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School Districts Detail Plans for Investing Critical ESSA Title IV Dollars

Alexandria, Va. – School districts across the nation are planning how they will invest and spend federal funding from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program (Title IV, Part A in the Every Student Succeeds Act). Title IV, Part A saw a significant increase in funding—from $400 million to $1.1 billion—in FY18, making it possible for more schools to access the funds, supporting programs and services critical in ensuring our nation’s students graduate school ready for society. Today, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is releasing the results of a national survey in coordination with the National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators (NAFEPA) and Whiteboard Advisors.

The survey, “Bringing ESSA Title IV to Life: How School Districts are InvestingStudent Support & Academic Enrichment Funding,” was conducted in May 2018 as more than 622 respondents from 40 states, two territories and the District of Columbia described how they will use new ESSA funding opportunities.  

“The funds serve as critical support for ESSA’s broader investment objectives. They allow school leaders to better connect to and invest in a wide range of identified needs in their schools and communities,” said David DeSchryver, senior vice president, Whiteboard Advisors. “It’s notable that the school leaders are eager and willing to tell the story about the use of funds. That needs to be done.”  

“We need to be continuously aware of where our students come from, to give them the tools for being prepared for a 21st-century labor market,” said one respondent. “Our students need our support with emotional needs while receiving a well-rounded education.”

Key findings of the survey included:

  • When Congress created Title IV, Part A, lawmakers folded prior federal investments into the grant, including the AP Exam fee program, safe and drug-free schools, programming, school counseling and physical education. When asked if they planned to use federal funds to support any of these items, respondents reported safe and drug free schools (63 percent); school counseling (43 percent); other (37 percent); AP/IB/CIE exam fees (27 percent); and physical education (17 percent).
  • When asked to identify specific investments within the well-rounded education opportunities of Title IV, Part A, respondents reported: science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) (61 percent); social emotional learning (SEL) (53 percent); college/career counseling (37 percent); music/arts (32 percent); accelerated learning programs such as AP/IB (28 percent); high school redesign with dual or concurrent enrollment (22 percent); foreign language instruction (12 percent); other (8 percent); civics instruction (7 percent); environmental education (7 percent); and none (4 percent).
  • When asked to identify specific investments within the safe and healthy student opportunities of Title IV, Part A, respondents reported; positive behavioral interventions (61 percent); safe and supportive learning environments (54 percent); violence prevention, crisis management and conflict resolution (45 percent); school based health and mental health services (45 percent); trauma-informed classroom management (37 percent); school safety equipment (26 percent); preventing use of alcohol/tobacco/marijuana (23 percent); none (5 percent); and other (5 percent).
  • When asked to identify specific investments within the effective use of technology opportunities of Title IV, Part A, respondents reported: implement system-wide approaches to support teacher professional development/collaboration (55 percent); implement blended learning strategies (44 percent); buy digital services (42 percent); develop or provide personalized learning pathways for students (37 percent); discover, adapt and share high quality resources (23 percent); none (11 percent); and other (5 percent).

“Districts are grateful for the additional funding; however, the instability of the funding is a huge obstruction to making meaningful, sustained, and institutional progress,” reported another respondent. “Not knowing if you will have the funds from year to year means that most districts look for one-shot programs. If we knew this funding was guaranteed for three to five years, then it would allow us to plan, hire staff and find ways to institutionalize programs in terms of training, etc.”

“We greatly appreciate the school systems leaders who participated in our survey and shared their experience in investing these dollars and how the Title IV program allows them to start to address the significant non-academic needs, programs and services for the students they serve,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “We also applaud our partnering organizations in the survey, NAFEPA and Whiteboard Advisors. These findings bring to the forefront what school district leaders—those most responsible for the academic success of our children—are thinking about regarding federal education policy funding priorities.”

The data from this survey indicate a strong need for and commitment to putting this money to good and immediate use for the myriad intents the program supports. Survey respondents detailed their interest across all three of the intended investment areas, which each complement more traditional academic experience and support the development and needs of the total child, beyond annual testing.

Click here to access a copy of the survey.

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