This week the United States Department of Education (USDOE) released “Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Address the Impact of Lost Instructional Time“.
According to the document, it is intended to complement USDOE’s “COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs” by focusing on strategies to support state and local efforts in effectively using ARP ESSER funds to address the impact of lost instructional time on underserved and disproportionately impacted students.”
Sounds good, right?
If you have a child with a 504 Plan or an IEP, much of what’s listed is ripped from the pages of just about every book, article, blog post, state and/or fed reg you might have already read.
Will this document make a difference for children with special education needs?
For example, “Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Address the Impact of Lost Instructional Time” includes a section devoted to supporting student during key transitions. The transitions listed are transitions that have always existed. For example, the document states:
Many students will be making key transitions, such as from early childhood programs to elementary
school, elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to
postsecondary education and the workforce, after having been in a virtual environment. Other students,
such as migratory students, students experiencing homelessness, children and youth in foster care, and
children of active-duty military, may have moved during the pandemic and may be enrolling in a new
school. These students are returning to in-person learning in schools they may be unfamiliar with and
that have new routines and expectations. This can make their return more stressful and increase their
need for additional support. To support these transitions, schools can invite new students and their
families to visit and take a tour of the school and meet educators and staff in advance of the first day of
school. This can also include summer bridge programs, or orientation days or weeks prior to the start of
the school year.
None of this is unique to a pandemic. These transitions happen every year and throughout the year. Unfortunately, addressing transitions and creating transition plans pre-COVID were a struggle. Will throwing money at the problem and creating a document with guidance that Local Education Agencies (LEA) nationwide should already be well-versed in made a difference?
Or will it be like spraying perfume on a pig pen to cover up the crap? More money could beget a cleanup, but it could also beget more crap if it lands in the same hands as the perfume sprayers.
Then there’s this:
States and districts can use ARP ESSER funds to establish early warning indicator (EWI) systems to
promote targeted engagement strategies in response to data from EWIs. EWI systems can track
attendance, assignment completion, and grades. When viewed at the classroom and student level, these
data can strengthen a school’s ability to provide specific and timely interventions. States and districts
can also collect data on the successful transitions of students from pre-school to elementary school,
elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to postsecondary
education. For example, schools can use on-track indicators to assess how well students are making the
transition into high school so that the schools can provide additional supports as needed. Schools may
want to consider implementing or enhancing multi-tiered systems of support that typically include: (1)
school-wide supports; (2) progress monitoring; (3) tiered systems of academic and behavioral
interventions; and (4) the use of evidence-based instructional and behavioral interventions. Additional
strategies for keeping students on track, including specific strategies for English learners and students
with disabilities, are provided by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.
The use of well-designed student surveys in advance of and during these transitions can also provide
important information to educators on how students are feeling about these transitions and where
additional support might be needed. Further, for highly mobile students, schools and districts should
work quickly to secure a student’s records and connect with admissions staff, a counselor, registrar, or
teacher from the sending school to ensure the student is quickly enrolled, placed in the correct grade,
and awarded credits for work already completed.
This excites me. These are great ideas for keeping students on track and great tools to use in the development of transition plans. And yet, shouldn’t the LEAs have been doing this pre-COVID?
Shouldn’t on-track indicators already be in use in elementary, middle, and high school? Same question about implementing progress monitoring, tiered systems of academic and behavioral support, and instructional and behavioral interventions? These should all be part of transition plans. But . . . they aren’t.
I know schools nationwide are thrilled to tap into the money being sent their way, but given so many have refused to create and implement transition plans that address the unique needs of each student pre-COVID, will money make more of a difference? Or create a larger mess?