DOE Invests: Accelerate Learning, Improve Student Achievement

The Biden administration is taking actions to improve instruction and accelerate academic success nationwide as  the new school year starts. The efforts include:

  • Improve reading and math outcomes for students, including about $50 million in funding to states for literacy interventions and supports.
  • Expand school capacity by building a diverse educator workforce and bringing approximately 187,000 new tutors and mentors into schools.
  • Support evidence-based strategies to reduce chronic absenteeism in schools.
  • Support states in leveraging funding through President Biden's Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to meet the growing mental health and safety needs of students.

"The Department of Education’s new investment in literacy interventions and infusing new tutors and mentors into schools is welcome news to school leaders across the country who are dealing with student learning loss and staffing shortages," said AFSA President Dr. Leonard P. Pugliese. "These new dollars and supplying people into schools should have long-term impacts on improving student achievement.

"Moreover, the newly announced programs supporting evidence-based strategies to reduce chronic absenteeism in schools and leveraging funding through President Biden's Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to meet the growing mental health and safety needs of students represent important action in areas of critical need and a big step forward," said Pugliese. "AFSA is greatly encouraged by the announcement of these new resources from the Biden administration, and will continue to work closely with the Department of Education as we build a more equitable public education system that works for all of America’s students."

The new investments are  part of the U.S. Department of Education's "Raise the Bar: Lead the World" effort to transform education and bring parents, teachers, community leaders and students together around what truly works—based on decades of experience and research—to advance educational equity and excellence.

"As students across America head back to school, the Biden-Harris administration is building upon our efforts to ensure students' academic success and meet our collective need, as a country, to raise the bar in education," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "To address years of decline in core areas like math and literacy, made worse by challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it's vital for schools to focus relentlessly on strengthening instruction, providing targeted supports such as extended learning time, and working intentionally with families and caregivers to ensure our children and youth are present and fully engaged in school. From continued investments to strengthen literacy instruction, to exciting progress towards recruiting 250,000 tutors and mentors through the National Partnership for Student Success, to historic support for students' mental health and wellness, the Department of Education will continue to partner with educators, school leaders, and state and local education officials to increase successful academic outcomes for all students."

The details of Biden's new efforts include:

Improving Student Reading and Math Outcomes

  • Delivering additional funding to states for literacy interventions: Reading on grade level by third grade is crucial to future academic success. When students read on grade level, they are more likely to come to school, be engaged and graduate on time. To advance effective literacy practices, the department is announcing about $50 million in new grants to support states and educational partners in developing and implementing evidence-based literacy interventions and supports. These awards, through the Comprehensive Literacy State Development and Innovative Approaches to Literacy programs, help states, school districts and communities promote equitable access to high-quality literacy instruction and materials for every student. Additionally, the department will launch new technical assistance efforts to help states bolster literacy skills for students most in need. Read more about the awards here.
  • Elevating evidence-based practices to improve math instruction and student outcomes: Even before the pandemic, gaps in mathematics performance were widening. In the coming weeks, the department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will convene researchers and practitioners to share effective strategies for national, state and local leaders in PreK–12 math instruction and STEAM pathways for student success in school and beyond. The 2023 IES Math Summit will highlight districts that have made progress in improving student learning and outcomes, and address key math instructional issues, including differentiating instruction for diverse learners, high-dosage tutoring and high school pathways. IES invites interested participants to register here.
  • Improving access to data to help students learn on grade level: As schools work to put every student on a path to academic success, it is critically important that educators have access to high-quality assessment data that can help guide instruction and meet student needs. Complementary to statewide assessments that are usually held toward the end of the school year, diagnostic and formative assessments—developed and driven at the local level, and administered throughout the school year—provide teachers, school leaders and parents with a timely picture of a student's academic growth. With this data in hand, educators can better adjust their approaches and tailor supports to help students more quickly reach proficiency in reading and math, and provide parents with additional information on how their child is progressing over time. The administration will engage school districts and their partners to improve access to formative and diagnostic tools, alongside the information they receive from annual statewide assessments, to help schools better improve achievement by targeting high-dosage tutoring or other individualized supports to students who need it most.
  • Helping schools better identify students who need additional support: The department will launch resources this fall to support schools' efforts to frequently review student-level data and identify a range of supports for students with varying levels of academic, social, emotional and behavioral needs—what are referred to as multitiered systems of support (MTSS). The department will invest more than $21 million for a technical assistance center focused on MTSS and positive behavior intervention and supports over the next five years. These supports, alongside the use of formative and diagnostic assessment data, will help schools tailor instruction and student supports across classrooms, and target interventions where help is needed most.

