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Is Title I Money Going to Neediest Schools?

Over at "Let's Get it Right," AFT's John asks about the contradictions between my reporting on NCLB's Title I formula and data provided by the National Assessment of Title I. The gist of my story is that the NCLB has changed the way Title I's $12.8 billion flows to districts. Big cities and counties with large numbers of disadvantaged students have benefited.

Yet, here's an important quote that John uncovered from the National Assessment of Title I's final report: "At the district level, Title I targeting has changed little since 1997-98, despite Congress’ efforts to target more funds to high-poverty school districts by allocating an increasing share of the funds through the Targeted Grants and Incentive Grants formulas."

As I look at the data in the report, I see a pattern that is mentioned in my story. The schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students—but not necessarily large percentages of them—are receiving disproportionate amounts of the Title I increases. As I reported, districts in Fairfax County, Va., and Montgomery County, Md., have seen their Title I grants increase by more than 50 percent over the past six years. (That rate of increase is faster than some of the nation's largest urban districts.) The Title I grant to Gwinnett County, Ga., has more than doubled since NCLB passed.

These suburban counties have extreme poverty and wealth in their large geographic areas. They qualify for money under the new grant formulas because the formulas reward districts based on either the number or the percentage of Title I students they enroll. The suburban areas benefit at the expense of districts with large percentages of impoverished students, whether the other districts are urban, small suburban, or rural.

These data, I believe, reinforce the position of Mary Kusler of the American Association of School Administrators and Marty Strange of the Rural School and Community Trust. They're happy that the formula is more targeted than before 2001. But they don't believe changes have gone far enough.

They say there's a good reason to have a formula fight during NCLB reauthorization. Will there be? I'll be watching for it.

P.S. AFT's John cites a quote from early in the National Assessment report. Later on the report provides evidence of targeting. It says that the districts with the highest poverty (i.e. those in the top quartile in terms of percentages) receive 52 percent of Title I money even though they serve 49 percent of the nation's children. By contrast, the report says districts with the lowest poverty rates (i.e. those in the lowest quartile) get 6 percent of Title I's money.

For the purposes of this post, this section is missing two relevant pieces of data. What is the percentage of the nation's students attending schools in the lowest quartile? And how do all of these numbers compare to before NCLB's passage?

If anyone has these figures, send them here.

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