- Camille N. Mikkelsen
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Camille N. Mikkelsen
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and school disruption, both the federal and state government have sought to allocate needed funding to schools so they can provide adequate instruction and safe learning spaces to students in North Carolina. These funds, particularly the ESSER III funding through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, were provided to individual Public School Units (PSUs) based on applications identifying spending plans. These spending plans, submitted to the state before November 2021, include applications from 112 traditional Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and 177 charter PSUs. Using a mixed methods approach, both the quantitative and qualitative portions of this study independently attempt to identify patterns in the funding priorities of individual PSUs through the narrative in their funding applications, then compare the results to develop a more holistic understanding of these funding priorities. Overall, PSUs prioritized spending plans in the areas of technology, personnel, academic Covid-19 mitigation efforts (combating effects of lost opportunities to learn), and safety Covid-19 mitigation efforts (reducing viral spread and other projects to protect physical health and safety). In reviewing these applications and the results of both studies, we have developed several recommendations for mitigating the impact of the most recent school disruption and preparing for the next school disruption. These recommendations include re-evaluating enrichment programs, addressing the unique needs of various student populations, investing in quality education materials, developing research-based practices and strategies, growing professional networks between PSUs, and prioritizing the physical health and safety of students through regular maintenance of school structures.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ experiences in school were widespread. Early research show reductions in test scores across grade levels and student groups. This study extends research evidence to additional student outcomes – absences, course grades, and grad retention – and to examine how pandemic effects are distributed across students. Using a combination of descriptive and regression analyses, we find negative average impacts on all outcomes. These effects are largest at the high end of the absence distribution and the low end of the grade distribution. Effects are also largest in middle school for most outcomes and are typically larger among historically marginalized groups of students. These findings reflect widening achievement gaps and the need for targeted supports.