Addressing Absenteeism

  • Increasing attendance at school: Academic success depends on regular, in-person learning and engagement at school. However, too many students are missing valuable learning time, and student attendance rates are lower than pre-pandemic levels. With nearly four in five states using chronic absence as a component of their system for designating schools for support and improvement, the department will hold states accountable for ensuring they fulfill commitments they have made to collect chronic absenteeism data, and will monitor states on the interventions they use to support schools targeted for improvement, including through the use of school improvement funds. The department also will offer guidance to states on leading practices for responding to chronic absenteeism—deploying its Student Engagement and Attendance Technical Assistance Center (SEAC) to disseminate evidence-based strategies and actionable tools for engaging students and their families. SEAC will deliver technical assistance on evidence-based practices that states, districts and schools have used to drive increases in attendance, such as Connecticut's home-visiting program, and effective parent and student engagement strategies, such as the use of "nudges," like texting parents to inform parents when their student is absent.

Expanding the Capacity of Schools to Deliver High-Quality Support for Students

  • Answering the president's call to action to get more adults in schools supporting students: The department, AmeriCorps and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) launched the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS), a public-private partnership in Summer 2022 to meet the president's goal of bringing 250,000 new tutors and mentors into schools by 2025. JHU researchers recently released new findings showing that, in the last school year alone, an estimated 187,000 caring adults stepped forward to provide additional supports to students in schools—nearly 75% of the president's goal. Researchers also found that 53% of public schools provided high-intensity tutoring to students last school year, including 62% of schools where the majority of students received free or reduced-price lunch. The administration continues to invite additional states and other organizations to join NPSS; they can join by visiting here.
  • Support for educators and school staff in addressing school needs: No in-school factor matters more for student learning than the availability of well-prepared and supported educators. The department will continue its support to states in launching and scaling high-quality apprenticeship programs for teachers and regularly update new data tools that help track progress in addressing shortages at the state level. In the coming weeks, the department also will launch new efforts with external stakeholders around teacher recruitment aimed at diversifying the teacher profession and supporting a strong, diverse educator workforce. These efforts build on historic American Rescue Plan investments that have helped restore 635,000 local public education jobs lost during the pandemic, and the work to expand the number of states with registered teacher apprenticeship programs from two to 23 in the past year. In addition, the administration has taken action to address challenges with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, resulting in more than 653,000 borrowers, including educators, receiving forgiveness, totaling more than $45 billion.

Leveraging BSCA to Address Gun Violence and Improve Student Mental Health

  • Supporting students' mental health to increase engagement in school: Over the last several years, our nation's young people have faced unprecedented challenges and disruptions in their schools and communities—including increased gun violence, social isolation and other repercussions from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. To address this epidemic, President Biden enacted the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which secured $1 billion for states to invest in improving school climate and safety, and another $1 billion supporting school-based student mental health services. The department will continue to highlight ways to leverage BSCA funds to improve school climate, student attendance and mental health to meet the growing needs of students, and how additional grant opportunities like the Full-Service Community Schools Program and the Promise Neighborhoods Program can be used support student health and well-being, and school attendance and engagement. Additionally, the department will work to increase the number of states and schools that offer school-based services for children enrolled in Medicaid and ensure that schools are trained and equipped to bill Medicaid for eligible services through expanded use of the Medicaid Technical Assistance Center, jointly administered by the department and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.