The Biden-Harris Administration is announcing today its Improving Student Achievement Agenda for 2024, which is focused on proven strategies that will accelerate academic performance for every child in school. There is nothing more important to our future than ensuring children are equipped to compete in the 21st century. That’s why the Administration is laying out an agenda for academic achievement for every school in the country, using all of its tools—including accountability, reporting, grants, and technical assistance—to intensify its drive for adoption of three evidence-based strategies that improve student learning: (1) increasing student attendance; (2) providing high-dosage tutoring; and (3) increasing summer learning and extended or afterschool learning time.
School closures launched during the previous administration set students back. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the largest one-time education investment in our history, helped schools reopen and regain ground faster. From the start, this Administration has been laser focused on working with school districts to invest these funds to help students recover from the effects of the pandemic through proven strategies like high-dosage tutoring and expanded summer learning. Through the new announcements today, the Department is using every tool in its toolbox so that States and districts achieve greater adoption of these three proven strategies and accelerate academic progress nationwide. These strategies complement the Administration’s continued focus on improving mental health in schools, supporting America’s teachers and other school staff, and strengthening core instruction through the Raise the Bar: Lead the World initiative.
The Strategies and the Evidence:
The Administration is urging States, districts, and schools to adopt three strategies that work to increase effective time on task, based on the evidence:
Increasing attendance: Following the school closures that began in 2020 during the previous administration, chronic absenteeism emerged as a serious challenge. Across the country, the rate of chronic absenteeism reached about 31% in 2021-2022 because of COVID-19. We cannot and will not accept that as a new normal. Students who are chronically absent are much less likely to read at grade level and to graduate high school. According to the Council of Economic Advisers, absenteeism can account for up to 27% and 45% of the test score declines in math and reading, respectively. Low-cost informational interventions, like sending texts to parents about their children’s missed school, can reduce absenteeism by up to 17%. Research also shows that targeted parent and family engagement—such as home visits, the adoption of early warning intervention systems, and the effective use of data and family engagement to identify why a student is absent and what tailored strategy will address the cause—can significantly increase student attendance. Reducing absenteeism can have a major impact on student performance.
Providing high-dosage tutoring: Well-designed and well-implemented tutoring programs can significantly accelerate student learning, including enabling a child to gain as much as 1.5 years of achievement in math. Research shows that to achieve these results, tutoring programs should: (1) provide at least three 30-minute sessions per week; (2) occur in small groups (e.g., 1-4 students); (3) occur during the school day, which helps support consistent participation; (4) use well-trained tutors (e.g., paraprofessionals, teaching candidates, retired teachers, AmeriCorps members, teachers, and others); and (5) aligned with an evidence-based, structured curriculum. School systems across the country, including in Chicago, Baltimore, and Greensboro, have leveraged American Rescue Plan funding to scale strategies with promising evidence of positive impact as the Department of Education has long promoted. When implemented well, high-dosage tutoring can reduce burdens on teachers and complement other school-based activities such as building educator capacity through the use of math and literacy coaches, which research shows can improve student achievement, and professional development to support data-driven instruction.
Increasing summer learning and extended or afterschool learning time: One study found that when students consistently participate in high-quality afterschool enrichment programs, it adds about four months of student learning to the academic year. Another analysis of 30 schools found that when the school day’s instructional time is extended from 6 ½ to 8 hours for students in low-income areas, test scores improve between 11 to 24%. Summer programs lasting five weeks with at least three hours of academic instruction per day add about two months of learning in math and one month of learning in reading, according to a meta-analysis. The use of data on student participation and program quality helps these programs succeed, and their success enables teachers to deliver instruction more effectively during the regular school day. Close to half of school districts have invested American Rescue Plan funds in expanded summer learning, which has been shown to improve students’ math scores.
