New Technical Assistance Funding to Support Schools Through COVID-19 Challenges

“There is so much that needs to be done. Our schools attempted distance learning this Spring, and we need to strengthen those systems, while also closing the instructional gaps caused by lost learning time. We know that our students, families, and staff have experienced trauma as a result of Covid-19 and school shutdowns, and we are striving to heal our communities. Our students must feel safe in order to engage in meaningful learning. The shift to distance teaching and learning has been challenging for teachers and that we need to better support them in order to meet the needs of our students now and in the years to come.” – School System Leader

Since April 2020, Catalyst:Ed – with funding from the Barr Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – has been supporting school and system leaders nationwide as they grapple with the fallout of COVID-19. Eighty-eight LEAs with at least 67% of low-income students and 50% or more students of color have accessed over a million dollars of technical assistance from the Catalyst:Ed expert network as they adapted their work to meet the needs of their students, families and staff. These LEAs collectively serve over 800,000 students. A majority are traditional public school districts or schools.

In Spring, many of us assumed that by the end of 2020, schools would return to normal. That hasn’t come to pass. Even as many parts of the country continue to see outbreaks, schools are dealing with the triple-whammy of meeting the current needs of their students and families, while addressing gaps from earlier in the year, and preparing for continued uncertainty in the future. 

With continuing support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Catalyst:Ed is now able to continue offering schools support through the Resilient Schools Fund in 2021. LEAs can request support through an online form, and if they meet the eligibility criteria, Catalyst:Ed will help them define a project based on a needs assessment call, and they help them select a technical assistance provider from the CE expert network. Once the LEA decides whom to work with, Catalyst:Ed will manage all contracting and payments to the selected providers. 

Here are five areas where we see school and system leaders likely to need support:

  • Improved remote learning, including redesigning learning experiences so they are more engaging and relevant and implementing best practices such as the use of a “primary person,” so families and students have one point person at the school to go to for questions or to address any needs
  • Social-emotional learning and trauma-informed practices, including the crafting of virtual, tiered, social-emotional support plans as well as professional development on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and trauma-informed practices
  • Family engagement in order to foster an environment where families can trust that they are being heard, their needs are being taken into consideration, and they are being kept informed about decisions in a rapidly changing situation
  • Focused support for students with special needs, such as special education students or English Language Learners
  • Assessment and acceleration to address learning losses by implementing strategies aimed at putting every student on a fast track back to grade level

To learn more and apply, visit the Resilient Schools Fund.

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