20 Ways Districts Can Leverage Historic Stimulus Funds to Reimagine Education in Colorado

With the passage of three federal stimulus packages, over $1.6 billion dollars has been or will be directed to Colorado’s school districts. Districts will generally have until October 2024 to allocate funding towards a variety of educational needs aligned to COVID-19 recovery. Colorado Succeeds encourages district and school leaders to use this historic federal investment as an opportunity for a multi-year recovery and reimagine plan.

The following recommendations and opportunities stem from discussions with several education leaders in the state through our collaborative work with districts, schools, non-profits and industry through The Succeeds Prize and the Homegrown Talent Initiative.  The following is a list of ideas, concepts, and investments based on these conversations and our Vision 2030 focused on building an agile education system that better prepares students for the future.

STUDENT-CENTERED

  1. Provide funding directly to students/parents to help address wrap around supports (like computers, mental health supports, tutoring) needed by students to continue to thrive.
  2. Expand experiential learning opportunities through paid partnerships with out of school learning providers, museum passes and programs, projects with community organizations, and travel opportunities for students to learn in new settings.
  3. Leverage community-based providers or other adults (paraprofessionals, graduate students, AmeriCorps volunteers) for summer or bridge programming.
  4. Find high-quality online programming such as Colorado Digital Learning Solutions and support blended learning opportunities through collaborations with other facilities like Boys/Girls Clubs or non-profit partners.
  5. Consider covering transportation costs to out-of-school learning providers to enable more students to participate in summer or bridge programming, or experiential learning.
  6. Support Career-Connected Learning experiences for students to reengage in their high school coursework by staffing industry partner coordinators responsible for building relationships with business leaders for programming designed around career exposure, awareness and skill building opportunities.
  7. Pay students through internship experiences with local businesses to ensure more equitable access and so that the need to earn money during high school isn’t a barrier for quality work-based learning.
  8. Modernize Career-Connected Learning experiences for students by upgrading current Career and Technical Education programs so students are using technologies, systems and tools that are aligned with current industry practices.

EDUCATOR PRACTICE

  1. Leverage professional development time to invite interested teachers, students and family members to revisit the school schedule (including seat time policies) and reflect on what was learned from synchronous, a-synchronous, in-person, remote, independent and collaborative learning.
  2. Incentivize the strongest teachers to teach the least proficient students and utilize timely, relevant, and ongoing data at all levels to help support supplemental learning and wrap around resources for those students.
  3. Address learning loss, with a focus on transition periods and where national data suggests gaps (i.e., K-3 literacy, transition from elementary to middle; middle to high school; postsecondary and workforce transition help).
  4. Prioritize planning, differentiated instructional practices, and targeting resources towards younger learners in preschool and Kindergarten who had the largest enrollment decreases resulting in students coming back to school with varying levels of school readiness.

SYSTEM INVESTMENTS

  1. Form a collaborative group of families, teachers, students, local business partners and school board members to advise in an ongoing way on a use of funding plan. Identify short-term and long-term goals.
  2. Revamp local budgeting so that per pupil and school funding allocation is designed around greatest need and begins to disrupt patterns of inequity.
  3. Start, continue, or expand funding smaller learning pods or innovative approaches to differentiated instruction to support students in a variety of learning environments, schedules and contexts.
  4. Invest in infrastructure costs for establishing or expanding early childhood programming, especially one-time capital costs such as classroom build outs, supplies and resources.
  5. Make critical technology updates to ensure classroom connectivity continues – broadband, webcams, speakers, laptops, simulcast screens, microphones and learning management systems to make blended learning more seamless and on-going.
  6. Leverage data to ensure students are on track – districts could use money to invest in early warning intervention and monitoring infrastructure to measure whether students are “on track”  (like how many students are receiving Ds and Fs) and other measures that could assess how students are doing outside of annual assessments.
  7. Measure your progress by investing a portion of funding in robust data collection so that this historical federal investment demonstrates impact on students over time.
  8. Leverage funding towards a planning grant shared with local institutions of higher education, industry, and other community partners to integrate work-based learning into high school, certificate and degree programs aligned to market demands.

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Insights from the following individuals and organizations informed these recommendations. Inclusion on this list does not indicate an endorsement of these recommendations. 

  • Bill Summers, Canon City High School 
  • Elaine Menardi, AeroLab
  • Mike Miles, Third Future Schools
  • Alex Magana, Beacon Schools Network
  • NWEA
  • Dan Morris, Colorado Digital Learning Solutions
  • Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Empower Schools

 

Shannon Nicholas

Chief of Staff
Colorado Succeeds