Technology investments are one of the top ways that schools can quickly and continuously adapt with assistance from these funds. We’ve curated a list of 5 key technology investments that schools can make with ESSER funds to help improve their operational efficiency and educational mission.
What are ESSER Funds?
Included at the federal level as part of the American Rescue Plan, ESSER funds comprise an approximately $120 billion dollar stimulus package for which individual states can apply. In Michigan specifically, ESSER funds are estimated to be a total of $3.7 billion dollars – with the final $1.2B recently released to the state after plan approval was issued. Michigan’s allocation of funds was one of the largest to be received by any single state.
Who Can Receive ESSER Funds?
Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are eligible for receiving funds after submission, review, and approval of a thorough written plan outlining how the funds will be used if granted. In Michigan, plans are due December 14, 2021! LEAs that do receive funds have until September 30, 2023 to determine and initiate implementation of the funds, with periodic oversight reviews occurring every 6 months (as recommended by the Michigan Department of Education). The National Provider Identifier database has additional information about LEAs and a complete list of those in Michigan.
What Can ESSER Funds be Used for?
The purpose of ESSER funds is to support schools that might be experiencing undue pressure, difficulties, or access to opportunities because of COVID. Although LEAs are required to submit detailed written plans outlining their intended use of the funds, the state of Michigan does not provide specific recommendations on precise expenditures. However, government authorities have indicated that most schools are focused on returning to in-person schooling, which constitutes soft guidance on how schools should consider using this funding.
Another of the largest (and explicitly stated) priorities is for schools to focus on making up for lost learning time due to COVID interruptions. It is estimated that 85% of students are behind standard learning progress by at least 1-3 months. The Michigan Department of Education has released a thorough frequently asked questions document to help provide additional direction on the use and oversight of ESSER school funding that supports general state educational goals. This report from CRPE sheds light on how schools across the nation have used or plan to use their funds.
5 Key Technology Investments
We believe that technology should be a tool, not a barrier. Below are 5 recommendations that are intended to help Michigan schools determine the most important technology upgrades to support learning efforts, prioritize communication upgrades, and help prevent compliance entanglements with regulatory bodies or lawsuits.
1. Classroom Technology Upgrades
Improve access to personal electronic devices. Basic understanding of and access to technology remains one of the largest disparities amongst students in public schools. now’s a great time to ensure your IT assets are working for all.
Michigan-based Tech Defenders is a great resource to repair and/or refurbish resources at scale.
Higher Ground is a great option for increasing the longevity of your devices with a suite of protective casings for the most popular brands.
- Backyard Brains’ goal is to make Neuroscience accessible and fun to learn for all. You educators will love these interactive experiments and lesson plans they can immediately use in their classrooms.
2. Enhance classroom hardware and infrastructure
Creating an effective learning environment that supports both in-classroom and remote learning may require physical changes or upgrades to educational environments. These efforts could incorporate priorities such as:
Manufactured in Michigan, these standing desks can help the antsiest of students stay plugged in. Plus, their Pluto Power Ports make it easy to keep a full suite of tech running at each station.
There’s a lot of innovation going on behind multi-use classroom furniture. Take Mien Company’s Kio Big Revel that blends seating, storage, and presentation functions into one piece.
3. Ensure website ADA Compliance
All public-school websites are required to be ADA compliant, and although web accessibility is an evolving topic, there are specific standards that must be met. In general, ADA compliance for websites requires them to serve visitors (using assistive technology) who may have impairments affecting auditory, visual, mobility, cognitive, and other functions.
At Foxbright, we ensure schools can easily navigate ADA compliance with the following features built into each school website template:
HedgeHog Health is another great Michigan company that has made huge strides in improving autism and ADHD care. They offer holistic services, helping to bridge the gap between the home and the classroom.
Sufficient alternative text for media items
Logical site structure and navigation
Simple form submission capabilities
High-quality written content
4. Communication Tools to connect with parents
Ensure that you have an equitable and easy school communication system for all parent communities. The highly customizable Foxbright school apps are built to reach parents based on THEIR communication preferences. This means that the techie parent and the parent without a smartphone can all receive important updates at the same time. No matter what provider you consider, ensure the following features are included:
Centralized news feeds
Social Media Integration
5. Focus on YOU!
Now is one of the best times to double down on professional development. Michigan Virtual offers hundreds of courses to improve blended learning practices, discover the latest educational tools, and meet professional development requirements.
We hope this helps instigate a couple ideas of how federal funding can be put to good work in the coming months. Navigating these technology upgrFoxbright as we’re happy to provide specialized guidance and full-service support as you find the solutions that work for you.ades can be time-consuming and doesn’t always feel straightforward. But you can always find an experienced and hardworking partner with