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How District Leaders Can Use ESSER Funds to Support Native Students

Northwest | July 11, 2023

How can district leaders assess their effectiveness in supporting Native students and use available Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to extend this support? The National Comprehensive Center developed a reflection tool to help school district staff analyze their current programs geared toward Native students, the use of ESSER funds, and evidence of effectiveness.

The district reflection tool includes two sections with a total nine questions to consider. The first section, LEA support and monitoring of its schools in using ESSER funds, provides three questions for district leaders to reflect on and respond to.

How did the local education agency (LEA) support and monitor its schools in:

  1. implementing evidence-based interventions that respond to students' academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs?
    • such as through summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs—including the extent to which the LEA collected evidence of the effectiveness of interventions employed?
  2. specifically addressing the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Native American students?
  3. using ARP ESSER funds to identify, reengage, and support Native American students most likely to have experienced the impact of lost instructional time on student learning, such as
    • students who have missed the most in-person instruction?
    • students who did not consistently participate in remote instruction when offered during school building closures?
    • students most at-risk of dropping out of school?
Considering Native Students

The reflection tool's second section focuses on the implementation of additional strategies regarding educational equity and the use of ESSER funds. This tool is part of the resource Considering Native Students: A Learning and Programming Toolkit for SEAs, LEAs and Tribes. The resource offers additional reflection tools that support continuous improvement, capacity building, and program evaluation for state, local, and tribal education agencies.

Native students are often marginalized in school environments.1 They were also disproportionately affected by disrupted learning time during the pandemic.2 Many school districts are looking for ways to better support them by increasing family and community engagement, providing professional development opportunities to educators of Native students, and incorporating Native culture and language into programming. 

ESSER funds are a key funding stream to support these efforts. Tier 2 ESSER funds will expire September 30, 2023, and Tier 3 ESSER funds will expire September 30, 2024.

The highlighted tool encourages district leaders to document what they have already done. By reflecting on the data, leaders can better understand areas of strength and weakness. They can then start planning initiatives, taking advantage of unused ESSER dollars to fund high-impact programs for Native students.

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1 Quijada Cerecer, P. D. (2013). The policing of Native bodies and minds: Perspectives on schooling from American Indian youth. American Journal of Education119(4), 591-616.

2 The U.S. Department of Education. (2021). The Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on America's Students.; King, G. (2021) Exploring the educational impacts of COVID-19. NWEA.


Sierra McCormick

Sierra McCormick

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