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ERIC Number: ED503895
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Nov
Pages: 49
Abstractor: ERIC
Federal Aid to Elementary and Secondary Education: Premises, Effects, and Major Lessons Learned
Manna, Paul
Center on Education Policy
This paper aims to inform federal education policy by examining Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and two federal efforts to improve teacher quality, the Eisenhower Professional Development Program and the highly qualified teacher provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Reviewing the evaluation literature on federal policies on education over the past five decades, the author observes that: (1) Federal education policies have made positive contributions, but usually fall short of reaching ambitiously stated goals; (2) Increased federal involvement in elementary and secondary education has provided students and teachers with important opportunities or guarantees while simultaneously contributing to a complex and fragmented regulatory environment that federal, state, and local officials struggle to manage; (3) Federal education policies have attempted to help state and local governments to leverage their own activities, moving some reforms forward but also making it difficult to assess specific impacts of federal contributions; and (4) Success of federal education policies is closely linked to the success of the systems and initiatives developed by state and local governments. The following operating principles are advocated: (1) Federal initiatives should be harmonized to minimize the complexity that arises when multiple program silos operate simultaneously; (2) As far as possible, federal policies should make education data and practices transparent to observers inside and outside government; (3) The federal government should invest heavily in research and development to identify educational practices and interventions that have proven effectiveness; and (4) Federal leaders should use the bully pulpit to highlight the nation's educational progress and to troubleshoot the challenges that confront governments at all levels as they try to improve America's system of elementary and secondary education. Distance from the ground level gives federal leaders a unique and encompassing view of the system, which can help identify important leverage points to promote reforms. That same overarching view can frustrate federal efforts, especially those that rely on particular mechanisms applied across 50 different states and nearly 15,000 diverse school districts. Recognizing both the strengths and weaknesses of their position can help federal policymakers make the most of their capabilities and, in the process, help states and localities make the most of theirs. An appendix of evaluation studies cited in the report is included. (Contains 12 footnotes and 2 tables.) [This paper was commissioned by the Center on Education Policy for its project on Rethinking the Federal Role in Education.]
Center on Education Policy. 1001 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 522, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-822-8065; Fax: 202-822-6008; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Center on Education Policy
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Elementary and Secondary Education Act; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; No Child Left Behind Act 2001