When the ESEA was enacted over 50 years ago, one concept borne out of that was Title 1 and Title 1 schools. Despite being around for decades, there is still a lot of misinformation and confusion about what a Title 1 school is and its potential effect on an IEP.

If a school is a Title 1 school, that should have no bearing on an IEP. And frankly, a school’s Title 1 status has no relevance at an IEP meeting. But, more on that in a bit.

Whether or not a school is a Title 1 school should have no bearing on an IEP.

Let’s start with some questions about Title 1 and clear up some confusion.

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Title 1 Meaning

Many of the common questions about Title 1 and Title 1 teachers are:

  • What is Title 1 funding?
  • What is IDEA funding?
  • Can a student in a Title I school/district also receive an IEP, or is being in a Title I school enough intervention?
  • Are Title I services the same as an IEP?
  • Are Title I services the same as services under IDEA?

There are so many terms, titles, and acronyms to remember as a parent when attempting to understand their child’s education.

Let’s dust away the cobwebs, unpack the linguistic jargon, and show how these programs are meant to coexist in the child’s best interest.

Let’s begin with explaining the origin of Title 1 funding. Decades ago, in 1965, President Truman put into effect the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This was to ensure equity in education for all students and bridge the gap between lower and higher socioeconomic advantages in education.

Title 1 of this legislation is where the funding to ensure this equity was born. This has rightfully evolved throughout these many decades, and in this evolutionary process, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, also known as ESSA, in 2018.

Next, look at the criteria for a school/district to be eligible for Title I funding.

Title 1 Funding

When approximately 40% of the enrollment of a school/district are children from low-income families, Title I funds are awarded to implement programs that serve all children in that school/district in both general and special education.

This is federal funding to provide all children the opportunity to receive high-quality education to meet State Standards. It is meant to narrow the chasm between low and higher-income families regarding their access to quality education. The content areas are Reading, Math, and Writing/ESL.

What is a Title 1 School?

The goal is to allow the lowest-achieving students to reach their highest potential. These are students that are failing or in danger of failing. Note that the word all is consistently in italics. Title I funding is most often used in one of these two ways.

The first way is to upgrade an entire educational curriculum. This is called a schoolwide approach to the use of the funds. It does not need to focus on certain students. The second is a targeted assistance approach that zeroes in on failing or at risk of failing students to bring them up to their peers that are at grade level state standards. 

Title I monies are used to supplement, not replace, the core curriculum. For example, it would not be an allowable use of funds for a class to be broken into groups both taught core curriculum; one group with the general education teacher and one with a Title I teacher.

The Title I teacher is supplementing the general education teacher’s lessons, not teaching them simultaneously. Okay, so what are some examples of Title I benefits?

Title 1 funding is federal, but distributed by states.

Title 1 Benefits

This can include supplemental materials, software, technology, additional support in reading and math, writing, bilingual needs, special preschool, after-school activities, summer school programs, resources for parents, and anything that will enhance the curriculum. The amount given to each state varies based on formulas and calculations.

What is a Title 1 Teacher?

Well, now you may ask, what makes someone a Title I teacher? Good question! A teacher paid with Title I funding is also known as a Title I Interventionist, Math Interventionist, or Reading Interventionist. Their job is to assist students in various ways, so they have a better understanding of the primary teacher’s lessons in core subjects.

This can be through additional lessons a certain amount of hours per week, usually in a pull-out fashion. Intervention should continue until a student’s comprehension aligns with state standards.

They will also evaluate and collaborate with teachers and parents. Or, they should.

Next,  let’s talk about special education students. Under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act), qualifying special education students are entitled to a free and appropriate education with IEP related services.

IDEA is federally funded for those students who, after being given high-quality, research-based instruction through Tiers 1,2, and 3 of RTI, were recommended for special education evaluations.

Please note: A student is not required to try any or all tiers of RTI before being evaluated for an IEP. OSERS is clear about this and has sent out many OSEP Guidance Letters. However, if a child has gone through one or more tiers and is not improving, a school team should consider evaluating the child for special education.

If this testing determines a disability classification, that will now entitle them to an Individualized Education Program or an IEP.

IDEA funding will provide for the success of these classified students to meet the goals of their IEP. The IEP clearly outlines a child’s strengths and areas of need, along with the IEP goals, accommodations, modifications, programs, and related services they will need to succeed.

Title 1 and IDEA Funding

Finally,  let’s compare and contrast the two avenues of federal funding. Their joint purpose is to provide each individual student with what they need to succeed.

Both general and special education students in low-income areas are given this supplemental funding to provide opportunities for greater success.

Title I is federally funded for all students in that school/district that qualified for it being predominantly low-income families.

The school must have a Title I plan outlining how the funding will be allocated, and it must be compatible and align with a separate Special Education Plan that they must also have in place.

We have stated the connection between Title I and IDEA funding. IDEA Funding is for disabled students. Title 1 Funding is for disabled and non-disabled students, but only for school districts in struggling socio-economic regions.

Having said that, IDEA benefits are only for those deemed eligible for special education through evaluations by a school team.

I promised you some cobweb clearing, so here goes! The waters tend to get muddied with who gets what; does one cancel out the other?

Questions about Title 1 and Special Education

Title I Intervention does not disqualify a student for an IEP. 

  1. Can a classified special education student receiving the benefit of being in a Title I school/district also receive benefits of IDEA? Yes, they can because the funding is distributed for two reasons, and some students may fall into both categories.
  2. Can a student be denied referral for special education evaluations that could result in an IEP because they are already receiving supplemental benefits from Title I funding? Absolutely not! When the supplemental interventions afforded through Title I funding are being implemented, and said student is still in failure after Tier 3, that does not negate their right to be referred for Diagnostic Testing, receive a special education classification, an IEP, and everything they may be entitled to under IDEA. And again, a child is not required to try and fail RTI before being evaluated.
  3. What if a student is in a Title I school that has used its monies to overhaul the curriculum but is not succeeding? Can they be tested and receive an IEP and special education services? Yes, Title I does not replace an IEP.
  4. Can a special education student in an Integrated Co-Taught classroom also be a part of the benefits of Title I funding? For example, the use of software or small group enhancement with a Title I teacher? Yes, in that case, they fall into both categories.
  5. Can a student be denied Special Education/IDEA services because they are in a Title 1 School? Absolutely not! The only reason to deny a child special education or related services is that they do not need them. The school’s Title 1 status has no bearing on this.

Bottom line, Title I funding does not replace IDEA funding, just as Title I enhancements do not replace an IEP. Also, lest we forget, Title 1 lessons supplement that core teacher’s lesson plans, not replace them. 

I hope I answered all your questions about Title 1 and IEPs. It is about looking at students’ needs and giving them what they need to succeed. I’m a special education teacher, so I personally know the gravity of an IEP.

That document is tailored to that student; it is what they need for success now and in the future. Nothing replaces that; Title I funding is exactly what it is to the general education student. And that is an enhancement, not a replacement of their core instruction by their teacher.

If you have any questions about any of the Special Education Acronyms used in this article, there is a separate post explaining them.

Final parting words-it is all about the kids and getting them what they need to succeed!

About the Author

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Linda Gilmartin is a high school special education teacher, an adjunct college professor for future teachers, and the Administrator of the social media group Transitioning Teens/Adults with Special Needs Life After High School, and Author of Transitioning Special Needs Teenagers and Adults. 

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