A national push for well-rounded students

New grant will reward schools that improve access to music, social studies, environmental education and computer science
By: | November 21, 2016

Schools that offer more comprehensive instruction, increase school safety and student health, and better integrate educational technology may be eligible for new federal funds.

A new grant program from the U.S. Department of Education will reward schools that improve access to music, social studies, environmental education and computer science, as well as support college and career counseling, supplement STEM curricula, and promote AP or IB programs.

The USDOE released non-regulatory guidance over the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grants, a funding initiative under ESSA.

SSAE funds can be used for student services or on salaries for paraprofessionals, such as for in-school supports and on-site counseling for suspended students who have been returned to alternative school programs by a judge.

Grant money can also be spent for connecting students in rural, remote, and underserved areas with high-quality digital or blended learning classes. The funding would buy the necessary technology, such as tablets or Wi-Fi connections in school buildings.

“The Department of Education’s guidance is a really good step in the right direction” says Deb Delisle, CEO and executive director of ASCD. Delisle adds the funding is a good “jump-start” to encourage administrators to provide well-rounded education, but acknowledges that continued financial support is necessary for long-term success.

If administrators receive more than $30,000 in grants for their district they must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment, which ensures that schools have clear, detailed plans and policies for whole-student education.

PD is also included under SSAE’s effective use of technology to help support personalized learning. For example, allowable use of funds include: principals and teachers learning strategies that have been successful in other districts, learning to collaborate with one another in understanding student data, and learning how to connect with community partners, according to Delisle.