Colorado plans to use CARES Act funds for blended learning

Leveraging both technology-based and face-to-face instructional approaches, blended learning in this state will be supported by federal funds. School districts plan to increase instructional hours, including summer school time, English learner programs, and tutoring capacity, to address the COVID slide.

The Colorado Department of Education is planning to use funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Pub. L. No. 116-136, to expand blended learning for the 2020-21 school year. Commissioner Katy Anthes says the state will be delivering some of the CARES Act funds in multiple ways to support as many districts as possible to be able to “toggle between remote learning and in-person learning.”

“We still think that in-person learning is the gold standard, and so we’re working very hard in Colorado to get back to that, but we know that the health data is going to impact those decisions later in the month,” Anthes says.

Blended learning is defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act, Pub. L. No. 114-95, Section 4102(1) as a formal education program that leverages both technology-based and face-to-face instructional approaches. The statute also establishes that blended learning includes an element of online or digital learning, combined with supervised learning time and student-led learning, in which the elements are connected to provide an integrated learning experience where students have some control over time, path, or pace.

States may use funds under ESSA Section 2101(c)(4)(B)(ix) for activities that support efforts to train teachers, principals, or other school leaders to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction, which may include training to assist teachers in implementing blended learning.

During a discussion hosted by the Hunt Institute, Anthes explained that Colorado wants to fund school district efforts to increase the number of instructional hours, including summer school time, English learner programs, and tutoring capacity, to recoup the instruction loss during the spring extended school closures. “Despite all of [the educators’] amazing work and best intentions, there was a lot of learning loss,” she said. “We had a variety of districts across our state that don’t have access to the internet, and so just moving directly to online learning did not solve the bigger inequities and problems we had to deliver education.”

4 learning scenarios for Colorado

In addition, the commissioner explained that CDE is doing “quadruple the amount of planning” for the fall because the state is planning for four different scenarios for the next school year:
1. In-person learning;
2. Remote learning;
3. Blended learning; and
4. A combination of all methods.

“We don’t know how the puzzle pieces are going to fit together yet,” Anthes said.

Claude Bornel covers ELs and other Title I issues for ESEA Now, a DA sister publication.

For more DA coverage on school plans for fall, visit our coronavirus page

Most Popular