• by Abelardo Villarreal, Ph.D. and Oanh H. Maroney • IDRA Newsletter • March 1997
Federal education programs make it possible for local education agencies to continue the promotion of equity and excellence within their service districts. Since the federal contribution to pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education is only a small fraction of the nation’s spending on public education, federal program monies are not intended to replace state and local funding (U.S. Department of Education, 1996a). They are intended, rather, to serve as a supplement to those funds.
The US Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education has developed numerous programs that grant federal monies to local education agencies serving various student populations. There are 47 such programs that exist under seven areas (US Department of Education, 1996b). These include:
- Education programs for disadvantaged students (11 programs)
- School improvement programs (17 programs)
- Impact aid programs (2 programs)
- Indian education programs (4 programs)
- Migrant education programs (5 programs)
- Safe and drug free schools (4 programs)
- Goals 2000 (4 programs).
There are funding sources within each of the seven areas that many people are familiar with, such as Title I, Title IV and Title VII. However, most local education agencies serve student populations that may qualify them for funding under more than one source, even though all are federal monies. The most effective way to serve the needs of such populations is to coordinate funds from the various federal programs. The general provisions (Title XIV) of the Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA), also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), promote the coordination of funds as follows:
While the changes in many of the individual programs in the rest of the ESEA will also provide some flexibility, the crosscutting provisions in Title XIV promote program integration, coordination, equal educational opportunity, flexibility, state and local discretion, efficiency, and improve accountability (US Department of Education, 1994b).
Furthermore, the IASA specifically promotes the coordination of funds within local education agencies that serve language-minority and limited-English-proficient (LEP) students as follows:
In order to secure the most flexible and efficient use of federal funds, any state receiving funds under this subpart [Bilingual Education Capacity and Demonstration Grants, subpart 1, sec. 7121] shall coordinate its program with other programs under this act, the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, and other acts, as appropriate, in accordance with section 14306 (US Department of Education, 1994a).
In fiscal year 1996, the federal government designated approximately $47 billion in on-budget funds for programs administered by the Department of Education (National Center for Education Statistics, 1996). This is an increase of almost $1 billion from the 1995 fiscal year’s funding of $46.1 billion. The distributions and estimated amounts are listed in the table below.
Of the estimated $7.3 billion designated for elementary and secondary education in fiscal year 1996, approximately $6 billion was funded for grants for disadvantaged students, $1 billion was funded for school improvement programs, $155 million was funded for bilingual education and $62 million was funded for American Indian education (National Center for Education Statistics, 1996).
The purpose of this article is to provide a rationale for the need to combine and coordinate funds and to define how the interrelatedness of four dimensions of the restructuring process affects the success that schools have in coordinating funding to achieve their purpose and goals.
Researcher O’Neil states that the essence of school restructuring consists of a deliberate attempt by the schools to combine and coordinate the different aspects (principle, leadership and group processes) associated with restructuring to achieve a purpose shared by everyone in the organization (1990). Restructuring is used synonymously with terms such as reorganization, collaboration, coordination, synergism and accountability.
The focus is on the school’s ability to combine and coordinate resources to achieve its goals. Just as it is critical that administrators and teachers have a clear understanding of the essential factors that affect student achievement, it is also significant that they see the relationships that exist among curriculum, instruction, accountability, staff development, staff commitment and funding. How to orchestrate these factors in a manner that produces high achievement results in an economically efficient way is a source of great dilemma for many of our schools.
School restructuring calls for rethinking how schools target and allocate available funding. No longer is it the decision of one administrator. No longer is funding used to leverage acquiescence or involvement. The successful allocation and coordination of funds depends on the alignment of goals, delivery of educational services and accountability systems. This article discusses four dimensions of the school restructuring process that have a high degree of interrelatedness.
Relationship of Four Dimensions of the Restructuring Process
Sound organizational theory embraces four dimensions of the restructuring process that are critical to efficient coordination of funds. The box on page 13 graphically shows the interrelatedness of these four dimensions.
The first dimension, goal statement, provides a focus, commitment and direction for the school organization. It is the cornerstone for defining the role that the school will play. Goals represent the value-driven purposes and student outcomes to be achieved by the school. In essence, they describe the preparation that students will receive by the time they leave the school system, and the goals must be aligned with the characteristics of a functioning society and workplace. This is particularly important in light of the unacceptable productivity level of the existing educational system. As the role of education changes to align with the demands and dynamism of society and workplace, so must its goals. Furthermore, goals must reflect a commitment to excellence and equity for all student populations.
Goals shape the direction that the schools have chosen and provide tasks that the schools are committed to achieve. They guide all efforts initiated at the different levels of the organization. Consequently, not only must the goals be articulated to the whole community, but also they must be understood by the community. The community, on the other hand, must commit itself to work with the school to achieve these goals.
The second dimension, well-articulated plan to integrate services, describes the needs in terms of multiplicity of the factors that contribute to a need and defines the school’s multifaceted response. Addressing needs becomes the major objective of school reform or improvement plans. Needs are described in terms of the distance from the existing level of student performance to the expected level of performance as established in the school’s goals. Needs must reflect an acknowledgment of the complexity of factors that collectively address the problem of underachievement.
Responses to address these needs must also align with those factors within the purview of the school that define a need. Furthermore, the definition of a need may require services from agencies external to the school organization, such as health services. These responses are then integrated into a holistic, well-articulated plan to combine services that collectively provide a viable solution to complex, multifaceted problems that cause student underachievement.
