To the Editor:
I was surprised that districts weren’t spending more to support skill-building for current teachers (“School Districts Are Starting to Spend COVID Relief Funds. The Hard Part Is Deciding How,” Dec. 1, 2021). Effective teacher training and coaching produces ongoing results for students while also improving teacher job satisfaction, which is critical given the strain educators are under.
While pandemic-response expenditures must be prioritized, effective teachers are a significant school-based factor in long-term student success and should be next in line for funding. As a nation, we must support teachers more to help keep great educators effective, energized, and inspired so they can stay in the schools that need them the most.
With this round of COVID-19 relief funding expiring in 2024, many superintendents are investing in targeted, short-term student-enrichment opportunities. While valuable, these one-time interventions are limited to individual students. Instead, districts should invest in helping teachers build their instructional skills, which teachers will use to accelerate learning for every student every day of their entire career.
For long-term impact, districts can invest in early-science education, which can improve both students’ long-term STEM career opportunities and short-term English/language arts, math, SEL, and 21st-century skills.
In 2019, only 35 percent of all 4th graders and less than 20 percent of students who are Black, Hispanic, or from families identifying themselves as low-income scored “proficient” in science. This shuts the door to many rewarding and engaging STEM careers too early on. This is due in part to the fact that many teachers across all grade levels feel unprepared to teach science—the average elementary classroom devotes only 20 minutes a day to science instruction.
While education leaders are deciding where to prioritize ESSER funding, an investment in professional learning around early-science education will have significant long-term implications for both the nation and for students in underresourced schools.
A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2022 edition of Education Week as Investing ESSER Dollars So They Pay Off