Schools Must Know If Their Learning-Loss Programs Work — Before ESSER Funds End

The 74

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the federal government has provided nearly $190 billion in education funding to states and districts. The three rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding represent the largest infusion of federal funds in history for reopening schools, updating buildings and supporting learning recovery. Now, over three years later, is the time to assess whether the dollars have made a difference, and what they should be spent on going forward.

ESSER funds should be analyzed without regard to partisanship. The nation’s education system, especially in underresourced rural and urban areas, has long needed additional funding to update classrooms and school buildings, integrate technology into teaching and learning, and refresh curriculum and materials. But funding alone does not yield meaningful progress for students, as seen with past government-funded programs like Investing in Innovation (i3) or Race to the Top


First, learning gaps compound when they go unaddressed. That means there is limited time to help students not only catch up to grade level, but accelerate beyond. For example, 1 in 6 children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers. With limited in-classroom time available to help students catch up, evidence of impact should play a key role when districts decide what programs, models and interventions to buy. Many evidence-focused resources can help them guide decision-making, including EdResearch for Recovery and the National Student Support Accelerator


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