Today, we are announcing the following Administration actions and commitments:
- Publishing States’ specific actions to increase student attendance, expand high-dosage tutoring, and provide summer and extended or afterschool learning time. The pandemic caused significant declines in student achievement—across the country and around the world. Since then, leaders at the State, local, and school levels have undertaken historic efforts to get students back on track, fueled by landmark investments in the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Meeting and exceeding pre-pandemic achievement levels will require additional bold actions by States, districts, and communities. The Administration urges States and districts to make specific, quantifiable commitments to double down on their investments in these evidence-based strategies, such as the model commitments in the table below. This Spring, the Administration will highlight actions from States, districts, education non-profit and philanthropic organizations, , and others on:
|Model State Commitment
|– # parents reached with letters, texts, or calls to encourage consistent attendance
– # home visits and other evidence-based interventions for students
|– # tutors delivering and # and % of students receiving evidence-based tutoring between January and June 2024
– # tutors delivering and # and % of students receiving evidence-based tutoring in 2024-2025 school year
|Summer Learning and Extended or Afterschool Learning Time
|– # weeks of evidence-based summer learning and enrichment for # and % of students
– # days of extended school day or year for # and % of students
– # days of afterschool programs for # and % of students
2. Using Data and School Improvement Requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to Advance the Improving Student Success Agenda. To complement these State and local actions, the Department of Education will work with States to improve school performance by:
- Conducting additional monitoring so that States more effectively implement evidence-based responses to challenges. Under ESEA, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, States must use a portion of Title I funds to support schools designated for improvement through evidence-based strategies that address specific, identified needs of each school. The Department will engage States to strengthen implementation of these key ESEA requirements. For example, where States are implementing tutoring, the Department will examine whether they are doing so in the most effective form and provide guidance to support improvements.
Tracking progress in closing pandemic gaps. The Department is urging States to identify the local educational agencies (LEAs) with the greatest gaps between latest achievement levels and achievement levels before the pandemic, including gaps at the student group level. States should direct additional school improvement resources to those LEAs and prioritize them for support in order to eliminate gaps as quickly as possible, targeting acceleration efforts like high-dosage tutoring and summer, extended, and afterschool learning time in LEAs and schools with the greatest need.
- Encouraging States to strengthen accountability for addressing chronic absenteeism. To improve student achievement, States and schools need to improve student attendance. The Department will call on States to:
- Adopt chronic absenteeism as an indicator in their Statewide accountability and improvement system under ESSA, if they have not done so already. States can use data from this indicator to drive improvement for student attendance, engagement, and persistence.
- Adopt a strong, consistent definition of chronic absenteeism (e.g., missing at least 10 percent of school days) that captures all students struggling with attendance and better enables comparisons across schools, student groups, and States.
- Apply the chronic absenteeism indicator to all school types: elementary, middle, and high schools with K-12 grade configurations.
- Ensure schools are looking at all student groups who are chronically absent to receive supports that are specifically tailored to meet those students’ needs (e.g., outreach in appropriate languages to families of chronically absent English learners).
- Increase parental engagement and adopt early warning intervention systems and other evidence-based practices to increase attendance.
- Issuing new school improvement guidance focused on evidence-based practices to accelerate academic achievement. To further support States and schools, the Department will issue guidance on implementing ESEA’s school improvement requirements, focused on evidence-based approaches to drive student achievement like addressing chronic absenteeism, and providing high-dosage tutoring, and summer, and extended or afterschool learning. The Department is asking educators, researchers, policymakers, community-based organizations, and others to share evidence-based strategies and resources by submitting them to the Department’s Best Practices Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse already includes examples of effective approaches to improving student achievement that States, districts, and schools can adopt. The Department will also seek public comment on the school improvement guidance before finalizing.
- Providing technical assistance to States on academic achievement through the Department’s Comprehensive Centers, Regional Education Labs, and other partners. While ESEA focuses on schools with the greatest challenges, all schools have areas for improvement. The Department will use all the tools at its disposal to support school improvement; for example, by working with States to pair schools and districts with faster rates of recovery with schools and districts struggling more as part of a professional learning community.
2. Enabling States to Continue Spending Pandemic Relief Funds on Academic Achievement into the 2024-25 School Year and Directing Resources to Support Stronger Outcomes. The Department has issued a letter, Frequently Asked Questions, and template to support States and provide a critical pathway to continue to use ARP dollars in the 2024-2025 school year on academic supports like high-dosage tutoring. Additionally, the Department is:
- Advising States to use other Federal funding, including Title I and Title IV funding under ESEA, to support tutoring, afterschool and summer programs, and activities to increase student attendance – including through valuable programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers; and
- Fully enforcing the maintenance of effort and maintenance of equity provisions in ARP to ensure that States and districts maintain their own levels of education spending, including in schools and districts with high rates of poverty. To date, under the Department’s robust implementation of these provisions, 43 States increased education spending, post-pandemic compared to pre-pandemic, and 47 States safeguarded funding in high-poverty communities and drove approximately $600 million to high-needs schools.
