4 Ways States Are Using American Rescue Plan Funds

K-12

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This guest post comes from Melissa McGrath, chief of staff at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). All views in guest posts are those of the author.

In the third school year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, state education leaders are using the unprecedented federal investment to respond to ongoing impacts on the K-12 education system.

These funds have helped meet immediate needs through the pandemic, such as access to laptops, COVID-19 tests, substitute teachers and other urgent costs. This funding also presents states a once-in-a-generation opportunity, over the next few years, to address the impacts of the pandemic and consider more systemic changes to ensure education systems are more effective and equitable for all students.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) commissioned a review of how 35 states — those that submitted American Rescue Plan state plans to the U.S. Department of Education by June 30 — are planning to use their funding. Though states are adapting plans to address new needs as they arise, there are some important trends that present opportunities for cross-state learning as state leaders invest resources over the next few years:

    • States are using evidence-based strategies like tutoring, high-quality instructional materials, remote learning and summer programs to accelerate student learning and address unfinished learning.

Tennessee, for instance, supported high-dosage tutoring by investing in a statewide tutoring corps. The state program provides tutor training and certification, grade-level specific content, significant guidance and tutoring resources, and a directory of state-reviewed providers.

And during the summer of 2021, Connecticut offered expansion grants of up to $25,000 to summer enrichment programs to expand capacity by offering additional slots for students or by subsidizing enrollment fees. Reviewers prioritized programs that serve social and emotional learning needs and are evidence-based with a track record of success.

    • States are using funding to support both student and teacher mental, social and emotional, and behavioral health.

New Mexico is continuing to build Engage New Mexico, which provides a personal academic coach and counselor to support students struggling with engagement and/or chronic absenteeism. Students who missed the most in-person instruction during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years were identified for automatic tiered support moving into 2021-22.

Louisiana invested $1 million in the state’s largest healthcare provider to provide all public school educators with access to free virtual teletherapy sessions conducted by qualified mental health practitioners.

    • States are working to address educator capacity by providing additional professional learning opportunities and boosting the teacher pipeline.

South Carolina will collaborate with institutes of higher education, school districts and the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement to develop a pipeline of new talent with a specific focus on attracting people of color to the classroom.

South Dakota is leveraging its existing Blue Ribbon Task Force to continue addressing educator recruitment and retention through increased teacher salaries, mentoring for early career teachers, alternative certification pathways and the development of a paraprofessional certification pathway.

    • States are improving data and funding sustainability to better identify individual students and groups most impacted by the pandemic, integrating progress and fiscal monitoring into existing systems and expanding monitoring capacity.

Iowa will collect and report Conditions for Learning, a survey that measures student perceptions of engagement, safety and school environment. All student-level data can be disaggregated by student group.

Hawaii will launch a three-year study to identify the impact of the use of the ESSER funds by tracking the progress of incoming first graders and sixth graders.

Additional examples are included in the report, which captures just some of the important work states are doing to aid students’ educational recovery through the pandemic. CCSSO is honored to support state leaders across the country as they use this funding to build a more equitable education system for all students.

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