How can school leaders advocate for more funding during the COVID-19 pandemic? We’ve rounded up the research about some of the biggest reasons that schools need extra funding right now:
1. Students need consistent access to devices and the internet.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, “[r]esearch regarding online learning and teaching shows that they are effective only if students have consistent access to the internet and computers.”
With many schools offering online-only instruction or hybrid learning, students without regular access to the technology they need can easily fall behind. Virtual learning can already feel isolating for some students because it is more difficult to interact with classmates and learning from home comes with additional distractions that are not present in a traditional classroom. These problems are only multiplied when students don’t have a computer at home or must share a computer with other family members such as working parents. Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that about 39% of children between the ages of 3 and 18 do not have internet access at home.
Some school districts have been able to secure additional funding to provide learning devices to all students. This practice supports equitable learning opportunities for under-resourced students. It ensures every student uses the same make and model of devices, allowing for more accessible tech support when challenges arise.
Other school districts have worked with local government agencies and corporations to expand broadband coverage and/or provide hot spots for students to access the internet at home. Check out this story about how the Harrisburg School District in Pennsylvania has been able to temporarily provide free internet access for 1,500 families.
2. Some students need additional wraparound services, such as food, extended schedules, and outside enrichment activities.
This health pandemic has created and exacerbated learning challenges for students, and schools need extra funding to help fill these gaps. For example, students with food insecurity are disproportionately impacted by online-only learning when they lack access to their school’s free and reduced lunch programs.
Health and education experts have long speculated that chronic hunger distracts students from their studies. The Food Research & Action Center finds that:
- Students experiencing hunger are also more likely to experience behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues.
- Hunger is associated with poor academic performance.
- Hunger is also associated with more hyperactive behaviors, tardiness, absences, and disciplinary issues.
Of course, students also need extra support to make up for the learning time lost in 2020 when schools unexpectedly closed. The Economic Policy Institute says, “we will need to make up for this time by increasing both the amount and quality of learning time—through extended schedules, summer enrichment and after-school activities, [and] more personalized instruction.”
The Afterschool Alliance offers several ideas for school leaders to provide after-school activities and summer programs for students during COVID-19. Students living in low-income households may also need funds allocated for one-on-one tutoring to keep them on track through the curriculum.
3. Many schools need to increase their staffing to promote equitable learning for all students.
One of the most important factors in student achievement is the quality of teachers. The Learning Policy Institute reports that “[I]nvestments in instruction, especially high-quality teachers, appear to leverage the largest marginal gains in [student] performance.”
School leaders must be able to retain high-quality teachers during this pandemic. Some schools need extra funding to hire more support staff for students. With the CDC recommending small class sizes to allow for social distancing, schools may need to hire more teachers to help reduce class sizes. Many schools are also investing in additional staff to provide wraparound services, such as regular individual counseling for students and tech support when students need help accessing online learning tools.
4. Teachers and school leaders need ongoing professional development to adapt to new forms of schooling.
Whether your school is hosting online-only classes right now, hybrid learning with students at home part-time, or even traditional in-person classes with new safety measures in place, your teachers and school leaders need extra support. Many teachers have been forced to teach online for the first time in their lives, without any formal training about how to teach effectively through a virtual platform.
The Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute explains that a single professional development workshop is not enough: “Our understanding of what it takes for learners to be successful in their online courses…is ever-growing and being refined.” Teachers and school leaders need to seek regular, ongoing professional development to continue improving their school’s instructional practices.
Even teachers who are in traditional classrooms are struggling to connect with students due to the awkwardness of teaching from behind a mask, extra socially distanced space between everyone, and the fact that some students are in the classroom while others are simultaneously watching a streaming video from home. Education Week shares an example of how one school district in North Carolina is providing manageable, ongoing professional development to help teachers learn to adjust to this new way of teaching.
If you’re unsure how to develop an appropriate professional development plan for your school or district, please schedule a free call with one of the Center for Student Achievement Solutions’ expert consultants. We can offer recommendations for your school or district’s unique, specific challenges to promote student achievement, even in this unprecedented time of uncertainty. We also provide customized professional development services for school leaders and teachers to meet your needs.
Learn more about our approach to professional development.