Education Policy: Research: Historical Overview: Reagan:

Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009

The Reagan Years: Hawkins-Stafford Amendments

In 1987, Representatives Augustus Hawkins (D-CA) and Robert Stafford (R-VT) introduced the so-called Hawkins-Stafford School Improvement Amendments (P.L. 100-297), which increased federal appropriations for Title I/Chapter 1 of the ECIA by $500 million on the condition that local school officials document measurable gains in student achievement in order to remain eligible for aid. Every school receiving Chapter 1 aid had to show that test scores or other measures of achievement increased for educationally disadvantaged children participating in the program. If participants in a given school showed no improvement for the first year, then the local district had to work with the school to improve its Chapter 1 program. If participants still showed no improvement in the second year, the state department of education had to work with the local district to review the school's program.

This expectation of ever-rising test scores seemed the only way to prevent local schools from prolonging their eligibility for aid by perpetuating low scores. It was not clear what would happen if, after three years, participants in a Title I/Chapter 1 program still showed no improvement; officials simply hoped that extra attention from state officials as well as extra resources from the federal government would produce results. To encourage new approaches to instruction, the Hawkins-Stafford amendments increased allocations for "schoolwide reforms"-that is, reforms unrelated to any specific category of students (such as disadvantaged, disabled, or non-English-speaking students) but designed to raise the academic achievement of all students in the Title I/Chapter 1 school. The idea of schoolwide reform was associated with a growing "effective schools" movement, which stressed whole-school reform to achieve coordinated planning and programming for all pupils and to overcome the organizational fragmentation that had accompanied the rapid proliferation of categorical programs in the 1960s and 1970s.


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