The Elementary and Secondary Education Act at 40: Reviews of Research, Policy Implementation, Critical Perspectives, and Reflections

Passed by the U.S. Congress in the spring of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was one of the most significant and expansive education policy initiatives ever undertaken by the federal government. The main component of the act, Title I, allocated significant resources to schools to meet the needs of children who lived in economically distressed areas. At this point in ESEA's policy history, it is important to examine the following questions: Which programs or initiatives are indeed effective in reaching their academic and social effectiveness goals? Which ones are relatively ineffective, and what are the reasons? What roles do the political economy, social contexts, past and present discrimination, and other societal factors play in stacking the odds against any potential gains that can be made through federal policies such as ESEA? How and why has ESEA changed over the past 40 years, and how have the changes in the legislation been dependent on the political and social culture of education policy tied to poverty, race, and ideology? Some of the chapters share research-based insights into possible answers to these questions as well as raising more issues for debate and discussion. The chapters address not only the education policy culture that formed one of the lenses through which education, race, and poverty are viewed, but also how this culture has been altered by the No Child Left Behind Act and what the future holds for ESEA, from both the research and policy perspective for these types of major federal compensatory efforts.