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Evaluation of Flexibility Under No Child Left Behind (Volumes I-IV)

Document date: July 01, 2007
Released online: July 27, 2007

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.


These reports examine three programs established under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 to give public school districts greater flexibility in the use of their federal funds. In general, the results show that public school districts tend not to utilize these flexibility programs. The one exception is the program aimed at rural districts.  Public school districts reported that they did not use the flexibility programs for three main reasons: 1) adequate flexibility without the programs; 2) the amount of funds eligible for the programs was too small to make it worthwhile; and 3) lack of information about the programs.

Volume I—Executive Summary of Transferability, REAP Flex, and Local Flex

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) relied on two notable policy instruments to improve education: accountability and flexibility. Accountability is perhaps the most recognized and discussed feature of the legislation. As a strategy for improving education, it calls for establishing challenging standards of performance, developing rigorous and scientifically based systems for monitoring progress toward attaining these standards, and introducing meaningful consequences for schools that consistently fail to make satisfactory progress. NCLB not only maintains but also strengthens federal commitments to this approach as an important driver of reform.

End of excerpt. The entire report for Volume I is available in PDF format.


Volume II—Transferability

One of the broadest forms of flexibility introduced in NCLB is the Transferability authority. Transferability allows state education agencies to transfer up to 50 percent of a fiscal year’s nonadministrative funds allocated for state-level activities under certain programs. Similarly, the Transferability authority allows local education agencies generally to transfer up to 50 percent of the formula funds allocated to certain federal programs in order to address local priorities. (The amount available for transfer decreases to 30 percent of formula allocated funds for districts designated for improvement (and the transferred funds must be used for LEA improvement activities), while districts identified for corrective action may not exercise Transferability.) The Transferability authority also improves upon earlier flexibility initiatives by imposing fewer participation barriers on states and districts. Although no additional resources are made available to states and districts using the authority, the enhanced flexibility under the Transferability authority enables them to redirect a potentially large sum of existing federal funds to different programs with the assumption that reallocation of funds to high priority areas will help participants make adequate yearly progress (AYP).

End of excerpt. The entire report for Volume II is available in PDF format.


Volume III—The Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP Flex)

This study focuses on flexibility provisions in the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) provision of NCLB. Specifically, it addresses REAP Flex, a program that allows rural districts additional control over how to spend portions of their federal funding. REAP Flex is part of a series of NCLB flexibility initiatives aimed at rural schools.

REAP Flex is only one piece of the REAP. REAP consists of two major grant programs, one for small, rural districts known as the Small Rural School Achievement Program (SRSA) and another for low-income, rural districts called the Rural and Low-Income Schools Program (RLIS). SRSA has two parts: the SRSA grant program administered by the federal government and REAP Flex. For many small, rural school districts, the amount of formula-based program funding they receive from individual federal programs may be too small individually to support significant school improvements. The SRSA grant program aims to help these districts by increasing the amount of federal funds available to them. REAP Flex additionally allows these districts the opportunity to leverage their limited resources for more effective uses consistent with local needs. RLIS, on the other hand, is comprised solely of a state administered grant program intended for rural districts too large to be eligible for SRSA.

End of excerpt. The entire report for Volume III is available in PDF format.


Volume IV—The Local Flex Demonstration Program in Seattle Public Schools

Perhaps the most ambitious example of the way in which flexibility and accountability have been brought together can be found in the State Flex and Local Flex demonstration programs.Although no additional resources are provided to participating states and districts, the enhanced flexibility granted under State Flex and Local Flex allows participating agencies to consolidate a potentially large body of existing federal funds and to use those funds for any educational purpose authorized by the ESEA. In particular, these consolidated funds are intended to support activities that help districts and schools to make adequate yearly progress (AYP). Participants in the State Flex and Local Flex programs are afforded the opportunity to exercise even more extensive flexibility than offered in other NCLB flexibility programs over a set of funding categories similar to those eligible under Transferability. This report focuses specifically on Local Flex—100 percent of formula funds from the following four federal programs may be consolidated: Title II, Part A (Improving Teacher Quality State Grants); Title II, Part D (Educational Technology State Grants); Title IV, Part A (Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities); and Title V, Part A (State Grants for Innovative Programs).

End of excerpt. The entire report for Volume IV is available in PDF format.

Topics/Tags: | Education

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