- Using Grant Programs to Support the Student Achievement Agenda. Pending appropriations, the Department plans to run several competitions in 2024 that support academic achievement through priorities for evidence-based instructional approaches and supports to increase student attendance, engagement, and academic achievement. Across several grant programs, funds may be used to support academic success strategies including high-dosage tutoring; extended, afterschool and summer learning time; ongoing support for educators, such as math and literacy coaching; increased access to rigorous coursework and content across K–12; identifying student and family needs and the community resources and partnerships available to meet those needs; strategies to reengage and support students who have become disengaged from learning; and other evidence-based strategies. While notices inviting applications are still under development, and while appropriations for 2024 are not yet settled, grants such as the Education Innovation and Research program, the Comprehensive Literacy State Development program, and the Comprehensive Centers program could provide hundreds of millions of dollars to further support academic achievement efforts in the years ahead.
- Releasing an Additional Academic Success Resource. To support these action items and state and district planning, today the Department is releasing this resource to support further implementation of academic achievement strategies including evidence for these strategies, components necessary for effective implementation, specific next steps that State and district leaders can take, and examples of States and districts already doing this work.
- Building on the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS), including calling on colleges and universities to use at least 15% of their federal work study funds for college students employed in NPSS roles. The Administration’s NPSS initiative has expanded collaboration and helped get additional caring adults in student support roles. Last year alone, an additional 187,000 people provided tutoring, mentoring, and other supports in public schools compared to the previous school year, according to estimates by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. The Administration is encouraging States, universities, and colleges to start their own initiatives or scale up existing efforts. Colleges and universities should set a goal to use at least 15 percent of their federal work study funds to compensate college students employed in NPSS roles. College students can work in schools and directly with students to provide critical supports while also learning more about education as a future profession. For schools and districts looking for more people-powered supports, the NPSS Support Hub based at the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center released today this list of key resources to help accelerate learning, reduce chronic absenteeism, and improve student well-being and mental health.
Today, several philanthropic and national organizations are announcing commitments to support academic achievement. The Administration will continue to work with these kinds of organizations to further build on these commitments. Read about the commitments from the organizations below here:
- Afterschool Alliance
- Attendance Works
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America
- Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
- National PTA
- National Summer Learning Association
- Overdeck Family Foundation
- Parent Teacher Home Visits
- Wallace Foundation
This agenda builds on the actions of the Administration to promote school success. The Administration has made historic investments to reopen schools and help students gain ground since the pandemic. These investments include:
- Securing $130 billion for the largest-ever investment in public education in history through direct State and district funding in the American Rescue Plan. COVID-19 created unprecedented challenges for kids. To support the immediate response and the long-term recovery work our students need, the President secured $130 billion through the American Rescue Plan to help schools safely reopen, stay open, and address the academic and mental health needs of students. American Rescue Plan funding has put more teachers in our classrooms and more counselors, social workers, and other staff in our schools; is providing high-dosage tutoring; supporting record expansion of summer and after-school programming; supporting HVAC improvements within school buildings to address air quality and environmental and safety needs in aging school buildings; and providing a wide range of student supports.
- Increased funding and targeting of federal grants to better support academic recovery including:
- $90 million in new awards in 2023 to strengthen math, literacy, and science instruction through the Education Innovation and Research program;
- An additional $120 million in Full-Service Community Schools grants since coming into office to improve students’ mental health and well-being and their academic success;
- $48 million in 2023 in new funding for evidence-based literacy interventions through the Comprehensive Literacy State Development grants and Innovative Approaches to Literacy grants;
- More than $1 billion each year in funding for extended-day programming and enriching afterschool programming through 21st Century Community Learning Centers; and
- More than $2 billion in funding for school-based mental health professionals and services, including through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
- $18.4 billion for Title I, $1.9 billion more than when the Administration took office, to help schools in low-income communities provide their students with the academic opportunities and support they need to succeed.
- $14.2 billion for IDEA State Grants, $1.3 billion more than when the Administration took office, to provide special education services to over 7 million students with disabilities and support their academic success.
- Through the Engage Every Student Initiative, nearly 500 entities (including State networks, school districts, cities, and community-based organizations) have committed to expanding access to afterschool and summer learning programs for all students and we encourage other entities to build on these commitments.
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