As public schools and school systems reopen and prepare for a new school year, communities are navigating how to address the increased needs and inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, they are also navigating how to create long-lasting change to ensure that every student has better, more equitable experiences in school — this year and beyond.
With a three-year infusion of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding from the American Rescue Plan, leaders are now facing key decisions about how to invest those funds strategically.
To help districts and schools navigate these unprecedented challenges and opportunities, ERS has identified seven principles for investing ESSER funds with a “Do Now, Build Toward” approach — this means addressing critical student needs now by choosing some doable starting points, and designing changes with a sustainable long-term vision in mind.
To learn more about these 7 principles:
Five research-backed areas to focus planning and investments, including real-life “Do Now” examples from districts and schools across the country.
An open-source DIY tool for district teams to select equitable investment priorities and size the full cost of implementing them.
A series of guides that provide a blueprint for how districts and schools can organize resources during the 2021-22 school year and beyond.
Use the drop-down menu below to explore tools and materials for each of the seven principles.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, but it hasn’t affected everyone equally. Equity should be at the forefront of a district’s decision-making process — so quantifying students’ needs across the district (by grade level, student group, and by school) is essential for building the case to act urgently and direct resources where they are needed most.
Although the challenges that districts and communities face right now are unique, and there is a daunting array of options, it is important to ensure that investments are backed by research.
To successfully implement proven, high-impact strategies, school leaders will need to set up the types of staffing models and schedules that enable them. This is especially true in high-priority grade levels and subjects, such as early literacy and the transition into high school.
RESOURCE PLANNING FOR VIRTUAL SCHOOLS:
This webinar shares key domains and questions for virtual school planning, featuring panelists from Education First and Tulsa Public Schools.
Based on feedback from districts about priority areas for ESSER investments, this series of guides provides a blueprint for how districts and schools can organize resources during the 2021-22 school year and beyond. Each guide details relevant research, identifies system-level enabling conditions that can help make implementation successful, highlights opportunities for sustainable investments, makes recommendations for “Do Now” priorities, and provides concrete examples of scheduling and staffing models.
Even before the COVID pandemic, students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, English language learners, and students with disabilities consistently faced barriers to opportunity and success in our public education system. Now, the need for high-quality learning, strong relationships, and streamlined access to social-emotional supports is even more deeply felt for these same young people. That makes right now an even more pivotal moment for equity — and ESSER funds present an unprecedented opportunity to both address immediate needs and disrupt the longstanding inequities that perpetuate barriers to success.
Based on spending patterns after the Great Recession, some districts may feel pressure to spend quickly, backfill shortfalls and reinvest in more of the same. However, the unprecedented infusion of ESSER funds provides an important opportunity for districts to address students’ needs, and make meaningful, long-term change. To ensure districts are able to sustain these changes, they will need to do the work of shifting resources and addressing underlying cost structures to enable these new ways of working to continue long after one-time federal dollars are exhausted.
This brief highlights four key ways district leaders can sustain their new ESSER investments over time.
District leaders need to collaborate with their state policymakers, labor unions, school board members, and local community representatives to create the conditions that enable strategic resource allocation. This will allow those resources to be used in ways that address some of the traditional underlying cost structures that can stifle a district’s ability to move toward stronger, more equitable approaches to teaching and learning.
Regardless of the strategies districts invest in, we are unlikely to find “golden ticket” solutions that work immediately in standardized or scalable ways. Therefore, district teams will need to engage in cycles of continuous improvement, adjust for their unique local contexts, and adapt approaches over time based on community input and reliable data.