Title I and Reading First

Title 1 of NCLBA amends and expands Title I of ESEA and has as its purpose “to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.” More specifically, Title I encompasses the following goals and methods:

  • Using high-quality academic assessments and other methods to measure progress against common expectations for student academic achievement
  • Closing the achievement gap between high-and low-performing children, especially the gaps between minority and nonminority students, and between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers
  • Meeting the needs of children in need of reading assistance, including minority students, English-language learner students, students with disabilities, and poor students
  • Careful distribution and targeting of resources
  • Holding schools, local educational agencies, and states accountable for improving the academic achievement of all students
  • Improving and strengthening accountability, teaching, and learning by using state assessment systems

According to the Department of Education, prior to enactment of the NCLBA, only 32 percent of the nation’s fourth graders were reading at a level deemed “proficient.” The huge “Reading First” program in Title I of No Child Left Behind is intended to address the reading deficiency in elementary students. In 2003, more than $990 million was appropriated for the program; the number pushed past the $1 billion level in subsequent years. Money for Reading First is distributed in two ways. First, states receive distributions on the basis of the number of low-income children ages 5-17 who live in the state. Second, districts compete for funds in state-run competitions. Priority goes to districts with high rates of poverty and reading failure.

Reading programs under the Reading First program must be devised from “scientifically based research.” This phrase recurs dozens of times in NCLBA, although it is not clearly defined within the act. Essentially, “scientifically based research” means that there is reliable evidence that a program or practice works. With regard to Reading First, students must be explicitly and systematically taught five skills:

  • Phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and identify sounds in spoken words)
  • Phonics
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension
  • Fluency

Inside Title I and Reading First