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How To Use K-12 COVID Relief Funds Strategically

Tools to help districts, schools, and states take on ESSER planning and implementation with a "Do Now, Build Toward" approach

ESSER Guidance

With a three-year infusion of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding from federal stimulus packages, education leaders are now facing key decisions about how to allocate those funds strategically.

To help navigate these unprecedented challenges and opportunities, ERS has identified seven principles to help you create, implement, and refine your ESSER plan with a "Do Now, Build Toward" approach  addressing urgent student needs now by choosing doable starting points, and designing changes with a sustainable long-term vision in mind.

 

 

Across the country, families and educators are asking new questions and surfacing new ideas.

See and share some of the ways that they're ready for districts to take thoughtful action  — both bolder, longer-term changes and smaller first steps.

SEE & SHARE THE STATS

 

Use the drop-down menu below to learn more about the seven principles for investing ESSER funds and to explore tools and materials.

ERS has identified these seven principles for investing ESSER funds with a "Do Now, Build Toward" approach. You can also learn more by reading this brief or watching this webinar.

Understand and quantify students' needs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, but it hasn't affected everyone equally. 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.

START YOUR EQUITY DIAGNOSTIC

 

Invest in proven, high-impact strategies.

The challenges that districts and communities face right now are unique, and there is a daunting array of options. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the investment areas that get selected are backed by research.

SEE THE 5 "POWER STRATEGIES"

 

Design new staffing and scheduling models.

School leaders will need support to set up the types of staffing and scheduling models that enable strategies to be implemented with fidelity and success. This is especially true in high-priority grade levels and subjects, such as early literacy and the transition into high school.

EXPLORE THE BLUEPRINTS

 

Design for equity.

Right now is a pivotal moment for equity —  ESSER funds present an unprecedented opportunity to both address immediate needs and disrupt the longstanding inequities that perpetuate barriers to success.

SEE EQUITY IN ACTION

 

Plan spending for long-term sustainability.

To ensure districts are able to sustain the programs, initiatives, and work they are doing now, they will need to organize resources in ways that enable these new ways of working to continue long after one-time federal dollars are exhausted. 

TRY THE DIY CALCULATOR

 

Create system conditions.

Collaboration among district leaders, state policymakers, labor unions, school board members, and local communities is needed to create underlying cost structures that can better allow for strategic and equitable approaches to teaching and learning. 

SEE 5 ACTIONS FOR STATES

 

Define success, measure, and adjust.

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.

LOOK AT TRENDS ACROSS DISTRICTS

 

 

EDUCATION RESOURCE EQUITY DIAGNOSTIC & TOOLKIT

This diagnostic tool is designed to help you better understand the current state of equity in your district, including strengths and gaps. It's part of our larger toolkit for facilitating conversations, creating shared understandings, and building action plans to advance education resource equity.

ESSER Principles: Understand and quantify students' needs; Design for equity.

START THE DIAGNOSTIC

GO TO THE FULL TOOLKIT

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START HERE:

5 POWER STRATEGIES

Five research-backed "Power Strategies" to help focus your investments and planning  — and  real-life examples from districts and schools across the country.

ESSER Principle: Invest in proven, high-impact strategies.

SEE THE STRATEGIES

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GETTING REAL ABOUT TUTORING

Research-backed considerations for implementing tutoring programs, including feasible solutions and workarounds to solve for the implementation challenges that many districts are experiencing right now.

ESSER Principle: Invest in proven, high-impact strategies.

GET TUTORING GUIDANCE

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SCHOOLS START HERE:

GUIDES FOR ESSER SPENDING, SCHEDULING & STAFFING

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 in the coming years. Each guide details relevant research, identifies short- and long-term investment opportunities, and provides concrete examples of scheduling and staffing models.

ESSER Principle: Design new scheduling and staffing models.

GO TO THE GUIDES

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DESIGNING FOR EQUITY

Three key considerations as you work to spend ESSER funds equitably — plus, concrete examples of what equitable investments look like from districts and schools around the country. 

ESSER Principle: Design for Equity.

SEE EQUITY IN ACTION

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ESSER STRATEGY PLANNER & SPENDING CALCULATOR

Your team can use this open-source DIY tool to support decision-making:

  • Prioritize investment areas based on your students' needs.
  • Estimate the full cost of implementation (beyond face value).
  • Compare the implications different investment approaches will have on long-term sustainability.

ESSER Principle: Plan spending for long-term sustainability.

TRY THE TOOL

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GETTING REAL ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY & ESSER FUNDING

This 90-second video can help explain your efforts to invest your federal stimulus funds sustainably  and the accompanying brief shares examples from two district CFOs.

ESSER Principle: Plan spending for long-term sustainability.

VIEW INVESTMENT EXAMPLES

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DISTRICT BUDGET DEVELOPMENT PROCESS:

6 KEY CHANGES FOR FY23

A look at the six most important changes for your team to make as part of your budget develoment process this year.

ESSER Principle: Plan spending for long-term sustainability.

SEE CHANGES FOR FY23

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CREATE CONDITIONS FOR CHANGE

Examples of underlying conditions and structures to think about for enabling more strategic resource-use, particularly around schedules, roles, and course requirements.

ESSER Principle: Create system conditions.

LEARN MORE

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UNCHARTED WATERS

This paper and sample dashboard examine how a whole-system approach to continuous improvement can help districts chart a course to better, more equitable teaching and learning, even during uncertainty.

ESSER Principle: Create system conditions.