Students who are considered at risk of dropping out of school or of receiving inappropriate educational services will benefit the most from a well-articulated plan. Students typically considered at-risk are migrant students, limited-English-proficient (LEP) students, underachieving students, economically disadvantaged students, homeless children and children who have behavior problems. The list varies depending on the definition assigned by a state or agency. For example, a plan that coalesces educational services to address the issue of underachievement among the LEP student population focuses on a multiplicity of factors that influence achievement.
The third dimension, resourcefulness, alludes to the skilled orchestration of funds for educational services and to the effectiveness of the administrator in integrating services external to the school. Leveraging is an important attribute of the administrator in the restructured school. Leveraging is defined as the ability to “get the most out of the buck.” Using funds to acquire funding commitments from other sources is a form of leveraging. Coordinating services to avoid duplication is another form of leveraging. It is also the ability to create and select well thought-out educational programs that yield maximum results in student achievement with minimum financial investment.
Being a fiscally frugal person, a visionary and a risk-taker are the trademarks of resourceful school leaders. They have specific, well-articulated educational plans to increase student achievement, and they have identified the resources that they need in order to accomplish their plans. They take advantage of every opportunity to leverage existing funds to acquire additional funding to implement their plans. They seek external funding and develop partnerships with the community and the business sector. They create an educational environment that fosters collaboration. On their campuses, staff members are clear on their mission, believe in a vision and share specific goals for their students.
Below are questions that a school may ask when monitoring its resourcefulness:
- Are we equipped to seek external funding?
- Do we coordinate and leverage funds to maximize their impact on student achievement?
The fourth dimension, accountability, refers to the systems in place to monitor and measure impact of integrated services on the achievement of students and goals. A cornerstone of sound fiscal policy is an accountability system that provides data on the success that schools experience with their educational plans and the soundness of the fiscal policy that supported the educational endeavors.
The accountability system must include a formative evaluation that monitors the decisions and accessibility of funds to support the educational plan. The accountability system will yield data on the effectiveness of existing fiscal policy in providing the resources needed to implement the educational plan. It will provide answers to the following questions:
- Were enough funds made available to implement the educational plan?
- How successful was the school in leveraging existing funds?
- Were all sources of funding tapped?
- How successful was the school in acquiring additional funds?
Researchers Reavis and Griffith reinforce the importance of accountability to a learning organization (1992). A learning organization is one that uses data and is constantly seeking to improve its decision-making ability. It does so by examining results and the decisions made to achieve those results. It monitors availability, coordination and impact of resources.
Being pro-active in ensuring that all four dimensions operate in tandem is critical for the administrator and the site-based committees. To ignore or to address minimally any one dimension negatively affects the other dimensions. For example, focusing on coordination of funds without any connection to the student goals creates an environment where funds are expended on faith with no clear description of expected outcomes. Stakeholders hesitate to support educational endeavors with ill-founded and poorly articulated goals.
Focusing on student goals and neglecting an articulated plan for achieving the goal is like sailing without a compass or a rudder. The destination is clear but how to get there is ambiguous and doubtful. Disregarding a well-defined plan to coordinate services provides little or no justification for the allocation of funds.
A fragmented plan demonstrates a lack of focus and an inability to see organizational relationships among factors that improve student achievement. Consequently, a haphazard disbursement of funds occurs. In this scenario, there will be duplication of services, uncoordinated instructional programs and frustration among educational personnel who fail to see the “big picture” and spend their time trying to solve what they perceive as a puzzle.
Lacking an adequate accountability plan that informs the stakeholders of the funding’s impact creates ambiguity and anxiety that leads to a lack of trust and the implementation of measures that limit the authority of the school.
Coordination of funds and programs presents a challenge to the school administrator and site-based committee who must ensure that funds are used and leveraged with maximum outcomes. School staff members must acknowledge the power of the four dimensions of the restructuring process discussed in this article to create the best conditions for the appropriate use of funds. Otherwise…
You can want to do the right thing, And you can even want to do it for the right reasons. But if you don’t apply the right principles, You can still hit a wall (Covey, Merrill and Merrill, 1994).
Federal On-Budget Funds Designated for Programs Administered by the US Department of Education
|Type of Funding||Amount (in millions)|
|Elementary and secondary education
School assistance in federal affected areas
Vocational and adult education
Education for handicapped students
Post-secondary student financial assistance
Direct aid to post-secondary institutions
Higher education facilities
Other higher education facilities
Public library services
Payments to special institutions
Departmental accountsTotal (estimated)
|Source: National Center for Education Statistics. The Digest of Education Statistics 1996, Table 358|
O’Neil, J. “Piecing Together the Restructuring Puzzle,” Educational Leadership. (1990) 47:4-10.
Covey, S.R. and R. Merrill and R.R. Merrill. First Things First. (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1994).
National Center for Education Statistics. The Digest of Education Statistics 1996: Table 358. (Internet posting, 1996) www.ed.gov/NCES/pubs/D96/index.html.
Reavis, C. and H. Griffith. Restructuring Schools: Theory and Practice. (Lancaster, Pa.: Technomic Publishing Company, Inc., 1992).
US Department of Education. Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994. (Washington, D.C.: US Department of Education, 1994).
US Department of Education. Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994: Summary Sheets. (Washington, DC: US Department of Education, 1994).
US Department of Education. Tapping the Full Potential of Federal Assistance. (Internet posting, 1996) www.ed.gov.
US Department of Education. Guide to US Department of Education Programs. (Internet posting, 1996) www.ed.gov.
Abelardo Villarreal, Ph. D. is director of IDRA’s Division of Professional Development. Oanh H. Maroney is a research assistant in the IDRA Division of Research and Evaluation. Comments and questions may be sent to them via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©1997, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 1997 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]