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Federal government approves proposal to help Arizona schools close COVID-19 learning gap

Posted at 8:55 AM, Oct 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-10 11:55:13-04

The U.S. Department of Education approved Arizona’s proposal to use American Rescue Plan funds to support K-12 schools and students, 90% of the $862-million available goes directly to schools.

The money will help schools catch up with learning loss due to COVID-19. All of Arizona’s schoolchildren were required to learn remotely for at least some portion of last year and in some cases this year. “It’s going to be about figuring out where students are individually and helping them catch up,” said the Chris Kotterman of the Arizona School Board Association.

For school districts, at least 20% of ARP funds must be dedicated to services like tutoring, comprehensive after-school programs and summer enrichment programs. But there is flexibility.

Money can also be used to hire additional support staff to help in the academic recovery of students. It can also be spent on infrastructure projects like improvements to air ventilation systems. “The teachers know what they’re doing. They know how to close those gaps and the additional dollars from the feds will help that,” Kotterman said.

The Arizona Department of Education receives the remainder of the funds. All of its allocations must go directly to programs dedicated to closing the learning gap. Student achievement test scores showed just how hard remote learning impacted Arizona’s children.

Thirty-eight percent passed the English Language Arts assessment, and 31% of students passed the math assessment. White and Asian students passed the test at twice the rate of Black, Latino and Native American students. “Bottom line is schools will be able to implement things they wanted to implement before to achieve a higher level now the federal government has provided the resources at least temporarily to make that a reality,” Kotterman said.

Kotterman is confident once the money arrives, schools and districts will be ready to help the students who need the help the most and he expects testing results will show it.