GO TO THE RESOURCES

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TENDING GARDENS & PUTTING OUT FIRES

Five actions to help your district be deliberate about "fighting the fires" you need to fight in the face of widespread burnout, exhaustion and implementation barriers, while still making progress toward your vision.

ESSER Principle: Define success, measure, and adjust

READ MORE

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ANALYSIS OF DISTRICTS' ESSER PLANS

A behind-the-scenes look at how districts plan to spend their ESSER dollars, including our analysis of investment trends and considerations for your team's ongoing work.

ESSER Principle: Define success, measure, and adjust.

EXPLORE NOVEMBER '21 TRENDS

LOOK BACK AT JULY '21 TRENDS

EDUCATION RESOURCE EQUITY DIAGNOSTIC & TOOLKIT

This diagnostic tool is designed to help you better understand the current state of equity in your system, including strengths and gaps. It's part of our larger toolkit for facilitating conversations, creating shared understandings, and building plans to advance education resource equity.

ESSER Principles: Understand and quantify students' needs; Design for equity.

START THE DIAGNOSTIC

GO TO THE FULL TOOLKIT

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

START HERE:

5 POWER STRATEGIES

Five research-backed "Power Strategies to help focus your investments and planning — and real-life examples from schools and districts across the country .

ESSER Principle: Invest in proven, high-impact strategies.

SEE THE STRATEGIES

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GETTING REAL ABOUT TUTORING

Research-backed considerations for implementing tutoring programs, including feasible solutions and workarounds to solve for current implementation challenges.

ESSER Principle: Invest in proven, high-impact strategies.

GET TUTORING HELP

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RESOURCE PLANNING FOR VIRTUAL SCHOOLS

Key domains to consider and questions to ask for virtual school planning, featuring panelists from Education First and Tulsa Public Schools.

ESSER Principle: Design new scheduling and staffing models.

WATCH THE WEBINAR 

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SCHOOLS START HERE:

GUIDES FOR ESSER SPENDING, SCHEDULING & STAFFING

This series of guides provides a blueprint for how schools and districts can organize resources in the coming years. Each guide details relevant research, identifies short- and long-term investment opportunities, and provides concrete examples of scheduling and staffing models.

ESSER Principle: Design new scheduling and staffing models.

EXPLORE THE BLUEPRINTS

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USING ESSER FUNDS TO SUPPORT EFFECTIVE INCLUSION MODELS

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of effectively serving students with disabilities — and exacerbated the inequities embedded in traditional models for doing so. For some of these students a more inclusive learning environment is appropriate — but schools and districts need to know which resources to use and how to target them strategically. Here, we share guidance around what a "Do Now, Build Toward" approach to using ESSER funds to support implementation of effective inclusion models could look like.

ESSER Principle: Design for equity.

LEARN MORE

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ESSER STRATEGY PLANNER & SPENDING CALCULATOR

Your team can use this open-source DIY tool to support decision-making — including prioritizing investment areas based on your students' needs, estimating full implementation costs, and comparing the long-term sustainability of different options. You can also check out how Metro Nashville Public Schools adapted this tool to support strong school-level planning.

ESSER Principle: Plan spending for long-term sustainability.

TRY THE TOOL

State education leaders play a crucial role in supporting districts and schools with their ESSER planning and implementation — including by sharing valuable guidance, useful tools, and inspiring examples. Explore more under our materials for districts and schools!

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THE COST OF COVID

A discussion of the long-term financial impacts of COVID-19 and implications for policy and action for education leaders at all levels.

ESSER Principle: Understand and quantify students' needs.

LEARN MORE

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EDUCATION RESOURCE EQUITY DIAGNOSIC & TOOLKIT

This diagnostic tool is designed to help you better understand the current state of equity in your system, including strengths and gaps. It's part of our larger toolkit for facilitating conversations, creating shared understandings, and building action plans to advance education resource equity.

ESSER Principles: Understand and quantify students' needs; Design for equity.

START THE DIAGNOSTIC

GO TO THE FULL TOOLKIT

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STATES START HERE

As districts create their ESSER plans, we share thoughts on how state leaders can and should support policies that empower systems to vary the time and attention students receive to help them meet students' differing needs.

ESSER Principle: Create system conditions.

READ THE BRIEF

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5 ACTIONS STATE LEADERS CAN TAKE TO INSPIRE TRANSFORMATIVE ESSER SPENDING

Five ways state policymakers and advocates can support districts and schools with their "Do Now, Build Toward" approach and shape the path for meaningful change. (Written in collaboration with TN SCORE)

ESSER Principle: Create system conditions.

TAKE A CLOSER LOOK

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ANALYSIS OF DISTRICTS' ESSER PLANS

One of the first steps to supporting districts well is understanding current trends in ESSER spending. Here, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at how districts plan to use their ESSER dollars, including an anlysis of investment trends.

ESSER Principle: Define success, measure, and adjust.

EXPLORE NOVEMBER '21 TRENDS

LOOK BACK AT JULY '21 TRENDS

 

 

NEW FROM ERS

SCHOOLS START HERE

 

TENDING GARDENS & PUTTING OUT FIRES

 

TRENDS IN ESSER SPENDING PLANS

Blueprints for ESSER spending, scheduling, and staffing   5 actions to help districts do both in the face of widespread burnout   Behind-the-scenes analysis and considerations
   

GO TO THE GUIDES

 

READ NOW

 

 

EXPLORE TRENDS

 

 

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