WASHINGTON, D.C. — Students across the country continue to return to in-person learning after more than a year of varied access to the educational opportunities they need to succeed. For example, some estimates show that 3 million students have either been consistently absent from or have not been actively participating in remote learning since the beginning of the pandemic.
This week, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) released “Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Address the Impact of Lost Instructional Time,” a resource to support educators as they implement, refine, and work to continuously improve their strategies for supporting students. “We know that across the country the hard work of supporting students through this pandemic has been long underway,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
This guidance is intended to lift up these best practices and evidence-based approaches, all of which can be supported with American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. The new resource on lost instructional time is part of the Department’s Return to School Roadmap, a guide for states, schools, educators, and parents to prepare for the return to in-person learning this fall. The Roadmap focuses on three landmark priorities, including building school communities and supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health.
In March, the Department announced allocations to each state educational agency under the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, totaling $122 billion in relief for K-12 schools. Under ARP ESSER funding, districts are directed to use at least 20% of their funds to address the impact of lost instructional using evidence-based interventions. Each section of the Roadmap provides strategies, resources, and tools for meeting the needs of underserved students by:
- Building trust with families and supporting safe in-person learning
- Supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs
- Utilizing approaches for accelerated learning, including high-quality tutoring
- Supporting students during key transitions and their reengagement in learning
- Using high-quality assessments to support student learning
“Our country’s students—particularly our students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students experiencing homelessness, students with disabilities, and multilingual learners—have faced immense challenges amid the pandemic, especially with regard to lost instructional time,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Nationally, we know that disparities in access to educational opportunity—including access to rich, rigorous learning experiences; talented and diverse teachers; school counselors and high-quality social-emotional supports; and safe, welcoming schools existed long before COVID-19. Our work as a nation must be to eliminate these disparities, and we must do so with urgency. Our students don’t have a moment to wait. I’m proud that these new resources will help states and districts to accelerate learning, especially for those students who need the most additional support.”
While the pandemic has impacted all students, it has deepened pre-pandemic disparities in access and opportunities for students of color, multilingual learners, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students. Schools can use ARP ESSER funds to respond to the urgent needs of students, address gaps in educational opportunity, and build local capacity to sustain meaningful and effective teaching and learning.
In June, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights published Education in a Pandemic: The Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on America’s Students, in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers. The report explores how the impacts of COVID-19 are falling disproportionately on students who went into the pandemic with the fewest educational opportunities, many of whom are from marginalized and underserved communities.
In April, the Department released the COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs, which includes strategies for using ARP ESSER funds to address the impact of COVID-19 on students, educators, staff, and families, including meeting students’ basic needs (including food security); creating safe and inclusive learning environments; accelerating students learning through instructional approaches, tutoring, and expanded learning time; increasing educational opportunity; and stabilizing and supporting the educator and staff workforce. The resource released this week is a complement to Volume 2.
This week’s release of “Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Address the Impact of Lost Instructional Time” is part of a series of steps the Biden Administration has taken to help schools recover from the pandemic and build back better. In addition to issuing this resource, the Department has:
- Released a Return to School Roadmap, which provides resources and local examples to support states, districts, and schools in reopening efforts.
- Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff, and child care workers, including through school-based vaccination clinics supported by pharmacy partnerships.
- Published a Safer Schools and Best Practices Clearinghouse, which includes over 200 examples of schools and communities safely returning to in-person learning.
- Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
- Provided $122 billion in support through the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund for K-12 schools.
- Released over $3 billion in IDEA funds within the American Rescue Plan to support children and families with disabilities impacted by the pandemic.
- Released $800 million within the American Rescue Plan to support students experiencing homelessness who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
- Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved students.
- Launched an Equity Summit Series focused on addressing school and district inequities that existed before, but were made worse by the pandemic
- Awarded nearly $40 billion in funding for institutions of higher education within the American Rescue Plan, about half of which will provide direct aid to students at postsecondary institutions.
The Department states it will continue providing robust resources to schools and communities as they work to recover from the pandemic and address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic.
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