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Using Technology to Uncover New Funding Opportunities

Using Title I Part A funds to expand the classroom in new and inventive ways

by Stephanie Jones & Mary Schlegelmilch

It’s true that many at-risk students struggle to meet academic expectations, but it’s lesser known that external factors – such as discipline issues, structure at home and socioeconomic status – are often at the root of this issue. To address this gap, many schools leverage funding programs such as Title I Part A, which provide more attention to at-risk learners and are designed to keep students from falling behind.

Title I Part A funds are crucial to the education system; they enable school districts across the country to improve access and resources for disadvantaged students. In recent years, both rural and urban school districts have started to use Title I Part A funds to expand the classroom in new and inventive ways that go above and beyond: with technology.

More than 25 million students in high-poverty schools benefit from Title I funds.

Ensuring that all children have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education is more attainable than ever as schools implement technologies that enable and extend learning far beyond the classroom.  

This is evident in the Howe Public School District in Oklahoma. The school district uses Title I Part A funding to engage students during hours typically spent without educational engagement – through connected school transportation.

Within the Howe school district, a bus ride can last almost an hour or more. Since many students lack Wi-Fi access at home, connected school buses offer the opportunity to learn, study and complete homework while on the bus – all thanks to Internet access. Howe implemented Wi-Fi and GPS enabled busses, increasing equal access to education, and a better use of student time. In addition, connected buses, especially with video, improve student safety and well-being.

However, not all school districts have the resources or expertise when it comes to utilizing Title I Part A funds in new and innovative ways. This is where a public funding partner can be a critical connecting thread. For example, we often experience firsthand how much school districts value assistance and guidance when it comes to prioritizing Title I Part A funding.

Here are some simple steps that can make a crucial difference:

  • Step one – work with a partner to identify major needs and problems affecting students
  • Step two – educate the entire academic community on how to use those funds for technology
  • Step three – craft a plan to implement technology in alignment with education priorities

There are many ways to utilize these steps and engage Title I Part A funds more fully. Large school districts often have dedicated personnel to determine the best use of Title I Part A funding. However, small districts can be left with limited resources and faculty.

13 million students pay for college or career school annually – without Title I funding many of them would not have the opportunity to embark on a collegiate journey.

A public funding partner can be especially useful here in identifying smart and unforeseen ways to utilize Title I Part A funding. For example, within the first step, it’s crucial not to leave dollars on the table, or to continue prior habits – school districts often look to past years for inspiration, and can overlook new types of technology.

In addition to resourceful and beneficial programs like connected busing, there are several other beneficial types of technology programs that have been identified by our public funding officers:

  • Converting student devices into learning and response tools
  • Using networks to communicate to parents
  • Adding video to conference calls for language instruction and cross-district resource sharing

When it comes to these new types of programs, professional development and access to outside experts is critical. Providing teachers and faculty with new and innovative tools enables them to engage students like never before, but needs to be managed thoughtfully, and seeded well in advance of classroom introduction.

Some of the benefits we’ve seen when it comes to innovative Title I Part A funding include access to online college courses, “office hours” with teachers, mentoring with advanced students and dual-enrollment. To make this happen, school districts must begin to understand their needs, their funding options and how Title I Part A funding aligns with their challenges.

Title I Part A funding has the power to transform the education landscape for disadvantaged students across the country, and for many school districts, the advantage lies in looking to technology for answers.

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