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English Language Arts Blog

The home of Vocab Gal and other educational experts K–12 resources

May 26, 2021 ELA PD - Leadership, ELA PD - Other

A Simple Guide to Making the Most of ESSER Funds

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at what the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund entails, how to make the most of this critical aid, and how Sadlier’s standards-based curriculum can both meet the needs of students as well as provide the required documentation to secure funding. Take a peek at Sadlier’s Title I/CARES resource page to learn more: https://www.sadlier.com/school/title-1.


The Creation of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

There’s no denying it: we’ve faced a world and an educational landscape like none other this year. We’ve had to adapt our teaching, curriculum, and expectations to meet unforeseen needs and face unprecedented challenges. Thankfully, to help address the new and ever-changing demands of education in a post-pandemic world, the Federal Government created several funding streams. Together these funds make up the larger ESSER Fund: The CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security) Act, the CRRSA (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations) Act, and the ARP (American Rescue Plan).

In order for the funds to have the greatest impact on students, schools, and educators, it’s important for administrators to be intentional about how they will use the aid. If schools plan effectively, they can use the ESSER funding to not only address their students’, teachers’, and schools’ current needs, but they can also prepare themselves with the knowledge and resources required to endure another similarly tumultuous time in the future.

To help address the new and ever-changing demands of education in a post-pandemic world, the Federal Government created several funding streams.

In reviewing the funding basics, how to utilize the aid, and how Sadlier’s resources can help, this article will…

  • Provide a better understanding of what the ESSER Funds entails
  • Help educators understand the intentions of the fund
  • Help administrators understand how the investment affects schools, educators, and students
  • Provide some helpful curricula that will address students’ needs and meet the Title I, Title II, and Title III requirements


What is the ESSER Fund?

Before discussing what to do with your ESSER Funds, let’s first take a look at where these monies originated and for what they are intended.

Although 2020 ushered in a year of untold hardship, it (and this following year) has also seen the largest investment in K–12 education in U.S. history. The ESSER funds that schools can now apply for is the direct result of three massive aid acts passed in 2020 and 2021:

  • The CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security) Act
    • Passed in March 2020
    • Provided approximately 13 billion dollars for K–12 education
    • Placed a large focus on making sure all students had access to learning, especially with regards to technology infrastructure, curriculum, and resources for remote learning
  • The CRRSA (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations) Act
    • Passed in December 2020
    • Provided approximately 54 billion dollars for K–12 education
    • Designed to ensure that principals and schools have resources to address the COVID-19 pandemic (and all the challenges it entails)
    • It also tried to address “learning loss” due to the interruptions in education caused by the pandemic.
  • The ARP (American Rescue Plan)
    • Passed in March 2021
    • Provided approximately 123 billion dollars for K–12 education (allocated using the Title I formula)
    • This most recent stream was specifically intended to help schools reopen, address student “learning loss,” and help students catch up on what they missed during this tumultuous year.
    • Both the CRRSA and the ARP also allocated specific money to non-public schools. This EANS (Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools) sets aside 2.75 billion dollars to support students in these school settings (with priority going to schools that serve low-income students).

This incredible pool of funds was specifically intended to address what we call “unfinished learning.” In order to remediate learning gaps, schools should use this money to provide research-based instruction and support services to academic, physical, tangible, and social/emotional needs of all learners. It’s also clear that an intention of these three acts is for teachers and schools to prepare for high-quality instruction in any and all settings, including in-person public/non-public, remote, and hybrid learning.


A Guide to Making the Most of ESSER Funds

When it comes down to it, we all want the same things (including and especially those in the government who designed and voted these acts into law): we want schools to reopen stronger; provide high-quality curriculum, resources, and instruction; and fortify their infrastructure so that instruction is consistent and learning uninterrupted. In addition to addressing the current pressing needs of students, staff, and families, schools should also be planning and building their long-term capacity, so that in the unlikely event that the pandemic continues, the virus resurges, or (sometime in the future), another crisis occurs, schools are prepared. 

This ESSER funding will ultimately help schools and districts meet the needs of their students now and prepare for the needs they might have in the future.

This ESSER funding will ultimately help schools and districts meet the needs of their students now and prepare for the needs they might have in the future.

How Schools Can Use the ARP Funds

Just like anyone who’s about to secure an incredibly generous grant, one might be wondering, “What’s the best way to invest this money?”

The ARP does provide some guidelines on how this money should be spent on a school-wide level, including one major direction: at least 20 percent of the money provided in the American Rescue Plan must be spent to address “lost learning.”​ What that looks like is loosely-defined. That could include…

  • The development and implementation of evidence-based practices and curriculum
  • Supporting students and families as they cope with distance learning
  • Investing in high-quality after-school and summer-school programs
  • Monitoring students’ academic progress to identify students who need more help​
  • Providing remediation to address learning gaps
  • Administering high-quality, school-wide assessments to determine academic needs

Using ESSER Funding to Support Educators

When strategically used, ESSER funding can not only address learning loss, but it can also be used to help and support the people who are tirelessly providing the day-to-day instruction—teachers! With the trials of the pandemic and the challenges it has posed for instruction and teachers’ health, educators are leaving the workforce in droves. One way to help stop that flood of departures is to support and help teachers in whatever way they need.

