Harnessing ESSER 3 Funding for Science Education in K-12 School Districts

Harnessing ESSER 3 Funding for Science Education in K-12 Schools

ESSER Funds for Science Education

ESSER Funding At A Glance

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) is a $190 billion program created by the U.S. federal government's economic stimulus response bills. ESSER 3 includes $122 billion for education and funds must be obligated by September 30, 2024.

The funding is distributed to states, and the states distribute the funds to local education agencies. This funding offers unique opportunities for districts to invest in evidence-based academic programs, education technology, professional learning, and interventions to address learning loss.

Education funding can be complex, so we've gathered resources to support educators and administrators seeking to use ESSER 3 funding for science education in K-12 schools.

Activate Learning's K-12 science curriculum, materials, and professional learning services can be purchased with ESSER funds!

What is ESSER 3 Funding?

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, also known as ESSER, is a $190 billion program created by the U.S. federal government's economic stimulus response bills. Originally created under the CARES Act to assist schools with creating healthy learning environments, return students to classrooms, and address local needs, the ESSER fund was strengthened twice with additional funds in the CRRSA Act, known as ESSER 2 as well as the American Rescue Plan Act, known as ESSER 3.

Federal funding is distributed to the state level Departments of Education, and then the states distribute the funding to local education agencies (schools and districts) based on their education funding formula.

ESSER Funding At A Glance

How much money is my state getting from ESSER?

The Department of Education has $122 billion to allocate in awards to State educational agencies (SEAs) through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund).

Here are some resources that you can use to learn how much money your state is allocated in ESSER 3 funds for education. If you have any issues with the links to the Office of Elementary & Secondary Education website, try opening the links in a different browser.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Education Stabilization Fund

What can schools and districts purchase with ESSER 3 funds?

ESSER 3 funding can be used to address a wide range of challenges in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including:

  • reopening schools safely and sustaining their safe operation
  • addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs
  • addressing learning loss
  • education technology, including hardware, software, connectivity, assistive technology, and adaptive equipment

Addressing learning loss in STEM Education

  • Local education agencies (LEAs) must reserve at least 20 percent of funds to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions and ensure that those interventions respond to students’ social, emotional, and academic needs.
  • This key policy letter provided by the U.S. Department of Education provides some examples of leveraging ESSER 3 funds for STEM Education:
    • Implement STEM learning acceleration programs that support students who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including project/problem-based learning
    • Redesign STEM courses and learning experiences to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM
    • Increase students' equitable access to STEM courses and experiences, including out-of- school time (OST) programs, dual enrollment, STEM-themed schools, and career pathways
    • Recruit, prepare, and support a diverse STEM educator workforce, increase educators' knowledge and expertise in STEM, and equip educators to meet the diverse needs of all students
    • Improve student access to materials and resources needed to support inquiry-based pedagogy and active learning

These are just a few examples of how districts can leverage ESSER 3 funding for science education and STEM!

Funding for Science Education and Technology

ESSER Funds and Education Technology in STEM Education

Recent guidance on EdTech spending with ESSER Funds identifies four areas federal dollars can support digital learning:

  • Improving and personalizing professional learning and other supports for educators.
  • Increasing access to high-quality digital content and resources for students.
  • Facilitating educator collaboration and communication.
  • Providing devices for educators and students to access digital learning resources.

This guidance also to emphasizes that classroom educational technology stands out as one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic. ESSER funding presents a unique opportunity for school districts to make significant investments in resources that enhance the learning environment and equip children for future college and career experiences.

Part of this strategic approach involves utilizing ESSER funding to address some of the persistent inequalities within our schools; inequities that have the potential to hinder a child's ability to learn and progress at the same pace as their peers. This encompasses students from historically marginalized communities, those with special needs, Multilingual learners, students experiencing homelessness, and those in the foster care system.

Investing in education technology in STEM education can include interactive digital content for teachers and students, and the professional learning necessary to support successful implementation!

Using ESSER 3 Funding for Science Education under ESEA

ESSER 3 funds may also be used for a wide range of activities to address needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic, including any activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), or Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins CTE).

Here are some examples, provided by National Science Teaching Association (NSTA), of how ESSER funds can be used for current federal title programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/ESSA) that will benefit science and STEM education.

  • ESSA Title IVA - Supporting a Well-Rounded STEM Education for All Students
  • ESSA Title I - Improve Assessments of STEM Learning
  • ESSA Title II - Provide Professional Development for STEM Educators

And, here are additional resources to support using ESSER 3 funding for science education:

Harnessing the Power of ESSER 3 Funding for Science Education with Activate Learning K-12 Science Curriculum

ESSER funding offers an incredible opportunity for school districts to upgrade their K-12 science education curriculum to meet the needs of 21st century learners. Districts can invest in new three-dimensional science curriculum that shifts the focus of the science classroom to environments where students use disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts with scientific practices to explore, examine, and explain how and why phenomena occur and to design solutions to problems.

Student-centered and hands-on investigations engage students in figuring out, rather than learning about, science. The classroom culture is one that facilitates equitable learning. Teachers and students interact through a robust digital platform that enhances student learning and tracks progress. Educators are supported with personalized professional learning and holistic implementation support.

Sounds good, right? With ESSER funds for science education and Activate Learning as your curriculum partner, we can make this dream a reality!

See how a strategic partnership with Activate Learning can address learning loss in science education, reinvigorate teachers, and transform science instruction in your schools.

Elementary students in science class

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