Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009
The Clinton Years: Improving America's Schools Act
In parallel with Goals 2000, Clinton advanced proposals for reauthorization and modification of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now called Improving America's Schools Act or IASA (P.L. 103-382). The president wanted Goals 2000 enacted first, so it would set state standards and tests for the reauthorized act; he did not want Goals 2000 and IASA to be merged, fearing that any additional money that might be garnered for Goals 2000 would simply be used to support Title I and not the broader systemic reforms he envisioned. Clinton prevailed. The bills passed in sequence, and in October 1994, IASA was signed into law.
Prior to IASA , the Title I program of ESEA permitted states to use achievement "standards" for economically disadvantaged students that were different from, and less challenging than, those for other students. IASA, in contrast, required that the standards for Title I and non-Title I students be the same: that is, both sets of students must meet the standards that states were developing with support from Goals 2000. Together, therefore, IASA and Goals 2000 helped states to advance their overall standards-based reforms for all students and directed the $11 billion allocation of Title I toward helping children in poverty meet the new state standards.
The IASA law received widespread support from both Republicans and Democrats who liked the focus on standards. Also voicing support were the education and business communities and the Commission on Chapter 1, whose report described the Chapter 1 program as focusing mostly on low-level programs with little accountability for improved outcomes among disadvantaged students. IASA-which restored the original 1965 name, Title I, to the largest program directing federal grants to low-achieving students in low-income districts-marked one of the most significant uses of federal power in state and local education policy. By requiring that standards and accountability be the same for all children, it made Title I funding, the largest single federal funding stream for elementary and secondary education, contingent on state and local decisions around standards, testing, teacher training, curriculum, and accountability.