Chapter 1 Accountability:

Greater Focus on Program Goals Needed

HRD-93-69: Published: Mar 29, 1993. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the implementation of Chapter 1 program improvement provisions, focusing on the: (1) process states and school districts use to identify schools for program improvements; and (2) implementation of the joint and local phases of program improvement.

GAO found that: (1) states and school districts identified schools needing program improvement if their Chapter 1 students did not show sufficient improvement in their achievement-test scores, but many schools have not been identified due to random fluctuations in test scores rather than actual changes in student performance; (2) states and districts have used achievement-test scores as unconditional criteria when identifying schools for program improvement, but the identification process can be more flexible; (3) schools with students who initially had the lowest test scores were less likely to be identified as needing improvement than higher scoring schools; (4) pressure to increase achievement test scores could have a negative effect on the instruction Chapter 1 students receive; (5) school staff had more influence in determining school improvement needs and strategies than school districts and state education agencies; (6) schools focused most on improving achievement-test scores in both the joint and local phases of program improvement; (7) schools used the same improvement strategies in both phases, which most often included increasing parental involvement, improving coordination between Chapter 1 and the traditional instructional program, instructing Chapter 1 students on test-taking skills, and adopting a new instructional approach for the Chapter 1 program; (8) large-city schools used summer and extended-day programs for Chapter 1 students; and (9) state education agencies targeted their technical assistance more to the district level than to individual schools, and the amount of assistance was dependent on the number of staff available to work with schools, and general program requirements rather than improvement of needs of specific schools.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The "Improving America's Schools Act of 1994" (P.L. 103-382) changed the Chapter 1 program improvement process in a way that makes this recommendation irrelevant.

    Matter: Congress should remove from the program improvement provisions, the local condition that, it can be argued, allows states and districts to disregard a school's achievement-test results if other indicators demonstrate that its Chapter 1 program is effective. This would prevent ambiguity about the identification process when multiple indicators of student performance are used to evaluate schools' Chapter 1 programs.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The "Improving America's Schools Act of 1994" (P.L. 103-382) substantially changed the nature of the Chapter 1 program improvement process, partially along the lines that GAO recommended.

    Matter: Congress should require state education agencies to specify, in their state program improvement plans: (1) the desired outcomes for Chapter 1 schools; (2) the indicators that will be used to measure student progress toward those desired outcomes; (3) minimum standards for student performance on each indicator; and (4) a definition of substantial progress toward meeting the desired outcomes as a group (that is, how districts will weigh evidence from multiple indicators in judging whether their Chapter 1 schools are effective). Districts should be allowed to set higher standards than required by their state education agency and to use, with the approval of their state agency, additional or alternative desired outcomes and indicators.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The "Improving America's Schools Act of 1994" (P.L. 103-382) substantially changed the nature of the Chapter 1 program improvement process, partially along the lines that GAO recommended.

    Matter: To improve the identification process and to help reduce the emphasis placed on standardized achievement-test results, Congress should amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require districts to assess program effectiveness by considering whether evidence from multiple indicators of student performance shows substantial progress in achieving these outcomes.

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The "Improving America's Schools Act of 1994" (P.L. 103-382) substantially changed the nature of the Chapter 1 program improvement process, partially along the lines that GAO recommended.

    Matter: To improve the identification process and to help reduce the emphasis placed on standardized achievement-test results, Congress should amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require states to establish, for schools' Chapter 1 programs, multiple desired outcomes related to the statutory goals of Chapter 1.

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The "Improving America's Schools Act 1994" (P.L. 103-382) substantially changed the Chapter 1 program improvement process, partially along the lines that GAO recommended.

    Matter: To help ensure that states establish adequate standards for identifying Chapter 1 schools in need of improvement, Congress should consider amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require that the Secretary of Education review and approve the desired outcomes and indicators specified by states in their state program improvement plans. This review could focus on determining whether states have specified: (1) desired outcomes and indicators that reflect high educational standards and pertain to the statutory goals of Chapter 1; and (2) a reasonable definition of substantial progress toward meeting multiple desired outcomes.

 

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