COVID-19 has both exacerbated and exposed the deep inequities in our education system. The path we choose to “recovery” can replace practices, policies and structures that marginalized and denied opportunity to many students with others that will enable all students to thrive.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) provides $123 billion of K-12 education funds to states and districts to support COVID-19 recovery and reopening efforts. In partnership with students, families and educators, state and district leaders can use ARP funds to meet the immediate needs, particularly for BIPOC students and communities that are least well served by the current system, and to take steps to ensure systems reliably produce healthy equitable outcomes, regardless of race or any other social or cultural marker.
The BELE Network understands that EQUITY is a noun and verb.
- Equity is achieved when educational systems ensure that every child has what they need – when they need it – to thrive socially, emotionally and academically.
- Educational equity is attained when every young person’s experience, wellbeing, and academic success are considered in the design of learning environments and patterns of success or failure are no longer predicted by race or any other social or cultural marker.
Don’t just fill the holes.
The “Essential Actions” outlined below describe the processes (”how”) to make changes necessary (“what”) to realize the systemic transformation needed to create resilient school systems that foster the academic, social, and emotional growth of all young people and their communities. Both the Essential Actions and BELE Framework are grounded in the four key pillars that guide BELE’s work:
- Equity & Justice through Targeted Universalism
- Science of Learning and Development
- Centering Student Experience
- Collaborative Inquiry and Liberatory Co-Design
These essential actions to realizing systemic transformation can serve as a guide for the use of ARP funds to plant the seeds for more equitable education experiences and outcomes in the long-term.
Essential Action 1: Redesign Teaching & Learning to Transform Students’ Daily Experience
Create learning experiences that prioritize trusting relationships; support an integrated approach to students’ cognitive, academic, social, emotional, and identity development; foster critical consciousness and provide opportunities for student agency
- Prioritize routines that build a meaningful, identity-affirming community for students in which every young person is known well and supported
- Explore and affirm students’ personal, cultural, racial, and academic identities and support the pursuit of their agency, passions, and interests
- Adopt curriculum and content that centers representative histories (de-centers Whiteness and celebrates rich histories of Black, Brown and Indigenous people) and includes narratives and perspectives that challenge stereotypes, disrupt existing systems of oppression and racial hierarchy, and explore models of White allyship
- Engage students in critical thinking, investigating, discussing, writing, and leadership using culturally relevant curricula that are rooted in justice
- Adopt “discipline” policies that are restorative, empathic, student-centered and that mitigate the harmful impact on students of “policing” (by police or other actors) and of exclusion from their school community
Confronting New and Persistent Equity Challenges | The BELE Network →
Empathy Techniques for Educational Equity | Stanford’s d.School →
Five actions for teaching for an antiracist future | ACSD →
Tools to help understand youth stress through a trauma-informed lens | Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction →
“The Place for Explicit SEL Instruction” blog post | The Committee for Children →
Essential Action 2: Center and Share Power with BIPOC Youth
Prioritize listening to, understanding, and being responsive to the experiences of underserved students, particularly Black, Indigenous, and students of color, to ensure they have real voice, agency, and choice in education transformation.
