How would you recommend spending the billions of American Rescue Act dollars? Everyone seems to have ideas(s).

New York City will be deciding how to spend billions of education dollars within the next few months, and, everybody has ideas.

The interim chancellor (the term used for superintendent in New York City) immediately suggested summer school, as did many others (including the new law). The law also says the dollars must be spent on “evidence-based” interventions: a challenge.

The evidence that summer school is effective is slim and discouraging.

Research studies done before the pandemic show that summer school usually don’t accomplish its purpose of raising reading or math achievement. 

 “Generally, summer programs are not effective because they don’t really engage young people and they’re not run well,”

Even if the evidence is discouraging we’re going to have summer school: will it be the same old review and remediate (“boring”) or an interesting program that excites kids?   I would suggest summer school is project-based. Spend the last two weeks in June selecting a project and the summer working on a standards-based project. Make it fun, interesting, useful as a leg up for the next school year.

For the 21-22 school year the mayor suggested a three-K, pre-k for three year olds in all districts; currently the city is phasing in three-k programs in the poorest district. I applaud; I’m a big fan

The problem is the Biden federal dollars run out after the 24-25 school year; however, every dollar spent in three-k  saves you many remediation dollars in future years, and, possibly, averts the catastrophic consequences of falling years behind in the elementary school years.

The proposed Sandy Feldman Kindergarten Plus Act calls for federal funding for poverty children for kindergarten classes beginning the summer before kindergarten and continuing thought the summer after kindergarten. (Read bill here)

Is early childhood education beginning with three-year olds a good idea?

Some argue kids should not be “forced” into educational setting at early ages, it’s “developmentally inappropriate;” they should be allowed to play. I spent last April to August with a four year old boy. One day when you ask, “What’s the color of a banana?” he gleefully says, “yellow,” the next day he has no interest, he’s playing with his toys. The pace of development varies from day to day and even within days, you can see kids sucking up knowledge one day and other days engrossed in the work of a four year old, racing around the house as a race car driver. “School” offers the opportunity to both learn and play, and the two are commonly entangled.

France, the Netherlands and Denmark are among the highest achieving nations in the OECD and begin childcare/school very early: See France, “ecole maturelle here, Netherlands here and Denmark here.

You can always take a look at the What Works Clearinghouse.

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviews the existing research on different programsproductspractices, and policies in education. Our goal is to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions. We focus on the results from high-quality research to answer the question “What works in education?”

You can check out scores of programs and what the usually peer-reviewed research says about the program.

Mike Petrilli, from the right leaning Fordham Institute is publishing the Acceleration Imperative: A Plan to Address Elementary Schools’ Unfinished :Learning in the Wake of COVID-19.

new resource from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, The Acceleration Imperative: A Plan to Address Elementary Students’ Unfinished Learning in the Wake of COVID-19, aims to give the nation’s chief academic officers and other educators a head start on planning for that recovery, with a particular focus on high-poverty elementary schools.

The recommendations are specific, “Many students — especially the youngest children in the highest-need schools — will need extra help coming out of the pandemic, particularly in such forms as extended learning time, high-dosage tutoring and expanded mental-health supports” and I don’t disagree, I also ask why haven’t these interventions been more successful in the past?

The teacher union (UFT) also has a list of programs,

The 5-point UFT plan to help students recover from the pandemic


Teams of academic intervention specialists and social workers/psychologists would be dispatched to schools to work directly with students suffering academic losses and psychological effects because of the pandemic.


A pilot program would be created in 100 of the city’s neediest schools to reduce class sizes by one-third:


The city Department of Education should plan to provide as much in-person, rather than remote, instruction as possible. All current COVID-19 safety and testing protocols must remain in place for any in-person summer programs.


As part of the reopening process, high schools should dedicate time during the first week of return to identify students in crisis, college and career readiness/post-secondary planning for seniors, and social-emotional and counseling needs.


The program is designed to help teachers make the connections between trauma, stress, self-awareness, classroom environment and student behavior, and will recommend classroom practices to deal with students’ stress and to identify students in need of additional support.

The Department of Education should be engaged in these policies on a regular basis.

On June 22nd the ten or so (pre)con/tenders will face-off in the mayoral Democratic primary; for the first time Ranked Choice Voting (you can “rank” up to five candidates in priority order), absentee ballots on demand and public financing (see rules here). Check out the candidates views on education. A majority of voters are undecided.

Chalkbeat interviewed the leading candidates, read their educational programs/ ideas

Jump to Democratic candidates: Eric AdamsArt ChangShaun DonovanKathryn GarciaRay McGuireDianne MoralesScott StringerMaya WileyAndrew Yang

Jump to Republican candidates: Fernando MateoSara Tirschwell

The UFT (members only), has interviewed a dozen of the candidates, check out video snippets of the interviews here.

That’s right, after the primary we’ll have a Democratic candidate, in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, having to wait six months to take office, in the meantime de Blaso still sits in City Hall until December 31st.

In the 90’s the Chancellor’s District and in de Blasio’s first term “Renewal,” threw programs at teachers and students, hundreds of millions of dollars. The lesson: “programs” without school leader/teacher buy-in do not assure sustainable change.

Scott Marion, at the Center for Assessment is one of the most thoughtful educators,

… real and sustained change only occurs when actors in the system take ownership of the need to change, as well as the methods necessary to bring about that change. 

Will mayors and superintendents encourage/allow the “actors in the system,” aka, teachers and school leaders, to take ownership of the “need to change?”

I’m a glass half full type of guy.

One response to “How would you recommend spending the billions of American Rescue Act dollars? Everyone seems to have ideas(s).

  1. Eric Nadelstern

    Nearly forty years ago, during the brief but distinguished tenure of former chancellor Anthony Alvarado, a tired and mind numbing high school summer remediation program was transformed into an enriching one. Each school developed its own thematic project based approach, and two days each week students visited museums and attended Broadway shows. For youngsters who rarely left their neighborhoods, that summer was life altering.

    However, when school reopened that Fall, we forgot everything we learned and reverted back to business as usual. In the coming school year, with the benefit of additional Federal dollars, we need not make the same mistake. Even a post pandemic New York City can offer untold opportunities in school and well beyond to accelerate student learning. Now that the resources are assured, let’s overcome the limitations of precedent by exercising the imagination required to stimulate learning and expand the horizons of our students.


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