Why federal spending on disadvantaged students (Title I) doesn't work

Related Content
Dynarski, Mark; Kainz, Kirsten
Institutional Author
The Brookings Institution
Resource Type
Acquisition Number
Published Date
12-28-2015 2:54 PM
Published Year
Number of Pages
Subscription Only
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is being reauthorized. Its largest program, Title I, provides funding to states and districts to improve education for disadvantaged students. However, its funding per student is quite low, averaging about $500 to $600 a year. And there is little evidence that the overall program is effective or that its funds are used for effective services and activities. Large proportions of school principals report using Title I funds for teacher professional development, which many studies have shown to be ineffective and which teachers do not find valuable. Other services on which principals spent Title I funds include after-school and summer programs, technology purchases, and supplemental services, which also have been shown to be ineffective, and class-size reductions, which are unlikely to be of the size needed to generate effects found in previous research. Achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and their better-off peers are large and have existed for decades. Narrowing these gaps will mean investing more in research to identify effective approaches, or increasing Title I spending by five to eight times more per student, or both. Focusing effective interventions on the neediest students may provide a way forward that is consistent with fiscal realities.
State and Local Policy
Federal Policy
Administration and Leadership