- To assist schools in supporting students in the return to in-person learning, the U.S. Department of Education released a new resource, "Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Address the Impact of Lost Instructional Time," examining evidence-based strategies for addressing pandemic-related learning loss using their share of the $122 billion in American Rescue Plan funds earmarked for K-12 education.
- The resource details ways educators can use those funds to create strategies to meet specific goals, such as re-engaging absent students by building trust with their families. Many of those students who disengaged from remote learning are more likely to be English learners, according to the resource.
- The document also gives examples of remediation techniques that can be funded with ARP money, including the procurement and adoption of high-quality instructional materials, professional development opportunities for teachers and creating support structures to accelerate learning.
Some estimates show as many 3 million students were absent from some or all of remote classes during pandemic school closures. The ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund requires at least 20% of funds to be used to address pandemic-related learning loss.
Last summer, it was predicted that students would experience two to four months of "COVID slide" after they spent about a third of the school year in distance learning. Younger students, who had more trouble with distance learning, were expected to fare the worst.
More lower-income districts also lacked the infrastructure to teach remotely. Therefore, lower-income districts put more of a focus on social-emotional support in spring 2020 than on education — putting those students further behind their more affluent peers.
To bridge the learning gap, some districts — such as North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools — focused on tutoring, forming small group sessions and recruiting tutors from historically Black colleges and universities. Math is the primary focus of the program, and the first tutors were placed in Title I middle schools. English learners, students with disabilities and those who were chronically absent were also given priority.
The Education Department’s resource explains the importance of high-quality tutoring in recovering lost learning and what it entails. Among those qualities, the document suggests it should use trained educators as tutors, provide high-dosage tutoring weekly, occur within the school day as much as possible, emphasize attendance and work-time during out-of-school sessions, and align with an evidence-based core curriculum.
The resource also addresses the importance of summer programs, which are being used to help struggling students catch up. In Shelby County, Tennessee, which includes Memphis, 9,000 students attended summer math and reading programs designed to help those in the bottom 20% of their classes. Similar programs were implemented in other districts in Tennessee.