Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

Judith A. Ponticell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Steve Permuth, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tanetha Fisher, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Mann, Ph.D.


federal policy, education reform, education funding


Title I of ESEA was and continues to be the largest single funding source to support our nation’s most struggling students (Davis, 1999). The purpose of this study was to draw on policy and language analysis perspectives to examine changes in ESEA, specifically in Title I Part A, through its reauthorizations as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A language analysis of the texts of these acts found changes in key specific language between each reauthorization, affecting the intent and scope of the original ESEA (1965) legislation. Four dimensions of a conceptual framework for understanding policymaking in education developed by Cooper, Fusarelli, and Randall (2004) were used to further analyze the texts of ESEA and its reauthorizations.

Findings of the study showed that for many policymakers Title I was a first step toward general federal aid. The means of calculating, allocating and distributing funds were clear; however, the means for determining the effect of funded programs on the cycle of poverty were not clear. Supporters of NCLB favored increased accountability for student achievement and failing schools, along with financial flexibility. However, implementing NCLB was costly and cumbersome. ESSA introduced more ‘opportunities’ for states to emphasize and engage in school reform to provide ‘equitable’ high-quality education to close educational achievement gaps. However, ‘reform’ intent vs. reform implementation can be difficult in battles for power and control.