- Co-design and test adaptations and new learning experiences with BIPOC and other underserved students
- Cultivate and support the leadership and agency of BIPOC and other underserved students, and ensure they have a formal role in decision-making in school governance and in district and state policymaking
The 74 Million – Listen to Youth →
Bringing Youth On-Board | The BELE Network →
Listening for a Change | The BELE Network →
Strategies for virtual and in-person relationship mapping | Harvard’s Graduate School of Education →
The ‘Get to Know You’ Survey | Panorama Education →
Strategies for building relationships with students | Turnaround for Children →
Checklist for “Building Developmental Relationships During COVID-19 Crisis” →
Strategies for building relationships with students| Search Institute →
The Equity Audit, a comprehensive benchmarking tool that assesses diversity, equity, and inclusion | The Beloved Community →
Culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples | Prodigy →
Essential Action 3: Center and Share Power with BIPOC Families/Caregivers & Community Organizations
Partner authentically with BIPOC and other underserved families and caregivers and build deep partnerships with community organizations and local government agencies to ensure aligned opportunities and supports for all youth and families
- Build mutually trusting relationships with and engage in ongoing learning from and with the families and caregivers of BIPOC and other underserved students to ensure that policies and practices are equitable and supportive of all students
- Prioritize the well-being of Black and Indigenous families and communities and families and communities of color in all policy and resource allocation decisions
- Provide training, time, and resources (and sharing data) for ongoing staff and policymaker engagement with the families and caregivers of BIPOC and other underserved students
Essential Action 4: Invest in and Collaborate with Educators & Staff
Set the conditions for adults to be healthy, whole, and prepared to engage in student-centered and anti-racist teaching, to collectively reflect and act on data, and to engage in collaborative inquiry and co-design
- Leverage the wisdom and perspectives of teachers, school staff, and other youth development professionals, especially BIPOC educators, in school transformation efforts, including policy decisions at the school, district, and state levels
- Provide time, resources, and support for teachers to engage in both personal and professional development to teach, learn from, and honor the intellect and resilience of BIPOC students, families, and communities
- Increase the hiring and retention of BIPOC educators through improved incentives and teaching conditions and the development of robust local and non-traditional BIPOC educator pipelines
- Ensure that educators and staff, particularly BIPOC educators, are engaged in state- and district-level decision-making on curricula, assessments, and professional learning, including design and delivery
Who Gets To Be A Math Person? | The BELE Network →
Virtual meeting protocols for whole school and team meetings for educators | The Education Hub →
Library of strategies, processes and activities to structure staff conversations | The Thinking Collaborative →
Structuring healing circles for teachers | Mindful Schools →
Educator resilience and trauma-informed self-care | The Center for Great Teachers and Leaders →
Essential Action 5: Redesign Systems & Structures to Create Conditions for Human Thriving
Redesign School Wide Systems, Structures, & Resources to Prioritize Relationships, Collaboration, & Learning
- Support the alignment of all school efforts, structures, resources, and people around a clear, schoolwide vision of equitable learning and development and a shared understanding of why and how this drives everyone’s work
- Identify and remove barriers to equitable learning and development, and eliminate policies and practices that undermine equity or student and staff well-being
- Employ structures and resources to create meaningful learning communities that foster personalization and enduring developmental relationships between and among adults and students
- Ensure time during the school day for teacher teams to meet and engage in data-based action/reflection cycles, collaborate with school and community partners, and engage in on-going professional learning and development
Building Trauma-Sensitive Schools | The National Center for Safe and Supportive Learning Environments →
Reunite, Renew, and Thrive: Social and Emotional Learning Roadmap for Reopening Schools | CASEL →
Turnaround for Children’s Whole-Child Inventory →
Best practices in universal social, emotional, and behavioral screening | The School Mental Health Collaborative →
School Reentry Considerations | ASCA & NASP →
UCSF’s HEARTS Program →
Overview and resources on creating multiple tiers of support for student mental health | Transcend Education →
“School Mental Health: Referral Pathways Guide” to define and develop mental health referral pathways | Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction →
Essential Action 6: Review & Respond to Data on Experience, Learning, & Well-being
Establish student-centered data collection and response systems to routinely gather, disaggregate, and analyze data on students’ feedback on their learning experiences, needs, and interests; data on student learning; and data from families/caregivers, and use these data to adjust practice, policy, and learning environments
- Use measures and tools that inform adults about the learning experiences, well-being, and outcomes of young people (e.g., Copilot-Elevate, CRE Wellness Indicators, Cultivate)
- Use measures and tools to better understand and respond to the experiences and well-being of families/caregivers and of school staff
