In the latest blog from Michael Griffith at the Learning Policy Institute, we get analysis about the most powerful spending bill in our education system’s history. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), directs 2 trillion dollars to help schools begin to recover from the pandemic, but it also gives us an opportunity to step up.
Time for State and District Leaders to Step Up
In this act, the federal government has provided a record amount of funding to public education. State and local leaders must use these federal funds on evidence-based policies and practices to address the pandemic’s impact on student learning. However, these federal funds should also be used to make systemic changes to our public schools so that they are funded more equitably to support investments in teaching, learning, and wraparound supports and so these resources are routinely available to close opportunity gaps. This bold initiative can launch a new norm that ensures digital capacity, expanded learning time, and social, emotional, and academic supports within community schools that nurture the whole child for years to come. Policymakers have this once-in-a-generation chance to refashion our public schools to ensure that they help all students achieve their full potential. The road to change will take time. However, the new federal investment in education will provide our public schools with the opportunity to return not just to our pre-pandemic status, but to an even better system that will support our students now and into the future.—AN UNPARALLELED INVESTMENT IN U.S. PUBLIC EDUCATION: ANALYSIS OF THE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT OF 2021, AUTHOR MICHAEL GRIFFITH
Now is the Time!
So this is our chance to address the opportunity gaps by identifying best practices and applying them to all schools. Opportunity gaps are places in schools where some children do not get what other children get. For example, access to a high-quality teacher, or access to the internet, or individual support for learning some important skill in reading and writing. Opportunity gaps also occur because we do not wrap services around a school, such as access to vision or dental screenings. Opportunity gaps could also happen when students of color are disciplined more than other students. Opportunity gaps might happen when low-income or low-achieving students don’t have parental support for accomplishing school goals. Parental communication and support are enhanced when schools do a great job of connecting with the parental community around them.
Learning Loss on Top of Opportunity Gaps
We have so many students who were marginalized before the pandemic, and now they have experienced so much learning loss that they are literally stuck in “bed-school.” Now is our time to support those students by reading out to them and their parents. Now is the time to help all students read proficiently by digging in on their needed skill sets. Now is the time to support the students who have fallen through the cracks for whatever reason. Now is the time.