Top NewsSchools receive $190 billion in pandemic aid. Did...

Schools receive $190 billion in pandemic aid. Did it work?

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For the past three years, American schools have been in an unusual position: They’ve had a lot of money to spend.

The federal government invested $190 billion in pandemic aid for schools; $122 billion in 2021 to help students recover. All in all, it was the largest one-time federal investment in American education, but it came with a key question: Will it work?

Two separate studies released Wednesday suggest the money helped, but not as much as it could have.

“Money contributed to the recovery,” said Harvard University economist Thomas J. said Kane, who helped lead one of the studies. “Would money have had a big impact? Yes.”

Studies – One From researchers at Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth, and Other A study from the University of Washington — based on test results for third- through eighth-graders in 30 states beginning in the 2022-23 school year — reached similar conclusions. For every $1,000 in federal aid spent, districts saw small improvements in math and reading scores.

The Biden administration celebrated the results as evidence that the federal investment in March 2021 helped put students back on track while the pandemic was still active and some schools were closed. “These new data make it clear that the president’s investment in education has helped millions of students make a quick return,” said Neera Danton, President Biden’s domestic policy adviser.

According to economists and education policy experts, the overall amount is modest. Past research For example, smaller class sizes resulted in higher returns per dollar.

Tulane University economist Douglas N., who was not involved in the research, said there may be other benefits not reflected in test scores, such as improved mental health for students. Harris said.

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Based on test scores alone, “it doesn’t pass the cost-benefit test,” he said.

In a country with nearly 50 million public school children, it is difficult to achieve large scale results. And even small improvements in test scores can have long-term benefits, boosting students Future earnings.

But the overall results raise questions about whether record amounts of federal aid came with the right amount of oversight.

Congress imposed some restrictions on the largest round of funding. Of the $122 billion, districts are required to spend only 20 percent on academic recovery, which many education experts have criticized as too little.

“I think if there had been more emphasis around academic achievement, if money had been used for that purpose, and if more guide rails had been used, that money could have made a much bigger difference,” said Dan Goldhaber, associate professor at the University of Washington. Vice President of the American Institute for Study and Research.

The Biden administration has said the money is intended to give school districts critical flexibility to respond to local needs during a time of crisis. Focused on providing Guidance For example, for districts emphasizing the need to invest in training and summer schools.

But with more than 13,000 school districts across the country and few obvious needs, there was wide variation in how the money was spent.

Some districts went all-in on frequent, small-group training Research has shown to be effective. Many hired new people: teachers, counselors and social workers. Others sponsored the renovation of the school building. Still others, facing budget problems and using the money for their regular operations, are now facing severe cuts.

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The new studies did not evaluate which strategies achieved the best results There was little supervision How, exactly, federal dollars were spent.

Other studies suggest that choices matter. Some districts have shown outward improvements, often through research-backed educational interventions and a focus on student mental health.

Ultimately, though, many students aren’t on pace to catch up from epidemic learning losses, especially as federal aid expires this coming school year.

Still, education experts say, money has moved the needle. Without federal aid, students could have fallen further behind. The aid is targeted at low-income school districts that have suffered major losses during the pandemic and distance learning.

“Dollars have been useful in closing some of the gaps that remain open,” Professor Kane said.

As schools reap the benefits of long-term investments like HVAC upgrades, test scores can improve even more. clean air, said Rebecca Sibilia, executive director of EdFund, a research and policy group focused on school finance.

A Large research organization Shows that increased spending on education is associated with improved student outcomes, particularly for students from low-income families.

In some ways, the results underscore the sheer scale of the epidemic’s impact, particularly on students who are lagging behind in math.

Studies show that at the current pace of recovery, it would take five times more in federal aid to fully catch up to all students.

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