Supporting High-Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Learning with ESSR and ARP Funds

Originally published October 2021

As states continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government allocated the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Program (ESSER) and American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to local education agencies. These funds will help local education agencies respond to emergent needs in schools and communities. The following information can serve as a guide for districts, community schools and stakeholders as they make local decisions regarding how to direct ESSER and ARP funds to programs and initiatives.


Impact on Education

The U.S. Department of Education emphasized supporting student populations who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic increased challenges and barriers for students including inconsistent access to high-quality instructional materials and other supports.

Identifying the Needs and Building the Plan

Local education agencies are required to submit plans for the use of ESSER ARP funds to the Ohio Department of Education. A first step in the planning process is to identify needs using the One Needs Assessment and then build the plan with a broad range of stakeholders as part of the ED STEPS process.
As part of the planning process, local education agencies are encouraged to analyze local data that can help identify strengths and existing gaps in student achievement. Additionally, the local education agency is encouraged to analyze the professional development needs of staff related to any instructional practices, materials or assessments.

General Funding Considerations and Practical Advice

The ESSER ARP federal funds are one-time investments that should be managed carefully. These funds generally should not be used to provide on-going services, as such service may have to be abruptly terminated when federal funds expire. Rather, the funds should be used for one-time or short-duration intensive supports that address impact of the education disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic or that otherwise build the capacity of the system to operate effectively or meaningfully for students. More information on using ESSER ARP funds may be found in the comprehensive ESSER ARP guidance created by the Ohio Department of Education.
In general, when determining strategies to spend the ESSER I, ESSER II and ESSER ARP funds, local education agencies should consider the following five questions:
  1. Will the proposed use of funds “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus”?
  2. Is the proposed use of funds allowable under the Coronavirus Aid, Resources and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act and/or the American Rescue Plan (ARP)? Click here for a broad list of ESSER ARP allowable uses.   
  3. Is the proposed use of funds reasonable and necessary?
  4. Does the proposed use of funds promote equity?
  5. Does the proposed use of funds support returning students to the classroom?

Strategies for Funding Supports for High-Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Learning

High-Quality Instructional Materials and Content – ESSER funds may be used to purchase high-quality instructional materials, curricula and related professional development resources to improve instruction and prevent learning loss. High-quality instructional materials ensure all students have access to standards-aligned, coherent curriculum across all learning environments. Purchases may include:
  • Tier 1 instruction – Selection and implementation of a districtwide high-quality curriculum with both online and in-person options; evidence of “high-quality” for Tier 1 instructional materials for English language arts, mathematics and science can be assessed through the Ohio Materials Matter site. 
  • Advanced coursework – Additional materials and teacher training to implement Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) or honors courses in schools, and where necessary provide additional support so that all students, particularly vulnerable students, can access and succeed in advanced coursework.
  • Culturally diverse instructional materials that are representative of the students, their families and their unique experiences. 
  • Instructional resources and technology to support distance learning, such as mobile devices, headsets or learning management systems. 
Professional Learning for Educators and School Leaders – ESSER funds may be used to purchase high-quality instructional materials, curricula and related professional development to improve instruction and prevent learning loss. Professional learning to support student academic needs should be grounded in high-quality instructional materials. Purchases may include:
  • High-quality, ongoing, instructional materials specific to professional learning so teachers and school leaders can support the implementation of high-quality instructional materials. 
  • Professional learning to support distance learning and the continuation of existing improvement efforts.

Summer Learning 

  • Summer learning and afterschool programming that provides support for all students using high-quality, grade or course-aligned resources including high-quality instructional materials.
  • Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students through a targeted summer program to address or prevent learning loss.
  • Community partnerships to engage students in authentic learning and enrichment activities outside of the school day.
Special Note: LEAs should expect significant oversight by state and federal auditors on the spending of their ESSER ARP federal funds. The LEA should have a written explanation of how the expenditure using these ESSER ARP funds was made to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important that the LEA maintain documentation and be able to provide evidence that demonstrates compliance with the allowable uses of these federal resources.

Additional Resources to Support High-Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Learning

  • Ohio Department of Education: Materials Matter. Supporting districts in the selection and implementation of high-quality instructional materials is one example of the Ohio Department of Education’s commitment to equity. This webpage includes resources and a list of frequently asked questions designed to aid districts and schools as they embark upon this process.
  • Ohio Curriculum Support Guide was developed in partnership with Instruction Partners. Research shows that providing teachers with high-quality instructional materials is an effective strategy for increasing student learning. However, teachers need much more than a box of new materials to ensure great teaching and learning take place. They need support from a team of leaders who know how to select, prepare for and support the use of great materials. This website is a collection of insight, resources and lessons from other systems that have walked this journey. 
  • Ohio Materials Matter was developed in partnership with INFOhio and EdReports. It is a database of reviews of instructional materials that district leaders and educators can explore to find materials that fit their curriculum needs. Reviews available through Ohio Materials Matter are from EdReports, which provides expert reviews of K-12 English language arts, math and science instructional materials.
  • The Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) is a system of protocols to analyze data, research aligned improvement strategies, implement and monitor strategies, provide feedback to teams and determine effectiveness based on performance and implementation data. Educators will find resources within the Continuous Improvement Toolkit.
  • The Learning Management System provides free courses and professional development on important state education initiatives for educators who have active or pending, Ohio, prekindergarten-12, Department-issued licenses or permits and who have fully set-up their OH|ID account.

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Last Modified: 5/17/2023 8:15:02 AM