By Jacob Williams | July 19, 2021
Data suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has affected classrooms across the nation unevenly. In response, the U.S. Department of Education is approving state use of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to help schools cope with the impact of the pandemic and accelerate the effort to reopen safely. This will trigger the release of funds to local education agencies (LEAs), which will then have 90 days to submit their plans for use of the money. Key components of the LEA plans include how they will:
- Address the academic impact of lost instructional time through evidence-based interventions
- Respond to the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students, especially those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including students from low-income families, students of color, English learner students, students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care, and migratory students.
It is no small task for districts to devise a plan that ensures the actions they take are locally relevant, effective, and efficient. To assist LEAs, the Region 17 Comprehensive Center has designed a tool to help school district teams engage in meaningful and productive conversations about how federal ARP Act funds can be used to address students’ academic, social, and emotional needs in the wake of the pandemic.
This document offers considerations, examples of evidence-based strategies, and supporting resources in three critical areas:
- Addressing the academic impact of lost instructional time
- Conducting meaningful family and community engagement
- Providing social, emotional, and mental health supports
To further support Montana districts in the development of their ARP plans, Region 17 collaborated with the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to provide a series of sessions at the recent MTEDx-21 virtual conference focused on evidence-based practices. The session topics included:
- Ways to gain actionable data, focused on individual student backgrounds and experiences, student voice, and an inclusive educator stance, to increase rigor without decreasing motivation
- How to create meaningful dialogue and opportunities to partner with students, families, school staff and community organizations
- Accelerating learning for all students, with an emphasis on English learner students
- Using the design thinking process to reconceptualize post-pandemic education
- Determining evidence-based practices and interventions based on schools' individual needs—including consideration of how we define “evidence-based" and how to best align practices and interventions to unique contexts
- Quality social and emotional learning and how it supports academic achievement, positive behaviors, and school climate
- Trauma-informed practices and how schools can meet the needs of students coping with trauma and toxic levels of stress
- Language and culture as integral components of schools’ reopening plans
This is but a short list of topics that will be key for LEAs as they plan for the upcoming school year. At Region 17, we know our LEAs in Idaho and Montana have never faced a challenge as pronounced as overcoming the impact of COVID-19. As LEAs engage in the ARP planning process at this critical time, they must ask themselves the right questions and use the resources provided by the Montana OPI and the Idaho State Department of Education to identify and implement evidence-based practices.