4 Steps to Evaluate the Effectiveness of the ESSER Program — THE Journal

Education Funding and Grants

4 steps to evaluate the effectiveness of the ESSER program

Sound data management practices are essential to comply with federal reporting rules.

The $190 billion in Elementary-Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding approved by Congress since March 2020 provides K-12 school systems with much-needed federal assistance, but it also comes with major challenges.

For example, districts are being asked to submit reports on the results of the investments they make with this money, a best practice that many have never undertaken before. These reporting guidelines will require careful data collection, management and evaluation.

A significant portion of pandemic relief assistance should be used to implement evidence-based programs and interventions that meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. According to guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education, state and local education agencies should be prepared to report on issues such as:

  • Which programs were purchased with ESSER funds?

  • How many students (divided by various demographic groups) have used these programs?

  • Were these students enrolled in distance, in-person, or hybrid education?

  • What were the mean and standard deviation of the growth rate of students participating in each intervention?

To conduct the robust assessment required to report student outcomes in such detail, school systems will need to prioritize data management across all sites. Here are four important steps K-12 leaders should take to do this effectively.

Prepare a list of all response programs purchased with pandemic relief funds.

If your ESSER expenses are managed centrally, this process will be much easier. If you are using a distributed model where different schools and departments are responsible for making their own purchasing decisions, you will need to coordinate all departments to ensure your list is complete.

Determine the measures you will use to assess the progress of students who participate in these programs.

Make sure the methods you use are valid and reliable. The indicators you choose will depend on the results you hope to achieve. For example, if you are investing in an intervention designed to increase student engagement, you can use attendance rates to measure results. If you invest in a math intervention program, you will need to measure the academic growth of all participating students using an appropriate math measure.

Establish a process for collecting data before and after the intervention and begin tracking the progress of all students participating in the program.

Depending on how your state has chosen to implement federal reporting guidelines, you may need a system to track the progress of students enrolled in these interventions, including the number of sessions and/or minutes students spend participating. But even if your state does not require this degree of specificity in reporting ESSER uses and outcomes, best practices for using data in education would require the collection of this information. This way, you’ll have the information you need to understand and monitor whether interventions are working as intended – and whether you need to make changes to basic teaching.

If this information is tracked in the program internally, ensure that the data can be exported in a format that can be used for evaluation. If the intervention does not track this information internally, identify a simple, low-barrier process for data collection.

Consider the tools you will use to collect and manage student progress information.

Data collection and management are essential, but often time-consuming practices. To streamline these processes, school systems can implement a data management platform designed to optimize program evaluation, making ESSER reports much easier to manage. Look for a platform like Proliftic that can help you…

  • Measure intervention outcomes at the student, group, year, school, and district levels.

  • Recognize the differences between groups of students, so you can easily assess the effectiveness of the interventions you have invested in.

  • Visualize all student data in a single view to accurately identify students who need help.

  • Identify the average student growth rates in each intervention based on their participation.

  • Use a customizable bank of research-backed interventions to match instructional supports to student needs.

  • Monitor student progress and document the adjustments you make to maximize student growth.

Assessing and reporting on the use of pandemic relief funds can be challenging. But with the right tools and strategies, K-12 leaders can effectively meet federal reporting requirements while positioning their schools for success.

About the Author

Delonna Darsow, PhD, is the Product Champion for Sourcewell’s School Technology Division. Proliftic, by Sourcewell, is an evidence-based data integration platform that provides intuitive reporting to help K-12 districts monitor student progress, identify learning gaps, connect students to effective interventions and to evaluate program effectiveness.

Sara H. Byrd