What does that look like? That could be…

  • Providing professional development on topics that teachers actually want and need
  • Creating professional teams, so teachers can support one another
    • this could include bringing grade levels together
  • Paying for teachers to attend live and on-demand webinars and masterclasses (although Sadlier's are free!)
  • Encouraging teachers to join Facebook learning communities​, so they can learn from colleagues and share ideas
  • Providing teachers with high-quality curricula and training them on how to use the differentiation strategies in their Teacher’s Editions (a perk that doesn’t come with free online resources and only researched-based texts, such as Sadlier's.

Using ESSER Funding to Invest in School Curricula

The best way to help students get back on track and support teachers as they try to remediate learning loss is to provide instructors with high-quality curricula. One incredible perk of the ESSER Fund is that schools are able to invest in their schools’ curricula like never before. Use this as an opportunity to see what’s out there and find a program that not only fulfills the ESSER Fund requirements (Title I, Title II, and Title III) but that will also hugely impact students’ success.

When researching possible curricula to adopt, choose curricula that assists in…

  • Supporting the reopening of schools by providing resources for in-person, hybrid, and remote learning
  • Helping students catch up in their skills and prevent gaps in learning​ in the future
  • Addressing “unfinished learning” by improving academic instruction, including implementing evidence-based activities​
  • Using the resources for summer school and after school programs​
  • Monitoring student progress​
  • Administering high-quality assessments to determine academic needs​
  • Supporting staff and faculty in expertly designing and implementing education throughout the year

How This Investment Affects Students

Beyond the excitement of receiving funding and the possibility of adopting new curricula, our main focus should be on supporting our students. This year has been impossibly difficult for so many of our young pupils, and many others missed out on the structure, community, and stability that school provided in the past. We need to make sure that the choices we make with the ESSER funding, first and foremost, put students first. When deciding just how to use this funding, keep in mind…

  • We want students actively engaged in learning
  • We want to build resilient and lifelong learners​
  • Students’ social and emotional needs should come first​
  • When planning academic activities, students need to connect with others. They have been isolated for so long, and now it’s time for them to create collaborative assignments, participate in whole-class or small-group discussions, and share ideas with classmates.
  • Students will need to play a lot of catch up. Start with an assessment that pinpoints gaps in learning and targets areas of concern. If done right, students are going to feel successful right away because they will feel educators trying to connect with them at their level and address their individual needs.

How Sadlier’s Programs Can Help

This past year at Sadlier, we’ve watched the pandemic unfold and worried over the state of students’ learning and teachers’ well-being. Our main goal has always been to help teachers and administrators as they work to support their students. That’s why we’ve worked to provide resources that meet students’ needs, make teachers and administrators’ lives easier, and meet the ESSER Fund requirements.

As mentioned before, in order to address student learning loss, districts must spend 20% of their funds on improving academic instruction, including implementing evidence-based activities and supplemental programs. Since the ESSER Fund is designed to meet and address the needs outlined in Title I, Title II, and Title III, Sadlier has gone out of its way to document how our curricula does just that.

Our innovative, researched-based programs are designed to help teachers and students meet the needs of the 2021 educational world, including…

  • Integrating technology to provide learning that is adaptable to all environments: in-person, hybrid, or remote—since the ESSER Fund stipulates the importance of using technology in and outside of the classroom
  • Assessing student’s learning, monitoring their progress, and remediating learning loss
  • Supporting teachers on how to design, instruct, and scaffold lessons to meet the needs of all learners

Sadlier provides a huge wealth of programs that meet the ESSER requirements, including (but definitely not limited to) the three mentioned below.    

Full/Access English Language Arts and Progress English Language Arts

  • Full_access_PELA@2x-1This integrated program-specific solution helps educators assess and address individual student learning gaps at strategic points in the school year
  • Available in print and eBook formats
  • Provides Diagnostic Assessments
  • Provides data on whether students are below-, at-, or above-grade level for each standard
  • Shows how to analyze the data
  • Serves up a creative action plan with innovative resources
  • Also provides benchmark assessments to monitor student progress and address learning gaps throughout the year

From Phonics to Reading

Vocabulary Workshop Interactive Edition

  • 1848-4_VWTFE-IE_Gr8_09_@2XIs a tried-and-true Sadlier curriculum that increases comprehension by building academic and domain-specific vocabulary and essential word-learning strategies
  • Enhances students’ vocabulary through multiple exposures to words and their meanings in different contexts
  • Is available in print and interactive formats
  • Allows teachers to customize learning with features like assigning, auto scoring, and reporting​
  • Provides a variety of learning modalities​, online assessments, and differentiated instruction with leveled passages and audio support​

Sadlier offers so many more incredible resources beyond just those three—all of which fulfill the Title I, Title II, and Title III standards. To check out the rest, head over to Sadlier’s Title I and Cares Act page. 


In Summary

The pandemic took a huge toll on students’ learning, teachers’ morale, and the education system as a whole. Thanks to a historic amount of federal money allocated to education, hopefully some of the tangible and intangible damage from this past year can be repaired. Securing each school’s share of the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund is one thing—deciding how to use this money is another thing altogether. However, if schools are purposeful with how to use their allocation (such as investing in high-quality, research-based curricula), they can both successfully meet the current needs of their students and faculty as well as plan and prepare for the future.