eligible for title 1 funds, at least 40% of the student body must be considered low-income. It is often much higher than that.
However, Title 1 schools are not places where only low-income families can go; they are open to all children who live in the United States and its territories, provided they meet certain qualifications.
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Are Title 1 schools bad?
Title 1 schools are not necessarily bad, and the additional funding they receive may benefit your child’s academic progress. However, there are specific challenges that are unique to title 1 schools.
The best way to determine whether or not your child will benefit from attending a title 1 school is through research and/or talking to parents whose children already attend the school.
Nevertheless, there are district advantages and disadvantages to sending your child to a title 1 school.
What are the disadvantages of Title 1 Schools?
Although title 1 is supposed to help level the playing field for students, it has been shown that title 1 schools have less qualified or experienced teachers than non title 1 schools. Only 16% of all title 1 teachers have more than 5 years of experience teaching in title 1 schools, whereas other public school teachers are 52% likely to have over 5 years of experience.
This is simply because highly qualified teachers and those with more experience choose to teach in schools with less poverty.
Are you wondering why teachers would choose to work in a more affluent student body?
Sometimes title 1 schools have more behavior problems their campus, because their kids experience more stress outside of schools.
In the low-income neighborhoods where title 1 schools exist, there are higher rates of drug abuse, more single parent households, and more incarcerated loved ones than in more affluent neighborhood schools.
Sometimes, parents are unable to ensure their children get a good night sleep or high quality food to fuel their minds and bodies.
There is some evidence that title 1 schools suffer from stigma, which can hurt title 1 children’s aspirations and student achievement later on in life.
These high stress environments sometimes lead to a greater degree of teacher turnover, as well. Frequent changes happening both at home and at school can lead students to act out.
Finally, because of the huge challenges faced by schools in impoverished neighborhoods, research suggests that title 1 funds fall dramatically short of what’s needed to close the education gap between America’s wealthier kids and the ones in title 1 schools.
The actual amount spent per pupil from title 1 averages around $500-$600 annually, and some researchers and policy makers believe the number needs to be about five to eight times more than that amount in order to make any meaningful difference in the education gap.
What are the advantages of Title 1 Schools?
It is a common misconception that Title 1 schools can’t provide a high quality education.
Title 1 schools bring many resources to their communities: computers and programs for high school graduation equivalency (GEDs) courses, decreased teacher: student ratios, after school programs, and support for parents’ involvement in school activities.
Title 1 funds may not be spent on administrative costs. If your school is receiving title 1 funds, you can rest assured they are being allocated to the benefit of students. These comprehensive educational programs often grow kids academically over a period of time.
Most title 1 schools participate in outreach efforts to make sure their communities know they exist, the services they offer, and how families can enroll children in these programs. Many title 1 schools hold open houses or provide tour guides for prospective title 1 families.
They will also have several big school events that encourage parental involvement like a Valentine’s Dance for parents and children or a community trick or treat event at Halloween, where families visit each classroom.
Title 1 schools will provide parent education programs that can help families learn more about resources available to their child, whether that’s information about dyslexia, dietary recommendations for growing kids, or parenting strategies for children with challenging behaviors.
These schools may receive additional staff members who can help narrow the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers in more affluent areas.
Because of this, students may receive extra attention in small groups, where the teaching is targeted at their exact ability level. Title 1 schools have far more interventionists available to support quicker student growth.
If your student is struggling academically, they may get more support in a title 1 school than in a wealthier school, not less.
Many title 1 schools have teachers participating in very high quality professional development.
Students attending a title 1 school will often have access to a free or reduced price breakfast and lunch, regardless of their family’s income. For example, all students at my campus receive both a free breakfast and a free lunch. This can help title 1 students avoid hunger and give them energy for learning.
These hunger programs will continue to operate even when school is not open – for example, during the Covid shut downs and on snow days, many campuses continue to provide meals to students at bus stops or will distribute sack lunches in parking lots.
Title 1 schools are often quite diverse, and provide a good social emotional foundation for children to learn about people from all different backgrounds. Many times, private schools and wealthier public schools have a more homogenous demographic.
For example, children of different races attending the same title 1 school may be more likely to become friends than if their parents had sent them to separate schools based on race.
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You can visit the U.S. Department of Education website to learn more about Title 1.
Parents who are interested in what title 1 means for their children should request information about how title 1 works at their child’s school. Every district has different guidelines on how title 1 programs operate so there isn’t one clear answer as to what students will experience under the program’s umbrella.
It’s not sufficient to make a blanket assumption about the quality of a school based on its title 1 status.