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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 ways in which your K-12 students learn and thrive. Now come the big questions: “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 in terms of digital access for learning outside the classroom (and sometimes even inside the classroom as well).
According to a report on the Homework Gap by Common Sense Media, Title 1 teachers are in a difficult spot when it comes to digital devices and broadband Internet access. For example, prior to the pandemic:
- 42 percent of teachers in Title I schools said they “never” assigned 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 said more than 60 percent of their students lack adequate access to digital devices/broadband Internet for their homework.
While schools across the country shifted to remote and hybrid learning in the wake of the pandemic, a recent study conducted by the GBH Educational Foundation found that this only exacerbated the digital divide. Teachers working in Title I schools, public schools, and rural areas were more likely than their peers to report that a majority of their students lack Internet access at home and/or access to the devices they need.
Both of these reports conclude by stressing the need to focus on providing robust broadband Internet access to help close the Homework Gap with students in Title I schools and other disadvantaged schools.
Some of the other strategies Common Sense Media notes to help close the digital divide 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 a few additional ideas for innovative off-campus Internet solutions, check out Waynesboro Area School District’s creative WiFi hotspots as well as this blog about learning acceleration in a post-pandemic world.
3 Common Title I Misconceptions
You now have access to the federal Title I program benefits, but you may not be using them as effectively as you could. According to the Council of Chief State School Officers, in some instances, this is due to 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. The council notes that some states and districts limit the use of Title I funds to costs associated with reading and math while excluding subjects such as engineering and social studies.
- Title I funds ARE NOT limited only to instructional costs (i.e. 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 consider five key criteria about their specific program or initiative.
- Does the program/initiative drive improved results for students?
- Will the program/initiative increase the capacity to improve results for Title I schools?
- Will the program/initiative accelerate federal guidelines for school improvement?
- Will the program/initiative avoid recurring costs once the funding ends?
- 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
One powerful way to use your Title I funds in a way that checks off all the Department of Education’s boxes listed above: provide 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 LTE-embedded device, Kajeet offers a range of ways for you to use your Title I funds.
Don’t wait to tap into this excellent funding source. Speak with a Kajeet representative today to learn what our Title I-eligible Education Broadband™ solutions could do for your school or district.
Krystle Pearson, M.Ed. is the Kajeet Education Sr. Marketing Manager, bringing with her 16 years of experience, including her most recent role as a K-12 Director of Technology. She also serves on the Executive Board for the Virginia Alliance of Black School Educators.