Historical Trends in Federal Education Policies That Target Students Placed At Risk
ANTOINETTE MITCHELL Urban Institute
Children who live in poverty are more likely than others to experience educational difficulties that place them at risk for school failure. Recognizing this relationship between poverty and academic performance, the federal government has passed several important pieces of legislation designed to address the educational needs of poor students. Through an analysis of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994, this chapter traces the evolution and impact of federal policies implemented to improve the academic performance of students placed at risk. In so doing, it examines both the challenges and the opportunities inherent in federal support to schools serving poor and at-risk youths.
The U.S. constitution is silent on the issue of which entity shall govern education. As a result of this silence, education is recognized as a de facto responsibility of the states. Traditionally, local governments manage school districts, while states oversee broader policy objectives. The federal government's role in education was fairly negligible until 1954, when Brown vs. Board of Education, Topeka and other later judicial desegregation decisions began to encroach on state and local governments' control over educational policies. The federal government's legislative commitment to the provision of equal educational opportunities for disadvantaged students was codified in 1965, with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Since then, the federal role in education has been expanding.