Guidance for Using Federal Funds

Ed COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs.

On April 9th, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education released this guidance document, which is intended to be a resource for states, districts, schools, and teachers as they reopen schools safely and support students. The handbook includes a description of “high quality” tutoring as an effective approach for acceleration (p.18). 

United States Department of Education. Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development (2021). ED COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs.

FAQs Regarding Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Programs (ESSER) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Program (GREER)

In May, 2021, the Department of Education released an FAQ document to clarify allowable uses of funding and describe how these funds may be used to implement strategies. Among other things, this resource explains how funds can be used to support evidence-based tutoring programs.

United States Department of Education (2021). FAQs Regarding Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Programs (ESSER) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Program (GREER).

Below are some excerpts that answer important questions around “evidence-based” programming and the timeline for obligating funds at the state and local levels.

A-10. What does it mean for a program to be evidence-based?

The ARP Act defines the term “evidence-based” as having the meaning in section 8101(21) of the ESEA. Accordingly, “evidence-based” includes several tiers of evidence. Specifically, “evidence-based,” when used with respect to a State, LEA, or school activity, means an activity, strategy, or intervention that:

i. Demonstrates a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes based on—

  • Strong evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study (“tier 1”); or
  • Moderate evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study (“tier 2”); or
  • Promising evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias (“tier 3”); or

ii. Demonstrates a rationale based on high-quality research findings or positive evaluation that such activity, strategy, or intervention is likely to improve student outcomes or other relevant outcomes and includes ongoing efforts to examine the effects of such activity, strategy, or intervention (“tier 4”).

Given the novel context created by the COVID-19 pandemic, an activity need not have generated such evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic to be considered evidence-based. The Department’s What Works Clearinghouse (available at https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/) identifies the tier of evidence that reviewed studies meet, as applicable. As part of the “demonstrates a rationale (tier 4)” level of evidence, grantees may develop and use approaches that are novel, if they are consistent with theoretical and empirical findings from research and the grantee will continue to review the effects of the practice to build the evidence base. Developing a logic model can help to demonstrate a rationale. Logic model resources are available at https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/pacific/elm.asp. An SEA should consider using funds to provide technical assistance to its LEAs on identifying and implementing evidence-based interventions. SEAs can also review the Department’s guidance on using evidence, which can be found here: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/guidanceuseseinvestment.pdf. Finally, SEAs should make use of the federally funded Comprehensive Center network.

C-2. How may an LEA use ESSER and GEER funds to support students who have lost instructional time due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The ARP Act defines the term “evidence-based” as having the meaning in section 8101(21) of the ESEA. Accordingly, “evidence-based” includes several tiers of evidence. Specifically, “evidence-based,” when used with respect to a State, LEA, or school activity, means an activity, strategy, or intervention that:

• Demonstrates a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes based on—

  • Strong evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study (“tier 1”); o
  • Moderate evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study (“tier 2”); or
  • Promising evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias (“tier 3”); or

• Demonstrates a rationale based on high-quality research findings or positive evaluation that such activity, strategy, or intervention is likely to improve student outcomes or other relevant outcomes and includes ongoing efforts to examine the effects of such activity, strategy, or intervention (“tier 4”).

Given the novel context created by the COVID-19 pandemic, an activity need not have generated such evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic to be considered evidence-based. The Department’s What Works Clearinghouse (available at https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/) identifies the tier of evidence that reviewed studies meet, as applicable. As part of the “demonstrates a rationale (tier 4)” level of evidence, grantees may develop and use approaches that are novel, if they are consistent with theoretical and empirical findings from research and the grantee will continue to review the effects of the practice to build the evidence base. Developing a logic model can help to demonstrate a rationale. Logic model resources are available at https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/pacific/elm.asp. An SEA should consider using funds to provide technical assistance to its LEAs on identifying and implementing evidence-based interventions. SEAs can also review the Department’s guidance on using evidence, which can be found here: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/guidanceuseseinvestment.pdf. Finally, SEAs should make use of the federally funded Comprehensive Center network.

E-1. What is the timeline for a Governor, SEA, or LEA to obligate funds under ESSER I and GEER I?

A Governor, SEA, or LEA, as applicable, has until September 30, 2022, to obligate the ESSER I and GEER I funds it receives. This includes the 12-month Tydings Amendment period. (Note that the timeline for obligating funds is distinct from the timeline for a State to award funds within one year of receipt or return them to the Department for reallocation (sections 18002(d) and 18003(f) of the CARES Act).) For additional information on awarding and obligating funds, please see Question 10 in the ESSER FAQs available at: https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/05/ESSER-Fund-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf and Question A-19 in the GEER FAQs available at: https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/10/FAQs-GEER-Fund.pdf.

Although funds must be obligated by September 30, 2022, grant activities carried out through a valid obligation of funds may continue beyond that date. Under 2 CFR § 200.344(a), ESSER funds must be liquidated within 120 calendar days after the end of the performance period.

E-2. What is the timeline for a Governor, SEA, or LEA to obligate funds under ESSER II and GEER II?

Governor, SEA, or LEA, as applicable, has until September 30, 2023, to obligate the ESSER II and GEER II funds it receives. This includes the 12-month Tydings Amendment period. (Note that the timeline for obligating funds is distinct from the timeline for a State to award funds within one year of receipt or return them to the Department for reallocation (sections 312(f) and 313(g) of the CRRSA Act).) For additional information on awarding and obligating funds, please see Question 10 in the ESSER FAQs available at: https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/05/ESSER-Fund-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf and Question A-19 in the GEER FAQs available at: https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/10/FAQs-GEER-Fund.pdf. Although funds must be obligated by September 30, 2023, grant activities carried out through a valid obligation of funds may continue beyond that date. Under 2 CFR § 200.344(a), ESSER funds must be liquidated within 120 calendar days after the end of the performance period.

E-3. What is the timeline for an SEA or LEA to obligate funds under ARP ESSER?

An SEA or LEA has until September 30, 2024, to obligate the ARP ESSER funds it receives. This includes the 12-month Tydings Amendment period. Although funds must be obligated by September 30, 2024, grant activities carried out through a valid obligation of funds may continue beyond that date. Under 2 CFR § 200.344(a), ESSER funds must be liquidated within 120 calendar days after the end of the performance period (September 30, 2024). Note that the timeline for obligating funds is distinct from the timeline for an SEA to make allocations to LEAs. Section 2001(d)(2) of the ARP Act requires an SEA to make allocations to LEAs in an expedited and timely manner and not later than 60 days after receipt of its award, to the extent practicable. Additionally, the ARP Act requires that an SEA award its ARP ESSER funds within one year of receipt or return them to the Department for reallocation (section 2001(g) of the ARP Act). With respect to funds that an SEA must allocate to LEAs, an SEA will have met the requirement to award the funds within one year by meeting the requirement in section 2001(d)(2) of the ARP Act to make allocations to LEAs, in an expedited and timely manner and, to the extent practicable, not later than 60 days after receipt of its 49 award. For funds that an SEA reserves, the SEA must, within one year of receiving the funds, award the funds through grants or contracts or by retaining funds to provide direct services. For additional information on awarding and obligating funds, please see Question 10 in the ESSER FAQs available at: https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/05/ESSER-Fund-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

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