In the short term, schools need to focus on reopening as quickly and safely as possible. At the same time, they need to improve the quality of their remote learning environments. The good news is that student data shows that the worst case scenario predictions have already been averted due to schools making substantial improvements. The vast majority of schools are finishing out the school year with hybrid or full in person learning environments. Also, educators have shown tremendous growth in their facilitation of productive remote environments
In the long term, schools need to implement evidence-based programming to accelerate learning for all students.
Already, school systems around the country are experimenting with additional programming to not only accelerate learning but to also ensure the social-emotional well-being of students. This programming includes both extended day and extended year programming to increase instructional time for students with school staff. In other cases, schools are testing out high-intensity tutoring programs with low student-to-teacher ratios. In addition, many districts are connecting with organizations in the community to offer STEM and other enrichment opportunities.
The U.S. government has also responded to the situation in a big way as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) act. The Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief (ESSER) portion of the legislation injected K-12 institutions with over 122 billion dollars. Key facts about the funds include:
Over 90% of the funds must flow through State Education Agencies (SEAs) to Local Education Agencies (LEAs)
LEAs must spend at least 20% of the funds “to address learning loss”
LEAs have a great deal of flexibility in how they spend their funds
Unused funds must be returned on September 30, 2023
Right now, as the details of the legislation start to become more clear, schools are beginning to make the difficult decisions about the most impactful ways to use this money. One thing is for certain though; schools have a tremendous opportunity to use the money to not only help students complete their unfinished learning, but also to reimagine and reinvent what learning looks like for their students.