Two Ways to Maximize ESSER 2 Funds

New federal dollars being sent to school districts are creating lots of opportunities for school leaders and educators. Districts will soon have access to financial resources they desperately need.  But now comes the hard part: maximizing the dollars for the greatest impact for students.  Two things matter a lot to do this well—building capacity and ensuring coherence. 

1. Building capacity.

Maximizing the incoming financial resources for long-term impact is an important and ongoing conversation for leaders centered around two strategic questions: 

  • How do we ensure our decisions and investments now, pay dividends for years to come?
  • How do we address our most urgent needs without losing sight of our most important needs?

One answer: build internal capacity. Developing people, establishing talent pipelines, and improving processes are common examples of building internal capacity. And with additional money  to do so, the opportunities to innovate are significant. Investing in the growth and development of people within the district who will stay in the district is one way to maximize dollars for the long-term. 

2. Ensuring coherence.

Coherence is the second key factor. As we have seen in the past, a foreseeable risk is generating multiple, uncoordinated efforts without a plan to monitor their impact. We’ve all seen “random acts of improvement.” Even in the best-intentioned scenarios, incohesive efforts often don’t see the traction or progress hoped for. 

An alternative approach is to develop a theory of action for improvement first and align resources behind it. Getting clear on what the goal is and what it will take to get there (informed by a root cause analysis) often creates the type of coherence necessary to allocate resources and maintain focus to realize actual change. 

A theory of action for improvement can exist at multiple layers of the system. For example, different theories of action could be developed for: 

  • improving central office supports to schools 
  • improving equitable outcomes for historically marginalized students 
  • improving school facilities 
  • improving authentic engagement with stakeholders 
  • improving Tier 1 instruction across the district 

In any case, what is most critical is determining a need, identifying root causes, and defining a theory of action. This approach provides a framework and the focus to maximize dollars and efforts towards an important goal. 

Put another way, coherence is about ensuring resources are rowing in the same direction. And in doing so, we can reasonably predict better outcomes because of it. 

It is an exciting, historic, and monumental time for school districts around the country. The decisions made over the next 6-12 months will impact an entire generation of students. This is the moment to be strategic and bold in building capacity and ensuring coherence.   

Mass Insight has supported districts across the country in building capacity and ensuring coherence for the past two decades. Click HERE to learn more. We would be happy to discuss our customized services to meet your needs. 

Jenna Bullock

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