EdTech: How to Use Federal Education Funds to Ease STEM Learning Loss

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The past two school years have been unprecedented in their difficulty. Students feel it. Teachers and administration feel it. But thankfully, the U.S. government is providing federal funds to help state and local education agencies meet all their students’ increased learning needs.

In this episode of the Marketscale EdTech podcast, host Shelby Skrhak sat down with two experts on educational funding, Dr. Karen Ingram and Mitchelle Kelley of iStation, to discuss how these federal funds may be used.

The federal funds we’re talking about relate to the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief, or ESSER, fund, which provides $122 billion in relief for pre-K-12 schools. The Department of Education is encouraging state and local education agencies to use these funds for reopening schools and addressing the academic, social, emotional, mental health and safety needs of their students.

But there are specific criteria that state and local education agencies must meet to use these funds. These funds relate to learning loss or unfinished learning and cover how schools can measure learning loss, administer high-quality assessments, provide information to parents and improve student attendance and engagement.

A recent study by iStation found that learning loss, in particular, has been significant and unprecedented.

“Our study shows COVID-19 school closures have contributed to as much as two months of learning loss in reading and four to five months of learning loss in math. This is in addition to the regular one to two months of loss students usually experience during the summer months,” Kelley said. “The losses were most significant in math and became more pronounced at higher grade levels. Second graders, for example, saw one month of learning loss in math, third graders saw two months and fourth graders saw five months of loss.”

Kelley and Ingram say data will be critical to determine students’ academic levels as they return to the classroom.

“We need to understand what this data does,” Ingram said. “When we think about administrators, it empowers schools to strategize professional development. Data helps teachers feel empowered, because they can target specific needs for students. And then, of course, students feel empowered, because they take ownership of their learning.”

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