How Schools Can Utilize Title I Dollars to Improve School Climate Post-COVID
Now more than ever before, a positive school climate is critical to school success. The US Department of Education’s National Center on Safe and Supportive Living Environments defines “school climate” as the way in which members of the community experience the school, such as through interpersonal relationships, staff routines, and even organizational structure.
PK-3 professionals, in particular, likely appreciate this definition’s attention to community, not just students and their specific teachers. No doubt, the community includes children’s families–children’s first and most important teachers. This definition also reflects what educators know intuitively: social, emotional, and academic support are equally important to the whole-child approach and the well-being of the entire school community.
As a community, attending to the holistic needs of children was never more important than during the pandemic. We have all seen the pandemic’s widespread effects on children’s achievement, as well as their social–emotional health. Many schools have been hit hard by COVID and associated school closures. Administrators, educators, children, and their families have faced profound challenges in all facets of their lives. In many instances, stressors have compounded what may have already been difficult circumstances. I’ve talked about strategies to improve school climate in the past, but COVID fundamentally shifted the narrative.
School administrators now have access to once-in-a-generation federal relief funding to address these urgent needs. They also have an opportunity to utilize existing funds to support the diverse needs of early learners. This is particularly true for Title I schools.
Title I schools are those where at least 40% of students come from low-income families, and this term applies to nearly 50,000 schools nationwide. This funding stream can be used in five flexible areas that can all contribute to improved school climates.
- Support students who need help meeting state academic standards. Through observation-based formative assessment, educators and administrators can monitor young children’s progress in learning areas defined by the objectives of development and learning and target areas for additional support to help children meet state standards.
- Facilitate effective transitions for students across grade spans. Personalized professional development, coaching, and flexible courses allow educators to cultivate high-quality practices year-round and build trauma-sensitive classrooms to support children as they grow.
- Develop and implement well-rounded instruction. Administrators are able to offer the youngest students the foundation of lifelong learning by investing in an evidence-based curriculum that encourages all children to think critically, solve problems, and connect abstract and concrete ideas.
- Strengthen academic programs to improve learning conditions. Engaging lessons aligned to core curriculum goals empower educators to support young children’s learning and promote crucial life skills.
- Enhance parent and family engagement. Tools like Ready Rosie strengthen intentional connections between school and home by better involving all families through light-touch content in the form of videos curated by their children’s teachers.
Now more than ever, we know that the school climate is much more than what happens in an individual classroom at an individual site. It’s also more than what one person can contribute. It’s crucial that the whole school community is engaged to support students’ success and that schools are well-positioned to utilize new and existing funding streams to ensure that is possible.