The District

4 state federal stimulus guidelines that promote meaningful classroom learning

The Newsela Team
Mar 12, 2021

There are many ways for districts across the country to spend the funding allotted to K-12 education in the recent rounds of federal stimulus. Learning loss, differentiation, and intervention are a few (important) terms that keep coming up. But what about the content and whole-child considerations that will get students in the right mindset for learning? 

We’ve rounded up examples of spending guidelines and grant programs from 4 states that focus on meaningful learning experiences and supporting the whole child, particularly for students most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic.

Connecticut | Addressing the engagement gap in vulnerable populations

The Connecticut State Department of Education recommends that spending be targeted for students disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including students with disabilities, English learners, and disengaged youth. Unlike Connecticut, most states did not include "disengaged youth" as a primary focus, which was surprising to us given the struggle to engage students throughout the pandemic. When we surveyed 2,600+ educators late last year, nearly 40% of survey respondents said that student distance learning participation during spring school closures was below 80%. However, the number is likely even lower because another 36% were unsure how their districts even measured student participation in the spring.

By investing their federal stimulus funding in engaging content, districts can mitigate the engagement gap (particularly in vulnerable populations) by grounding instruction in topics that are relevant to their lives.

See how this district’s instructional materials support equity for special populations >

Kentucky | Reprioritizing career and technical education

A Fordham Institute study showed that students with greater exposure to Career and Technical Education (CTE) are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and earn higher wages – and those from low income families are most likely to benefit. Unfortunately, CTE programs (which are typically hands-on) have been largely stalled during remote learning.

The Kentucky Department of Education suggests that districts consider using federal stimulus funding to continue offering students meaningful CTE experiences from wherever they’re learning. For high school students, this might focus on essential employability skills and connections to in-demand careers. For upper elementary and middle school, career exploration activities are a great way to get students excited for what’s to come. Wherever they are, students will be more engaged in learning when they see a direct through-line to their lives and futures.

See how one district used flexible, digital content to revamp CTE instruction >

Nebraska | Focusing on learning renewal and acceleration

Through the Launch Nebraska initiative, the Nebraska Department of Education is advising districts that resources be targeted towards investments in high-quality content, data collection to support the level of support needed for all students (particularly marginalized populations), and attending to whole-child needs like mental health. 

We were impressed by Nebraska’s efforts to shift the narrative around learning loss and remediation to empower students and teachers most affected by the pandemic, and assert that learning is unfinished rather than lost. This includes a shift from remediation to acceleration, and a renewed focus on serving students who have been historically marginalized, including students of color, students with disabilities, the economically disadvantaged, and English learners.

Learn how this district is supporting whole-child needs with the right digital content >

New Jersey | Investing in mental health and social-emotional learning

With federal stimulus funding, New Jersey is running a $30 million non-competitive grant program to assist districts in implementing school-based mental health supports for all students, considering the trauma students have faced over the past year and how remote learning has made it even more difficult for teachers to get a pulse on how their students are doing. One way districts are supporting the mental health of their students is through investing in dedicated social-emotional learning resources and content-area instructional materials with embedded SEL supports. Particularly through remote learning, weaving SEL activities into content-area instruction can help teachers provide additional support to those who need it most.

See how this district built a sustainable SEL strategy using the right instructional content >

The plans that we believe will be most effective are the ones that go beyond academics to also prioritize engagement, relevance, and social-emotional needs for every student. With Newsela, you don’t need to choose between alignment to academic standards or student engagement. You can do both. See our overview of why Newsela is an allowable use for many federal funding sources, and a deep-dive into specific product features that align with requirements of ESSER (I and II) and ESSA. 

The Latest from @Newsela

✨Introducing Newsela Summer Workshops ✨ Teachers who join us will walk away with fresh ideas on how to leverage Newsela in the classroom, a PD certificate, and more: 1,000 educators have already registered. RSVP today to save your spot!
June 17, 2021, 7:59 PM
Juneteenth — the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. — is approaching. It holds special meaning this year, as some legislators move to make June 19 a federal holiday. Explore the history via this article:
June 17, 2021, 5:32 PM
The discussion around learning science has evolved over the last few years — and then accelerated during the onset of the pandemic. Read our new guide on how student engagement can serve as a path to accelerating learning, here: #LearningFound
June 14, 2021, 3:00 PM
Much has changed in the last 100 years for the LGBTQIA+ community, largely due to the work of brave leaders. Students can learn about some of the influential individuals and activists who have paved the way for acceptance, using this article:
June 13, 2021, 7:22 PM
Lego's "Everyone Is Awesome" is a new set of rainbow-colored figurines. They celebrate the diversity of its fans and the LGBTQIA+ community. Use this article to discuss representation and its importance during #Pride and always:
June 12, 2021, 5:32 PM
Looking for a collaborative community of educators, project funding, or PD hours? Apply to become a Newsela Fellow! Get your application in by June 20th to be considered.
June 10, 2021, 7:38 PM
Celebrate the stories of LGBTQIA+ trailblazers and activists throughout #Pride. This article shares the remarkable story of a gay Black American who stared down the Nazis in the name of love. Read more, here:
June 9, 2021, 10:00 PM
June 19th marks the day that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and the state’s residents learned that slavery had been abolished.
June 9, 2021, 2:30 PM
When evaluating instructional materials, we must ask: ➡️ Does the content resemble what students would read in the real-world? ➡️ Does it inspire curiosity and help students find purpose in what they’re learning? More here: #LearningFound
June 7, 2021, 5:21 PM

The best lessons start with the best content.

Ready to bring great instructional content to your students?

Contact Sales