- Establish structures and processes (such as inquiry teams, student success teams, care teams) that cultivate a culture of collaborative inquiry and shared learning, consistently use disaggregated data, and reflect in regular learning cycles to inform instructional practice, policy, and learning conditions that foster student well-being and academic success (e.g., NCS Freshman Success Team, BARR Model, Comer Model)
- #ReclaimSEL: The Intersections Between Social-Emotional Learning and Education Justice
Fostering Student Engagement During COVID-19 | The BELE Network →
Learning from Home Survey | Cal SCHLS →
Resilience in School Environments (RISE) index and measures to assess social and emotional health at the school level | Kaiser Permanente →
“Making Caring Common Student Survey” – COVID-19 check-in survey | Harvard’s Graduate School of Education →
Guiding questions and checklists to help identify practices and policies that could be retraumatizing, related to discipline, communication, and safety | The National Center for Safe & Supportive Learning Environments →
Criteria for conducting a school-level equity audit | Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium →
El Dorado Elementary School as an example of using trauma-informed and restorative practices →
Making Caring Common Project, For Educators: Resource Mapping Strategy | Harvard’s Graduate School of Education →
Using Copilot to systematically improve the quality and equity of their students’ learning experiences with data →
Essential Action 7: Leverage Policy & Allocate Resources for Equity & Well-Being
Adopt District & State Policies That Prioritize Well-Being and Advance Equity
- Regularly review (such as through policy equity audits) and ensure that policies and resource allocations prioritize BIPOC student safety, belonging, agency, well-being, holistic development, and academic success
- Ensure that state and district policies and resources support, and do not create barriers to, establishing the conditions necessary to actualize these essential actions for creating equitable learning environments.
- Prioritize leading transformative change in key policy areas including educator diversity, resource equity, anti-racist curriculum, and discipline.
American Rescue Plan Overview
- EducationCounsel: Summary of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021This summary is of the major education provisions within the ARP, including details on the significant investments in early childhood and child care, elementary and secondary education
- The Education Trust: Summary of the Equity Implications of the American Rescue PlanHow the ARP maintains effort and equity to protect our nation’s underserved students from the disproportionately harmful cuts they experienced in past recessions.
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: American Rescue Plan Act Will Help Millions and Bolster the EconomyHow the American Rescue Plan Act can dramatically reduce hardship and begin to set the stage for a stronger and more equitable recovery.
- Education Superhighway: Summary of Federal Funding for K-12 ConnectivityThe funding provided by ARP specifically for at-home connectivity for K-12 education
American Rescue Plan Resources and Guidance
- The Education Trust: Strategies to Solve Unfinished LearningHow can we support students who have been exposed to content, but have not yet had a chance to master it?
- Education Resource Strategies: 5 “Power Strategies” to Accelerate Equity-Focused Recovery and RedesignERS identified five “Power Strategies” to focus your investments and planning on. These five strategies address critical student needs now and lay a sustainable foundation for lasting improvement.
- Education Resource Strategies: Investing Federal ESSER Funds in Recovery and RedesignERS compiled 7 crucial principles for investing funds for sustainable impact
- FutureED: Perspectives on How Schools Should Spend Covid Relief AidFutureEd asked their senior fellows and research advisors for their thoughts on how education leaders should approach this rare opportunity and spend ARP dollars in a way that serves students and taxpayers.
- Learning Policy Institute: An Unparalleled Investment in U.S. Public Education: Analysis of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021This blog post includes a useful chart that outlines the ARP funding going to each state, as well as what categories that funding is designated for. It also explores evidence-based and equity-focused strategies & investments to address the current crisis and build long-term systems capacity.
- National Institute for Excellence in Teaching: Summer Learning Planning GuideA guide to assist education leaders in thinking through, planning for, and making the decisions that will ensure summer learning opportunities are successful for students, families, and teachers.
- TeachPlus: Teacher Recommendations for Spending Stimulus FundsTeach Plus conducted focus groups with 83 teachers in 12 states in January and February, 2021 to aggregate recommendations on how states and districts should invest ARP education dollars in the coming year.
- UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools School Staff are Critical in Identifying Student Homelessness: Lessons from LBUSDThis blog dives into how Long Beach Unified School district is equipping their staff to support students experiencing homelessness, including information on the specific training and personnel that has been effective.
- UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools: Directing COVID Stimulus Dollars to Students Furthest from OpportunityThis blog offers a framework for making sure ARP funding is reaching the students who need it most – particularly those who are traditionally furthest from available resources and support.