Building Adequacy: A Reflection After 50 Years of Title I

You might have asked yourself recently: What is my mission as an educational leader? For me, my mission stems from my beliefs and my “whys” around education.

Your “whys” are your purpose and your core beliefs that are embedded in everything that you do.  It is what inspires you, and motivates you. Simon Sinek wrote a book titled Start with Why, which I read years ago and reach for annually, as I assess my words and actions, and daily commitments to my craft and career.

On the heels of the National Title I Conference and the celebration of  50 years of this important federal provision, I am reflecting on my past, present and future as an educational leader. What have I found regarding my mission -- the why behind all that I do? I am passionately focused every day on providing initiatives that work for the success of the whole child in the community that I serve, as an Assistant Principal and former Title I Coordinator of Virginia Beach City Public Schools in Virginia. But serving my students also requires the support and involvement of the whole community. So I keep this quote top of mind, as I continue to carve my path: “Isolation is the enemy of progress.”

In my role as an educational leader, I know that the academic challenges in my community are large, too large for any one person to take on alone. I find that wherever my journey has led me, from literacy coach to assistant principal, that human capital, building strong teams, is essentially important to any work I can embark upon, and ultimately accomplish.

Likewise, the goal of Title I was never for one program or person to do it alone. The legislation was designed to supplement the core programs of districts, and has always had a component tightly related to family and community involvement. Much of the Title 1 research addressed educators’ role in providing equity to all students to ensure every child had access to outstanding teachers, curriculum, instruction and materials inside and outside the home. It’s about adequacy and ensuring that we are reaching the level for individual students that will ensure they reach their highest potential. Changes in Title 1 over the years reflect shifts from equality, to equity, and to adequacy.

Today, equity is still a core focus, however, and so is adequacy, which directly addresses differentiated supports for all students -- such as gifted and talented, special education, gender, ethnicity and struggling readers as members of the school community. My career focus has been on both equity and adequacy. Equity is critically important because without access or exposure, opportunities for growth will never arise for children. Similarly, without attention to adequacy, the focus might stray from helping students reach their highest potential.

In “American Public School Finance,” Dr. William Owings and Dr. Leslie Kaplan define equity and adequacy as it relates to curriculum, instruction, teachers andresources. And they have helped me define how supplemental funding for Title I should be spent in my district.

  1. Funding has to align with the district’s core goals and objectives.
  2. Funding must be spent in areas that have been shown to make a difference for student achievement. We know that teachers, appropriate materials and the home/school connection make the difference.

Focusing on these two goals has helped guide the Title I program in Virginia Beach City Public Schools – from application development, to budget process, to teacher support, to professional development, to access to resources and family engagement.

After leaving Salt Lake City, and this important school and community leadership conference, I feel a renewed sense of focus about the responsibility we all have to build upon equity and adequacy in our respective school districts – putting funding into action based on what works for students, and the teachers and level leaders that support them. What is required of Title 1 leadership and their instructional partners is the challenge to rediscover their “why,” and, in doing so, keeping children at the center of this communal effort.

In the spirit of teamwork, and in subsequent blog posts, I hope to share some of the initiatives that have been successful in our community. Perhaps they could be useful in others’ work with uniquely challenged populations and various teams of internal and external partners.

Photo: editor