NASBE Offers Key Questions for States to Ask When Evaluating ARP Spending and Implementation
Alexandria, Va. – A year ago, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) presented an unprecedented chance for states to not only address the myriad challenges brought on by the pandemic but to make long-sought improvements to the education system for the long run. Now that the U.S. Department of Education has approved every state’s ARP plan and the first funds have been dispersed, the real work of monitoring, evaluating, fine-tuning, and course correcting begins to ensure that the investments are producing intended outcomes. This is particularly important heading into summer and the 2022–23 school year.
A new NASBE analysis offers seven questions state boards and other leaders can ask to gauge ARP spending and assess its impact.
- How does the vision of success in ARP align with the state strategic plan? State leaders are guided by shared goals and a clear vision for education that reflects the priorities of their community. Savvy state board members recognize that such plans must adapt to unforeseen circumstances and be reassessed to ensure alignment while still prioritizing excellent education opportunities for all students.
- How can the near-term plan for out-of-school time foster student engagement over the long term? State boards should employ an “all hands on deck” approach, leveraging afterschool and community partners to meet students’ immediate needs while transforming where and how learning takes place.
- Who must be engaged to drive continuous improvement of the plan? Engaging diverse, divergent perspectives can help state boards understand whether ARP investments are achieving the intended outcomes or need course correction to match evolving needs. Involving students in this work is especially important.
- How is our state defining, measuring, and managing ARP investments so they produce student success? Measurement is the key to management. State boards must ensure that decisions on state plans for ARP are evidence based, clearly define metrics for success, and are transparent.
- How can we foster innovation at the local level? Boards can reflect on the actions of local leaders to implement bold, out-of-box solutions to meet the student needs. They can create the conditions that enable innovation and exploration for education systems to prosper post-pandemic.
- How are ARP investments balancing short-term crisis response with long-term goals for student outcomes? State boards should promote investing ARP funds with sustainability in mind. For example, when considering human capital investments, ask how such investments build capacity in sustainable ways.
- How are we transforming the educational experience for students? States must demonstrate they have effectively wielded the sizable funding to address pandemic challenges in the short run and build better education systems for the long run.
Several state boards are already working to ensure ARP investments are being spent effectively and efficiently, with maximum impact on student learning. The Illinois State Board of Education, for example, has included strategies and defined success measures for each of their plan’s goals. A publicly accessible tool shows whether each strategy is on track, at risk, or off track. Connecticut is involving partners and research entities to help gauge success and inform investments. NASBE’s analysis also highlights promising state actions to engage diverse stakeholders, improve equity in education, foster local innovation, and leverage community partnerships to meet student needs.
“State leaders are bound by the implicit promise that this sizable investment will transform education systems so they are better than they were pre-pandemic. Incremental or marginal change is not enough,” writes NASBE President and CEO Paolo DeMaria. “By finding common ground with governors, legislators, families, and educators to vigorously pursue a focused set of priorities, continuously measuring and managing, and grounding decisions in the best available evidence, state boards can capitalize on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform education.”
NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.