District leaders are under immense pressure to spend ESSER funds before the deadline and get students back on track amid historic learning loss. You can’t do it all—but you can do a whole lot.
Get back to what’s most important with our Seven Principals of Investing ESSER funds and find powerful starting points using a “Do Now, Build Toward” approach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. One district taking a continuous improvement approach to its ESSER-funded strategy (intersession) is Dallas Independent School District.
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