Distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools into a period of unprecedented instructional adaptation and innovation. Even as school systems continue to explore strategies to meet students’ immediate needs, educators around the country are imagining new approaches to education that will better serve all students.
The new Rethink K-12 Education Models (REM) Grants offer funds to help states address the dual challenge of serving students during the pandemic and cultivating new models for equitable, student-centered learning. Funded by the Education Stabilization Fund created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the competitive REM grants will provide more than $180 million in funding to 11 states with an emphasis on states hardest hit by the virus.
Here are the three categories the grant is funding and examples of how states plan to use their REM grants:
Microgrants to ensure families have access to technology and services to equitably participate in distance learning
Louisiana ($17M): Louisiana will target young learners with microgrants for families to access remote learning programs, tutoring, devices, and internet hotspots.
Tennessee ($20M): Tennessee will focus on literacy supports for early learners most impacted by school closures with microgrants to families to access tutoring, technology, and other supplemental materials.
Virtual learning courses and programs that allow students to access classes not offered at their school
Rhode Island ($10.9M): Rhode Island will expand its existing Advanced Course Network, an innovative course access program that allows students around the state to take courses not available at their home schools. Funds will help expand virtual course options, add core instructional materials, create a student advisor program, and improve the program’s technology platform for greater accessibility.
Texas ($20M): The Texas Home Learning program will direct support to English language learners through augmented support for existing courses, implementation assistance for teachers and families, and professional development for teachers on evidence-based instruction.
Iowa ($17.7M): Iowa will create the Iowa e-Learning Central platform to support a statewide virtual learning environment, develop foundational course content, support educators, and serve as a hub for families.
Georgia ($18.6M): Georgia will ensure statewide access to the existing Georgia Virtual School by improving infrastructure and providing teacher professional development on personalized learning to improve outcomes for all students.
Innovative new models for remote education that give every child the opportunity to prepare for a successful life
South Carolina ($15M): South Carolina plans to create a digital education ecosystem that will increase the availability of resources throughout the state, including in areas without broadband access through the innovative use of datacasting.
New York ($20M): New York is focused on building educator capacity with a new Teaching in Remote/Hybrid Learning Environments program whose impact will eventually reach 1.9 million students. The program will improve remote instruction for the most vulnerable students, especially English language learners and students with disabilities.
North Carolina ($17.6M): North Carolina plans to develop Light the Way, a state-wide blended learning program that will prioritize support to rural and economically disadvantaged communities. The state will partner with school districts, charter schools, and local universities to develop and implement the program.
South Dakota ($6.9M): South Dakota plans to invest in educators through professional development for at least 1,600 teachers that ensures that every school has at least one teacher certified in online instruction. The state will also invest in family engagement and develop resources to help parents understand the educational options available to them.
Maine ($17M): Maine will implement a multi-faceted approach to remote learning that will encourage “Education Engineers”—both practitioners and university partners—to pilot new remote learning models. Maine will support these innovations with workshops, microgrants for field testing new models, an online community of practice, and more.
REM grants are supporting innovation in 11 states, but the entire education community has the chance to imagine a more equitable system for all students. Charter schools around the country already showed it can be done when they needed to go above and beyond for students during the pandemic.
It’s impossible to predict what the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be on public education, but the primary goal must be to serve our students better. Luckily, REM grants get us one step closer.
Fiona Sheridan-McIver is the senior manager of government relations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.