Understanding the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and Title I

downloadWhat is Title I?

With the establishment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 came the implementation of Title I. This new policy helped districts by providing them with additional funding because they served students from low-income areas. The funding comes from the federal government each year and is issued to each individual state. The state will then take the funding and distribute it amount districts that represent a high percentage of low-income students. Funding is then used to support the needs of the students. These services vary as the use of allocated funds are decided by the district administrators. Although title I has been reauthorized and gone through revisions in the past, it has always stayed true to its main goal, to support “educationally disadvantaged” children.  

What is economically disadvantage?

Children from low-income areas typically do not have the same resources as children who live in higher income areas. These resources vary from extra-curricular activities, healthy eating to private tutoring. The idea behind these funds is to fill in the gaps with those resources. The problem is that the distribution of these funds is decided by each individual school district, which means that the funds are used to fit the needs of that school district. For example, one school district may be in need of an extra aide to assist each grade level, while another school may need an additional school counselor in order to support students. With more than $14.4 billion in federal funding dispersed each year to support the Title I initiative, children living in low income areas should get the extra support they need.

downloadWhy we test

The key provisions of title I issued in 2001 with the No Child Left Behind act were accountability, annual testing, school improvement, and content standards. The original intent of the Title I funds  was to serve poor students, those that are less fortunate and do not have the necessary resources at home. With this new provision the government began holding districts accountable through a process of annual testing.

The accountability of school districts and a push to decrease the achievement gap continues to increase since the passing of the NCLB act. This accountability piece to education was created in order to justify the distribution of funds each year. Originally, schools that didn’t meet the adequate yearly progress were in danger of losing their title I funding. Although this never happened, the threat of it pushed districts to take a look at their resources and to utilize them effectively.

Did It work?

The problem with this whole accountability piece lies within the original purpose of the ESEA and the title I funding, which was to help disadvantaged children. Looking at student performances at the schools, such as test scores,  will not determine the success of these funds because the program goal is not to increase test scores. Instead, these funds are used to help enhance the students overall education experience. Another issue that the funding faces is that the majority of schools in the country are receiving federal funding. “Although Title I aims to target students from low-income families, more than 90% of school districts in the nation get at least some of the funds” (Yettick 2015).  Therefore, it makes it difficult for researchers to determine how funds are supporting students at these schools each year.


The measurement of success or effectiveness of this program will depend on what you are looking to accomplish. Maybe you are looking to see if it impacts standardized test scores and found that it doesn’t. On the other hand, you may want to see if adding an additional aide in the kindergarten classrooms helped strengthen early interventions and skills needed at that level. In this case, you may have found that this was impactful which would then determine the purpose for distributing funds was a success. Overall, the level of success will vary, just as its distribution does. Until we can say that these funds are allocated for this one purpose, I don’t think we will ever get a definitive answer.  

How is Title I funds being used in your schools? It is the communities right to know. Comment down below and share your thoughts we would love to hear from you!




Yettick, H. (2015). Title I a challenge for education researchers, Title I impact on test scores unanswered.


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