You did it. With hard work, ingenuity, and support from stakeholders in your school and community, you secured Title I funds that could possibly transform the way your K-12 students learn and thrive.
Now comes a bigger question.
“What can Title I funds be used for?” and “How do I use my Title I grant money?”
Welcome to part two of three in our Title I series. The first Title I blog is called, “How to Make Sense of Title I Funds” – we suggest you start there!
Why Title I Funds Matter
Students in Title I schools across the country are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to digital access for learning outside the classroom (and sometimes even inside the classroom as well).
According to an insightful new report on the Homework Gap by Common Sense Media, the statistics show that teachers are in a difficult spot when it comes to digital devices and broadband Internet access. For example:
- 42 percent of teachers in Title I schools “never” assign homework that requires digital access outside of school (compared to 31 percent in non-Title I schools).
- 17 percent of teachers in Title I schools say that 60+ percent of their students lack adequate access to digital devices/broadband Internet for their homework.
The report’s conclusion stresses the need for robust broadband Internet access so that students in Title I schools (and disadvantaged schools across the country) can close the Homework Gap.
Some of Common Sense Media’s other Internet-based solutions include:
- Spurring local efforts to build a community broadband infrastructure.
- Funding statewide and nationwide broadband mapping to track data.
- Developing programs for digital training and for low-cost (or free) equipment.
- Allowing for innovative off-campus and after-hours use of broadband for students.
For ideas on a few innovative off-campus ideas for Internet solutions, check out Fayette County’s story on providing their students filtered Internet access with Kajeet SmartSpot® devices.
Three Common Title I Misconceptions
Just because you now have access to the federal Title I program benefits doesn’t mean you’re using them as wisely as you should. According to the Council of Chief State School Officers, some of it is a matter of confusion at the state level.
“Many states limit the use of Title I funds in ways that are not required by federal law,” they report. “These limitations are often unintentional and caused by confusion over Title I’s complicated compliance requirements.”
The organization calls attention to three common misconceptions about using Title I funds that school administrators should keep in mind when deciding how to best to use their funding.
- Title I funds ARE NOT required to be used only for specific academic subjects. Some states and districts, according to the council, limit the use of Title I funds to costs associated with reading and math, at the expense of subjects such as engineering and social studies.
- Title I funds ARE NOT limited only to instructional costs (such as teachers). According to federal law, Title I funds can be used for non-instructional costs (behavior supports, attendance programs, community/parent engagement) if these costs are shown to help improve student achievement.
- Title I funds CAN be spent on comprehensive, school-wide interventions. Says the council: “If a school’s needs assessment and schoolwide plan indicate that comprehensive activities [such as financial incentives for recruiting/retaining teachers] will help improve the school as a whole,” these activities can be supported with Title I funds.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself
The Department of Education offers a helpful (and exhaustive) guide on the inner workings of Title I funding and some of the ways it can best be used by both state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs).
When it comes to considering how to use Title I funds at the state and local level, the Department of Education’s guidelines suggest district administrators and stakeholders answer “yes” to five key questions about their specific program or initiative.
1. Does the program/initiative drive improved results for students?
2. Will the program/initiative increase the capacity to improve results for Title I schools?
3. Will the program/initiative accelerate federal guidelines for school improvement?
4. Will the program/initiative avoid recurring costs once the funding ends?
5. Will the program/initiative create feedback loops that offer continuous improvement?
The guide’s authors also note:
The strategies for reform noted in this guidance should not be seen as exhaustive or as a list of “silver bullets” that schools should necessarily implement. Rather, these strategies should be considered, taking into account local needs reflected in student achievement data.
Ultimately, if educators and community leaders focus on a small number of related and reinforcing strategies and use the substantial one-time Title I, Part A ARRA resources consistent with their overall plan for increasing student achievement, student outcomes are more likely to improve than with a scattershot approach.
Close the Homework Gap with Title I
We recently reported on how to make sense of Title I funds—what they are and why they’re important to a school district’s success.
One powerful way to use your Title I funds in a way that checks off all the Department of Education’s boxes listed above: providing your students with mobile, safe, secure broadband Internet. If the Homework Gap is one of the key obstacles preventing students in Title I schools from keeping pace with their peers in more affluent school districts, then broadband Internet has the incredible potential to launch your students over that intimidating hurdle.
From mobile hotspots that connect students to the Internet outside the classroom to campus-wide Internet coverage to 1:1 programs that give K-12 students their own personal Chromebook, Kajeet offers a range of ways for you to use your Title I funds.
Your Title I funds could revolutionize your school district. Don’t let all that potential go to waste.