Title I and Overall Resource Allocation

December 6, 2016

We have received comments and questions from community members regarding how we distribute Title I funds among our schools, as well as the overall process we use to allocate resources that support student learning. Below are several of those comments and questions, as well as our responses. This is a living document that we will revise as necessary to keep people updated on the status of these important issues.

We have heard that the district “took away” Title I funding from schools. For example, we know Longfellow lost funding this year. We also have heard D97 did not provide “essential services” to students until November. Was staffing in place at the start of the school year for the schools that had Title I?

Title I is a program of the federal government that provides states with funding that is intended to “supplement instructional services and activities in order to improve the educational opportunities of educationally disadvantaged or deprived children.” Individual districts such as District 97 do not control how much money they receive, or how that money is allocated among their schools. According to the website for the U.S. Department of Education, those decisions are made based on “four statutory formulas that are based primarily on census poverty estimates and the cost of education in each state.” Those formulas, as well as detailed information about the allocation process, can be accessed on the agency’s website by clicking here. The site also features information about the ways Title I funds can be spent in accordance with the law.

As for access to staff and services here in the district, there were several factors that impacted the availability of both at the start of the 2016-17 school year. In terms of staffing, those factors included a delayed response from the state about whether it would officially recognize some of our Title I positions. We needed this information because it would determine the number of staff members we could fund using Title I money. In terms of services, we expanded our Title I program to include our middle schools. While the number of schools in our district that were eligible for Title I funding increased, the total allocation of money we received for the program remained the same. The district’s 2015 Fall Housing Report, which can be accessed by clicking here, features information about how our schools receive Title I designation.

Two of the schools that are not eligible to receive Title I funds approached us with requests to use money donated by their PTOs to pay for tutors who would support reading interventions for their students. There was a delay in processing the requests because we needed to determine if there were any legal or policy implications associated with using donations to pay people for these services. Once we confirmed that we could proceed with the requests, the Board of Education reviewed them during its meeting on October 13, 2016 and approved them during its meeting on October 25, 2016.

Why would D97 not support students who are in most need of support? Why wouldn’t D97 allocate funds and resources in ways to support students who need intervention support? Where is the “sense of urgency” to creating equitable access and outcomes in student learning?

As stated above, state and federal law govern both the allocation and use of Title I funds. With that said, we are currently utilizing a variety of programs, systems and strategies to strengthen our Multi Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) and meet the needs of all of our students. Below are examples of the work we are undertaking and the resources we are using to advance the vision for our district (create a positive learning environment for all students that is equitable, inclusive and focused on the whole child) and help our children learn, grow and achieve.

  • Our schools have dedicated staff members (e.g., language arts specialists, RtI leaders, PBIS coaches, etc.) and instructional resources (e.g., 95% Group, SLANT, Read 180, MobyMax, SPIRE, etc.) they can use to provide students with academic, social and/or emotional support. They also have a mechanism (i.e., Branching Minds) they can use to track their efforts in these critical areas and help ensure that we are addressing the needs of every child we serve.

  • Second Step has been implemented across the district this year to ensure that students have access to tiered positive behavior supports. Second Step is a curriculum that teaches skills for learning, empathy, emotional management and problem solving.

  • The district’s MTSS team is developing an instructional framework that will help ensure that supports are being delivered with fidelity and in a consistent and meaningful way across all 10 schools. This framework will include a set of written beliefs and expectations about core instruction and assessment.

    As part of the development process, the team assessed a number of existing and potential tools for assessment, intervention and progress monitoring, and identified which ones we should invest in, continue to maintain or stop using.

  • We will be exploring how to better utilize instructional time within a school day/week to provide not only effective Tier 1 instruction, but assist teachers in providing Tier 2 and 3 interventions as well. In an effort to achieve this goal, some of our teachers have participated in professional learning sessions regarding the effective implementation of Tier 2 and 3 interventions. We will also be trying to identify time for intervention blocks on a daily basis that align with our commitment to educating the whole child.

  • We will be hiring or reassigning intervention staff to help ensure that all of our buildings have the personnel and resources they need to support student learning.
  • We have implemented common curricular resources in reading and math across all eight of our elementary schools.

  • School-level RtI leaders are conducting data conversations with grade level teams after each benchmark assessment (three times per year), as well as during the four to six week cycles that occur between these assessments. We are currently using district-level common cut scores to help us more consistency identify students in need of support. School and district-level staff members also have data conversations after each benchmark window (three times per year) to help monitor and aid student growth and attainment.
  • During the Institute Day held in November 2016, K-5 general and special education teachers participated in a session that was specifically focused on preparing math lessons through the lens of differentiation. All of the teachers who took part in the session were given a framework they can use to aid these efforts.

  • We have learned through activities such as trainings and observations that our teachers are actively seeking ways to differentiate instruction in an effort to meet the needs of all of our learners. For example, one teacher is differentiating using exit card information, pre- and post-test information and performance on actual lessons. In addition, a grade level team at one of our elementary schools has spent a lot of its planning time discussing and modifying tests, exit tickets and lessons to better support the growth and progress of its students.

  • In a memo sent on July 26, 2016, teachers received information about Zearn, which is a web-based application designed around the Eureka Math modules that support differentiation. Our teachers are currently using this application to differentiate in their classrooms regardless of Tier (enrichment and remediation/acceleration).
  • The K-5 Math Resource Guides that are being developed by our teachers feature suggestions for differentiated activities. In addition, the existing Eureka Math teacher guides include the following information about scaffolds.

    The scaffolds integrated into the K-5 modules give alternatives for how students access information as well as express and demonstrate their learning. Strategically placed margin notes are provided within each lesson elaborating on the use of specific scaffolds at applicable times. They address many needs presented by English language learners, students with disabilities, students performing above grade level, and students performing below grade level. Many of the suggestions are organized by the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, and are applicable to more than one population.

  • The Writing Units of Study include learning progressions that teachers use to determine where students are and where they need to go next. There are also checklists students can use to self-assess and provide peer feedback. In addition, the “If...Then…” book highlights the issues that may occur during a unit, and what teachers can do in the face of those issues to scaffold and support students.
  • Our schools are using both the school improvement process and RtI to monitor student progress and identify interventions to support student learning.

  • Through the Formative Assessment for Results (FAR) process, we have increased the opportunities teachers have to engage in structured conversations about the progress of all of their students. During the FAR coaching session held in November 2016, Renee DeWald, who is serving as our trainer on this process, provided team leaders with resources they can use to help facilitate conversations on cultural competency at the team level. In addition, both of our middle schools offer a WIN period (What I Need). During this period, students have the opportunity to engage in enrichment or remediation activities. Students who receive Tier 2 and 3 interventions also have access to an enrichment period during the school year.