Cowen, Lake & Aldeman: Recovery Funds are Driving Bright Ideas in Education. Our New Dashboard Showcases the Best — and Can Guide Schools in Their Own Innovations


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From lockdowns to remote learning, everyone from scholars to politicians will be debating and dissecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on America’s students — and the federal government’s $189 billion response — for years to come.

But we can’t wait years for answers and direction that we urgently need now.

Families, school leaders and educators need real-time insight into what can make a difference in school recovery. Decisionmakers need an immediate view of the most promising ways to invest historic amounts of education dollars. 

Reports of widening student achievement gaps and parent, student and teacher fatigue are a serious cause for concern. Combined with polarizing political fights and the whiplash of reopening policies, it’s easy to see how one could feel that all is futile. 

While there are challenges, there are also bright spots where schools are innovating. Aided by a strong federal response across two administrations, some states and districts are developing new ways to address challenges and improve student outcomes despite remarkable adversity.

As leaders from three organizations dedicated to strengthening and supporting our educational systems, we firmly believe our nation’s schools can emerge from nearly two years of turmoil strongly positioned for success. America’s schools have the potential to make generational advancements in delivering high-quality instruction, supporting students and families, and equipping and empowering educators.

Our organizations are proud to launch a new tool this week that showcases innovative, high-potential actions that states, districts and schools are taking right now that deserve additional consideration and emulation.

Our platform — the Ed Recovery Hub — identifies strong practices in recovery across a variety of school community needs. These include promising approaches for accelerating student learning, supporting educators and families, and improving facilities and technology. 

Not only will we be aggregating those innovations in a convenient online platform for school districts to consider, but we will also provide helpful context. The practices will be reviewed by a panel of national education experts from leading parent, teacher and civil rights organizations to offer deeper insight on how these investments will benefit schools and students. 

Already, we’ve seen promising and bold action by several states and districts using relief funds to meet adversity with ingenuity:

  • In Arizona, state and district officials are coordinating on large-scale expansions of early childhood education programs, in addition to statewide modernization of K-12 transportation systems.
  • Texas is making a firm statement in support of using data to target instruction and drive student learning, while individual districts in the states are making potentially transformational investments in student success coaching and their teacher workforces.
  • Connecticut is using federal COVID-19 funding to reengage students who became disconnected during the pandemic by providing in-home family support for children returning to school. It also helps meet potential health or welfare needs, while helping families navigate learning supports like tutoring and summer school.

Practices like these and many others highlighted on the EduRecoveryHub show concerted effort on behalf of states and districts to support schools and families — not only in weathering the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, but redesigning the ways they can succeed at the essential tasks of educating, protecting and empowering children and their communities. 

Have we captured every good example? Definitely not.  

There are certainly more cases of transformative work taking place by dedicated educators and K-12 administrators. In the coming weeks, we will work to bring them to the attention of all states and school districts. We will update existing examples and seek the partnership of allies who share our passion and concern and may be conducting their own efforts around recovery funding.  

The pandemic has strained the nation’s education system more than at any other time in modern history — and the country has responded with unprecedented federal resources. 

Americans have an opportunity and responsibility to ensure that those resources drive the improvements that school systems need to weather the storm and improve educational outcomes. 

Jim Cowen is executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success. Robin Lake is director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education. Chad Aldeman is policy director of Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University.

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