May 26, 2016

By Jennifer Grimes

When I think of a role model who’s had a major impact on my life, I immediately think of my mother.  Not only is my mom the best mom in the world (of course!), but she was also a Title I teacher.  In becoming a mother myself, I see many of the same traits in how I parent that are similar to how she raised me and my siblings—and as I navigate adulthood, I have come to understand that her role as a teacher has impacted me more than I anticipated, especially in my role at Renaissance.

She was compassionately driven by the desire to ensure all students were successful, and she was acutely focused on infusing the love of reading within the school, supporting her colleagues, and engaging with parents. With limited resources, she maximized Title I funds to increase reading practice by ensuring all students had access to books and that her colleagues had the resources and tools they needed to develop personalized student reading plans to ensure success.

Although she now enjoys a leisurely retirement filled with traveling and quilting, my mom’s legacy still rings true today. Many schools and districts are using federal funding sources to develop sustainable reading and math programs built around providing deliberate practice that leads to accelerating student growth. What’s changed in the short time since my mom was in the classroom, however, are budget and staff reductions. Every school is being asked to do the same—or more—with less funds, so maximizing federal funds can be an excellent way to increase student achievement.

As the school year comes to an end, it’s a good time for reflection on what worked well for you this year as well as a consideration of how to maximize extra Title I funds. These spare funds are commonly referred to as “spend down” funds. Here are a few things to think about as you consider enhancements to your current programs:

Ensure students have the support they need

Have you considered a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS)? MTSS is a prevention-based framework of team-driven, data-based problem-solving with the goal of improving the outcomes of every student through family, school, and community and is an increased focus of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). If MTTS is working for you, consider ways to enhance the program by offering additional professional development opportunities or enhancing the screening process to quickly identify students who are most at risk.

Offer frequent opportunities for practice

Students who practice more grow more! Providing frequent opportunities for reading and math practice is an essential component of any learning process, and emphasizing the role of practice and work in academic accomplishments is beneficial for both motivation and academic performance (Mueller & Dweck, 1998). Research suggests time spent reading books—in other words, reading practice—is the best predictor of overall academic achievement (Kirsch et al., 2002). Title I funds and a new grant—Literacy for All Results for a Nation (LEARN) authorized by ESSA—encourage improved reading instruction that incorporates tools that support frequent opportunities for reading practice.

Measure student growth

Are you documenting the progress a student is making over time? Consider adding growth as an additional indicator to enhance your understanding of how well a student is performing. This will become increasingly prevalent given the new focus placed on growth within ESSA. While student achievement is gathered from a “one-day test snapshot” of a student, using an assessment that provides a method of characterizing student growth offers a more holistic view of student performance. Consider using federal funds to support an assessment that yields a growth measure.

As you finalize your Title I funds and plans for next year, I encourage you to learn more about how Renaissance’s assessment, math and reading practice programs can help you enhance your Title I initiatives to accelerate learning for all.


Mueller, C., M., & Dweck, C., S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 33–52

Kirsch, I., de Jong, J., Lafontaine, D., McQueen, J., Mendelovits, J., & Monseur, C. (2002). Reading for change: Performance and engagement across countries. Paris, France: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Still curious? Get practical insights from a distinguished panel, including a Title I Coordinator, on this free recorded webinar focused on Title I implementation.