Recovery Funds Can Rocket Quality Instructional Materials

$190,000,000,000 is a tricky figure to wrap your head around. Not too many of us deal in that realm of zeroes. To put it in perspective, a person who lived 190 billion minutes would make it to age 361,492. If you traveled 190 billion miles, you could go back and forth to the moon 397,656 times. 

Suffice it to say a $190B investment in education recovery by the federal government is stratospheric – and has the potential to drive needed and lasting improvements to state and local systems. To reach this potential, we need to understand how and why these funds are being used; track what’s working in delivering outcomes for students, families, and educators; and share these successes far and wide.

This is what the Collaborative for Student Success’s EduRecoveryHub sets out to do. And as the Collaborative’s aspiring curriculum expert, I’ve been following closely to see how states and districts are investing some of this influx of dollars in quality instructional materials and training. In my view, investments in infrastructure for teaching and learning – especially in a virtual environment – are a necessary foundation from which to build (see here for more of my take on that). Students and teachers need devices, connections, and learning management systems to succeed in a world unlikely to ever go back to paper and pencil alone. And the content this infrastructure supports – and the resources and materials educators, students, and families have to engage in that content – form the instructional core so critical to educational success. So technology investments must support that instructional core.

Looking at plans of the 13 states featured in the Hub so far, two trends emerge. Some states are using recovery funds to accelerate curriculum revamps and initiatives that were starting before the pandemic, and others are leveraging funds to drive new endeavors to promote and expand the use of quality materials and professional learning statewide.

Connecticut exemplifies the first trend. The Constitution State will use federal funds to support the K-12 Model Curriculum Hub, a plan that was originally introduced in 2019. This hub will expand to include high quality instructional materials and learning opportunities for teachers and leaders. The state is also committing to provide better access to quality curricula by making these resources available via their OER platform.

Other states – like Colorado, Georgia, and Nevada – are using funding as an opportunity to bolster state leadership and action around quality materials and training. Colorado is dedicating state funds to support district access to quality materials and aligned professional learning. Georgia seeks to develop and provide training around “high impact instructional practices” to “strengthen core instruction.” Nevada has named high quality instructional materials and  professional development as a “System Priority” for investment.

Whatever the approach, it’s encouraging to see states prioritizing quality materials as essential for accelerating learning. And when states make a conscious effort to align quality curricula and training with the systems and infrastructure that allow for successful selection and implementation, that’s when we really see lift-off. 

Watch this space for more examples of state action in the coming months. And check out these helpful insights from the experts at EdReports into the use of federal recovery funds for quality materials, as well as a robust set of resources to guide these investments. 

Jocelyn Pickford is an education policy and communications specialist focusing on understanding and promoting practitioner-informed public policy across the private, public and non-profit sectors as a Senior Affiliate with HCM Strategists. She began her career in education as a high school English teacher in a regular and special education inclusion classroom and is now a public school parent and recent member of her local district school board. Previously, Jocelyn led the design, launch and implementation of the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship at the U.S. Department of Education to integrate teachers into the national education policy dialogue. Jocelyn’s passion for her work was seeded during her own public school education and took root during her classroom teaching experience in Fairfax County, Virginia, where she led action research and presented instructional materials to a variety of audiences. Jocelyn earned her bachelor’s degree from Trinity College (CT), working as a professional writer and editor prior to becoming a teacher, and obtained her master’s in secondary education from the George Washington University. Jocelyn lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and two children.