Raise the Bar: Achieve Academic Excellence

Raise the Bar: Achieve Academic Excellence

Goal: Develop a comprehensive and rigorous education for every student with high-quality instruction that prepares them to be active, engaged, and lifelong learners.

The Problem

For students to thrive academically and be globally competitive, they require access to a broad and challenging education that provides opportunities to build deep knowledge and useful life skills across many disciplines. However, access to a comprehensive and rigorous education is not equitable across all students and all communities, which prevents our young people from realizing their potential and succeeding.

Our Strategies

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education:

  • The Department will continue to elevate and build on the "YOU belong in STEM" initiative that helps scale equitable, high-quality STEM education pathways for all students from prekindergarten to higher education to spark a lifelong love of learning and inquiry and to support their 21st-century career readiness and global competitiveness.
  • This work includes, in part, technical assistance to the early education community on promising practices for STEM education for young children, including those with disabilities, and the alignment of career and workforce pathways focused on innovation and technology.

Arts Education:

  • Approximately $36 million in funds through the Assistance for Arts Education program will promote the integration of arts in education, with a focus on students who are underserved and students with disabilities, in particular.

Protecting Civil Rights in Schools:

  • The Office for Civil Rights will continue its civil rights enforcement in schools, including with respect to bullying and harassment, discriminatory discipline based on race and/or disability and/or sex, resource equity in schools, and equal access to rigorous coursework.

Early Learning:

  • To promote a strong start in school and in life for our youngest learners, the Department is focusing its early education agenda on expanding preschool in Title I schools and positioning kindergarten as a sturdy bridge to the early grades.

Fiscal Equity for Title I and IDEA Funding:

  • The Department is working with states to provide technical assistance in using $19 billion in Title I funding to increase academic achievement and graduation rates; support students' mental health; expand access to preschool; and improve teacher recruitment, retention, working conditions, and compensation.
  • In addition to ongoing monitoring, the Department also is providing support and assistance to states as they work with districts to review their resource allocations and oversee the maintenance of equity and maintenance of effort compliance levers, as well as push for equitable state funding for education.
  • The Department also will create new guidance to ensure that states enforce the requirements of the three IDEA state grant programs, an investment of more than $14 billion, to improve outcomes for children and students with disabilities.

Focus on the Instructional Core:

  • To close achievement gaps and drive evidence-based supports for students, the Department is centering its work on three key objectives regarding the instructional core: engaged students, effective teaching, and quality content. The Department will use the bully pulpit to promote the need for effective, high-quality professional development under the Title II A program, positive student engagement through Full-Service Community Schools and other programs, and quality instructional practices.

Financial Literacy:

  • The Department awards more than $1 billion annually to states under the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program to support summer school and afterschool programs, which can include financial literacy programs, alongside other priorities.

Grants and Resources:

  • The Department awarded over $8 million under the American History and Civics Education – National Activities programs to promote innovative instruction, learning strategies, and professional development in American history, civics, government, and geography.
  • The YOU Belong in STEM Initiative was launched at the Department's first-ever national summit on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. YOU Belong in STEM included a new public-private partnership with Beyond100K to strengthen the national STEM educator pipeline. The initiative galvanized 275 national organizations to make commitments to advance key policy goals through actions totaling over $17 million and that will positively impact 12 million students and 100,000 STEM educators.
  • $8 million in funds through the Assistance for Arts Education grant program to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will help to grow large-scale, national-level, high-quality arts education programs and services for children and youth, with an emphasis on serving children from low-income families and children with disabilities, impacting about 1.5 million students and educators annually.

Goal: Accelerate learning for every student: Attain student achievement levels that exceed pre-pandemic performance and close underlying achievement and opportunity gaps.

The Problem

As a result of the pandemic, students are, on average, two to four months behind in reading and math, with students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students who are presently and historically underserved even further behind.

Our Strategies

High-Quality Tutoring, Afterschool and Summer Learning:

  • The Department will continue its leadership along with AmeriCorps and the Johns Hopkins University Everyone Graduates Center, through the National Partnership for Student Success, to help states, districts, and community-based organizations improve, expand, and scale high-quality programs that leverage well-trained tutors, mentors, student success coaches, integrated student support coordinators, and post-secondary transition coaches to support students, with the aim of meeting the President's goal of an additional 250,000 adults serving in these vital roles.
  • The Engage Every Student Initiative, a collaborative effort among more than 20 organizations, is helping communities use American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, alongside other state and local funds, to ensure that every child who wants a spot in a high-quality out-of-school time program has one.  
  • The Comprehensive Center Network is creating a community of practice for cross-agency teams from states and the Department of Education that are committed to ensuring students benefit from funds dedicated to advancing summer and afterschool programs and other out-of-school-time programs.

Technical Assistance:

  • The Department will leverage Comprehensive Centers, the Regional Educational Laboratory (RELS) Programs, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) technical assistance centers to provide technical assistance to districts to implement evidence-based strategies that promote academic recovery.
    • The Department of Education's Comprehensive Centers:
      • This collection of best practices about implementing effective tutoring programs offers information and tools that can be applied immediately to classroom practices and to district or state policies.
      • This community of practice consists of cross-departmental teams from state educational agencies that are actively engaged in identifying and collectively addressing problems of practice through evidence-based interventions that can ensure the effective and sustainable use of ARP funding to support learning recovery and acceleration.
      • The Accelerated Learning Work Group developed a guide that includes information about how state educational agencies are accelerating students' learning. Learn more about these practices here.
    • The Department’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES):
      • The Leveraging Evidence to Accelerate Recovery Nationwide Network (LEARN Network) is supporting efforts to adapt and scale evidence-based practices that have the potential to accelerate learning for K-12 students most affected by the pandemic.
      • The Prekindergarten Through Grade 12 Recovery Research Network is working directly with state and local educational agencies to support their recovery efforts and providing evidence to help assess and improve those efforts.
      • The Community College Recovery Research Network is collaborating with community college systems to provide evidence-based recovery activities that address the declines in postsecondary enrollment and academic progress that occurred during the pandemic.
      • This Dear Colleague Letter from the Institute of Education Sciences to chief state school officers outlines the technical assistance and program evaluation services that are available to state educational agencies, at no cost, through the REL Program.

Sampling of ARP Funding Highlights:

  • The Department of Education distributed, in record time, $122 billion in ARP funds to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to help K-12 schools reopen, stay open, and address lost instructional time and students' needs.
  • Because of this historic investment, the Department helped 95 percent of public elementary and secondary schools reopen for full-time, in-person learning in early January 2022. When the President took office in January 2021, only 46 percent of our nation's K-12 schools were open for full-time, in-person learning.

Grants and Resources:

  • The Department's guide, Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Address the Impact of Lost Instructional Time, focuses on strategies to support local efforts in effectively using ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.
  • The Department's Best Practices Clearinghouse includes hundreds of examples of how schools are using ARP funds to support academic and mental health recovery that can be helpful for school leaders and communities across the country.
  • The Department is providing $182 million in new grant awards to 30 school districts, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations across the United States as part of the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program. This program provides funding to create, develop, implement, or bring to scale evidence-based and innovative approaches to increasing students' academic achievement. The program also provides funds to evaluate these efforts.
  • The Department is working with states to provide technical assistance in using $19 billion in Title I funding to support key priorities, such as increasing academic achievement, supporting students' mental health, expanding access to preschool, and strengthening teacher recruitment and retention.
  • Through $1.3 billion in Title IV, Part B funding, the Department is supporting the creation of 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a program that helps to create environments where students can develop meaningful connections with their peers and adults that extend beyond the traditional classroom setting and that support their positive academic outcomes.