The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday announced an initiative to help districts use funds from the American Rescue Plan, along with state and local funds, to make high-quality out-of-school time programs available to students year-round.
The Engage Every Student Initiative includes a partnership with prominent education organizations and advocacy groups including the Afterschool Alliance, the National Comprehensive Center, the National League of Cities, the National Summer Learning Association, and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
The organizations will provide technical assistance that district leaders can access in one location to familiarize themselves with interventions and programs. The department also announced up to a $4 million contract for fiscal year 2023 to provide best practices for summer and out-of-school time program rollouts.
The announcement comes after President Joe Biden called on schools last week to use ARP funds for summer learning and after-school programs.
According to a report released last month by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which has kept a running database on the policy and practice changes for 100 large and urban districts throughout the pandemic, more districts have geared down their summer school efforts when compared to 2021 programs. On the decline were social-emotional and credit recovery efforts, as well as programs focused on academic interventions.
"Quality out-of-school time programs have always supported students' academic, social, and emotional growth, but as we recover from the pandemic, these opportunities have never mattered more," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement announcing the department's new initiative. "We need bold action, especially for low-income students and students of color who have historically struggled to access quality afterschool programs and rich summer learning experience."