The Media Specialist:
How to Become Your District's Advisor on the No Child Left Behind Act
by Merna Smith Senior Industry Research Manager NCS Learn
Volume 9, Number 6 Nov/Dec 2002

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The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has been hailed as the most significant piece of federal legislation on educational policy since the original version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed in the mid-1960s. The act makes sweeping changes in federal K-12 education programs and introduces new federal requirements demanding stronger accountability for student achievement from states, districts, and schools. It also offers new programs and funding opportunities to help districts improve student achievement.

The school media specialist can play a vital role in keeping the school district informed about the new federal education legislation and funding opportunities. Below are seven steps that media specialists can take today to become familiar with the law and its provisions; access, organize, and disseminate information to school and district staff, students, and parents; and become a key advisor in helping the school district understand the ramifications of the new law.

Step 1: Get into the Act

Delving in the world of federal education legislation and funding can mean delving into a whole new vocabulary. Here are a few key acronyms and terms to remember:

The NCLB Act is organized by "titles" and "parts." Most NCLB programs are a combination of "formula grants" and "discretionary grants."

A formula (entitlement) grant consists of funds distributed to LEAs based almost entirely on census counts of children in poverty. Title I Part A is an example of a program with this type of grant. Unlike formula grants, a discretionary grant comprises funds awarded on the basis of a competitive process. Title V, for example, contains many discretionary grants.

The chart "No Child Left Behind" provides an overview of the NCLB Act's titles, selected parts and programs, and the type of funding available for each. (See chart on p. 7.)

Step 2: Get Acquainted with Key Issues

Following is a brief introduction to key provisions of the NCLB Act. It is important to note that the new law makes many significant changes that are not detailed here. The complete law is available at http://www.ed.gov/legislation/ESEA02.

The NCLB Act:

The NCLB Act is accompanied by the largest dollar increase ever in federal education aid. The ED's overall budget increased by $6.7 billion in fiscal year 2002 to over $54 billion. There is new funding for programs, including those described below.

Step 3: Take the Lead

As described above, the NCLB Act presents challenges to school districts in terms of new requirements and the shift of the administration for many programs from the ED to the SEA. However, it also offers new opportunities for funding and communications within the district.

Media specialists can take a lead role in gathering, organizing, and disseminating relevant NCLB information. Using their vast knowledge and skills as information specialists, they can create a central resource for up-to-date information on the NCLB Act and serve as advisors within the school district. In addition, media specialists can use their expertise to participate as members of district grant-writing teams that apply for grants available through the NCLB Act and other funding organizations.

Step 4: Tap Resources and Gather Information

The ED is, of course, a first stop for resources on the NCLB Act. The department's Web site, http://www.ed.gov, offers comprehensive information as well as a direct link to a separate NCLB Web site at http://www.nochildleftbehind.gov/index.html (see the screen shot). Key areas to explore on the NCLB Web site include daily News Stories (which can be incorporated into a school district's intranet or Internet site), the Basics Overview, and Policies and Regulations.

The Basics Overview section features links to:

The Policies and Regulations section provides:

The ED Web site features an array of other resources on the NCLB Act, as well as information and research resources on the ED itself. Plus, the ED's Grants and Contracts section identifies other federal education competitive grants, application requirements, and grant management information.

In addition to the ED, a number of other organizations offer online resources for monitoring NCLB. (See the Additional Resources box on page 10.)

Step 5: Organize and Disseminate Information

After gathering information on the NCLB Act, there are a number of ways that media specialists can organize and disseminate the information to school and district staff, parents, and the community.

Sample Outline

Funding News & Updates

U.S. Educational Funding Programs

State Educational Funding Programs

Private and Corporate Funding Programs

It's important to note that ease of use and timeliness are key components of a successful intranet or Internet site. A good way to ensure that the funding section is user-friendly and delivers timely information is to link directly with the ED and state Web sites.

Step 6: Become an Advisor

With all that information at their fingertips, media specialists can play an important role in advising administrators and managers within the school district on key provisions of the NCLB Act, upcoming deadlines, and what to expect from the SEA. In addition, they can conduct briefings for various audiences, from small, informal meetings with parents to formal presentations for teachers or administrators.

To prepare for this role, media specialists can become conversant on key issues by:

Step 7: Join the Grant-Writing Team

Media specialists can also assist with efforts related to the NCLB Act by volunteering to be a member of the school district's grant-writing team. They can use their finely honed skills to conduct research on grant opportunities, statistics, data, and trends. They can also help qualify potential grant opportunities and review and edit grant proposal drafts.

A Valuable and Vital Role in the District

Thanks to their skills and expertise, media specialists are ideally suited to research and advise their school district on the No Child Left Behind Act. They can develop centralized resource centers, programs, and tools to share important information about the act, its provisions, and funding opportunities among all stakeholders. Looking at the big picture, this is one more way media specialists will prove to be a vital and valuable asset to their school districts in the coming years.

Additional Resources

The Following is a sampling of resources for gathering information on and monitoring the NCLB Act.

American Association of School Administrators


Resources and best practices for implementing NCLB.

Center on Education Policy


Series of reports on federal education programs including NCLB and special education.

Education Commission of the States


Series of reports examining the impact of NCLB; state overviews.

Education Week


Hot topics page includes overview of NCLB, plus links to archived stories and resources.

eSchool News online


Technology components of NCLB.

Learning First Alliance


Summary of NCLB's key provisions concerning assessments, accountability, educator quality, reading, and flexibility; additional changes to prior law; funding information.

White House


State-by-state breakdown of NCLB's impact (dollar-wise).

ED—Education Budget Summary


ED—State-by-State Analysis of FY 2002 Education Budget


ED—Guidance on the Enhancing Education Through Technology (Ed Tech) Program


Information on formula and competitive state grants ($700.5 million) to increase access to technology, especially for high-need schools and low-achieving students.

Merna Smith is senior industry research manager for NCS Learn. Communications to the author may be addressed to Merna Smith, NCS Learn, 5451 E. Williams Blvd., Ste. 151, Tucson, AZ 85711; e-mail: merna.smith@ncslearn.com.

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