Congress has approved a new round of support as part of the COVID-19 relief funding bill. This will provide approximately $122 billion in funding for K-12 schools, with about a quarter of this earmarked specifically for learning recovery. Which raises an important question: How should schools spend the extra funding? While this precise situation may be unprecedented; the need to determine the allocation of funds is a scenario I faced several times in my 30+ years working in K-12 education. Here are the areas that–from my experience–are critical to consider.
Data is Key!
Local Education Agencies (LEAs) should start by focusing on what they do best–data collection. Using formative and summative assessments is pivotal to identifying students’ needs, and thus, determining how learning recovery can best be accomplished. Analyzing data can equip LEAs to effectively identify the correct instructional materials and temporary personnel usage. Through data analysis, LEAs can:
- Establish whether there’s a need to contract with additional therapists and/or teachers
- Create tutoring, summer school, or weekend programs
- Provide intensive targeted instruction to enhance the Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTII) process for at-risk students during the school day
- Ascertain the value of utilizing funds toward compensatory education
- Address the backlog of special education evaluations
It IS important to keep in mind that these are only a few suggestions for developing an instructional program. Other options that LEAs may choose are dependent on their schools’ availability of resources.
Enlarge Existing Programs – Don’t Replace Them
It’s almost always better to use extra fund allocations to enlarge programs rather than to replace them. Otherwise, district officials could face costs they won’t be able to support within their existing budgets once the programs end.
Schools can use the funds to ensure student and staff safety by offering health services and facility upgrades. They can also focus on upgrading their technology to provide equal learning opportunities to all students. Spending in these areas falls squarely within the safe boundaries of existing programs and is an obvious course of action for school administrators.
Due diligence is the mentality of the moment
The days of a “spend it or lose it” mentality – without doing due diligence – have come and gone. Identifying the optimal strategies and resources for recovery learning initiative MUST include:
- Data collection
- Formative and summative assessments
- Determination of fund allocation
LEAs have an extraordinary chance to use the extra funding to shorten the length of an otherwise interminable journey. While they should seize this valuable opportunity, decisions must be informed, and they must be data-based. Any other approach will all but ensure the road to success is an arduous one.
Ann Marie Geissel, M.Ed., ABD
Therapy Source National Special Education Director
Ann Marie has 30+ years of special education experience, as a teacher, principal, special education supervisor, and special education director within urban, suburban school districts and charter schools. Her background and qualifications make her well-positioned to assist Therapy Source’s education clients with compliance monitoring and daily operation. Ann Marie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Special Education from LaSalle University, and a Master of Education in Special Education from Arcadia University. Additionally, she has been certified as a principal and special education advisor – and possesses a Letter of Eligibility for Superintendent – through Temple University’s and Widener University’s Doctoral Programs in Educational Administration.