Recovery Plan Guidance: Immediate Needs and Stabilization


Phase One: Immediate Needs

K-12 schools, colleges and universities face pressing needs in helping faculty and students return to quality teaching and learning. ESSER and HEER funding will be instrumental in addressing these. 

Focus teams can be an effective distributed leadership strategy to involve the whole school or college in identifying needs and developing plans to address them.

Develop an Effective Focus Team

A focus team is a group of individuals with different responsibilities and interests who share a common purpose — to make school or college count for all students. Each team focuses on a particular aspect of continuous improvement. SREB has found that there are seven essential conditions for effective teams:

  1. Shared Goals – Team members share a common goal and know how it will meet immediate needs of students and faculty, improving teaching and learning. 
  2. Interdependence – What each team member does affects the others, and what the team does affect each member. Team members trust each other’s knowledge, expertise and resources.  
  3. Norms for Interactions and Processes – Norms govern communication, conflict resolution, punctuality, leadership styles and accountability. Leaders suggest that norms be intentionally set so the team is clear about expectations and work.  
  4. Variety of Skills and Perspectives – The best teams are interdisciplinary, diverse, and inclusive, representing a variety of experiences and responsibilities – students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community partners. 
  5. Parity of Members – Diverse and inclusive teams give equal value and power to members. The team leader works for the group, is part of the group and keeps the team on course toward its goal. 
  6. Awareness of Membership – Each team member knows that he or she is part of the team; all team members perceive each other as part of the team. 
  7. Time to Meet – A team structure establishes a period of quality time for the thoughtful exchange necessary to create and implement substantive changes.  

Use Data

All teams should use valid and reliable data to identify immediate needs and root causes, set an aim or desired outcome, create strategies for achieving it, implement an action plan and test the actions. Teams will want to select a problem-solving process. SREB’s School Improvement Process is one example that can be used by focus teams in K-12 and postsecondary education. 

Ideally, a problem-solving process would include a needs assessment. (SREB’s Curriculum and Instruction Review and Career Pathway Review are examples.) But these can take time to complete.

In Phase One, then, focus teams may need to rely on readily available data. Sources may include:

  • State and federal ESSER and HEER guidance documents
  • Most recent continuous improvement plans
  • Three- to five-year strategic plans
  • Student and faculty attendance records
  • End of course grades and assessment scores
  • Public health and social support data
  • Technology use reports

Identify Immediate Needs in Three Focus Areas

This section will help leaders develop a process for determining how to allocate funds for immediate needs: learning recovery and innovation, health and safety, and infrastructure. 

SREB’s Education Recovery Playbooks

Find helpful information for immediate needs in K-12 Education and Higher Education Recovery Playbooks developed by SREB’s recovery task forces. 


Learning Recovery and Innovation 

Student Needs

Social and emotional supports - SREB urges educators to use the summer and fall to reconnect with students and families who may have lost jobs, homes or loved ones during the pandemic. By connecting with students and families where they are, and seeking to identify and address their concerns, schools and colleges can help build trust, increase cooperation and avoid issues as the academic year progresses. Educators may feel pressure to make up for unfinished learning from the disrupted academic year, but this should not come at the expense of a focus on relationships.

Considerations for using ESSER and HEER funds may include: 

  • Summer reconnection events, reviewing existing activities and schedules to determine how daily or weekly character development or relationship-building activities can be offered to students before schools open in the fall.
  • Stipends for faculty to collaborate with community social service partners.
  • Salaries for social services staff to work with students and families affected by the pandemic, with the understanding that these positions and salaries are timebound.

Acceleration – Learning should include opportunities for students to reach new heights of achievement at every level, K-16.  Educators need access to student achievement data to create, implement and scale accelerated learning opportunities. Teams charged with addressing acceleration must consider how actions will be tested, adopted broadly, adapted or abandoned.

Examples of acceptable uses of stimulus funds to address acceleration:

  • Assessment systems that include diagnostic assessments that educators can use to identify mastered competencies. 
  • Summer learning programs that allow students to address unfinished learning in all content areas and begin taking advanced course work. 
  • One-on-one tutoring or small group direct instruction may need to be planned. This may include the hiring of additional staff or research-based curricula.  

Learning opportunities – The pandemic has allowed educators to be innovative in the ways they develop and deliver instruction. Some of the instructional delivery methods designed during the pandemic have worked well for certain groups of students. Teams should consider how to use the stimulus funds to continue these innovative instructional strategies.

Faculty and Staff Needs

Social and emotional supports – Just like students, faculty and staff have experienced loss, anxiety and health issues. It is imperative that supports be in place to help them address these issues. Identifying faculty and staff needs may be difficult, but focus teams might consider surveys and interviews to gather data that will guide the development of appropriate supports. 

Professional learning – When designed well, professional learning is typically interactive, sustained, and customized to educators’ needs. It encourages educators to take responsibility for their own learning and to practice what they are learning in their own teaching contexts. Identifying the appropriate professional learning will need to be a priority of focus teams. Funds will need to be allocated to help faculty develop the skills needed to deliver high-quality online, blended, and differentiated instruction.

Teacher certification and induction – Many education institutions have experienced a decrease in the teaching workforce since the start of the pandemic. Ensuring that every classroom has a qualified and prepared instructor will be paramount. Considerations may need to focus on how to prepare and support instructors that are pursuing alternative certification routes.

Education Leader Needs

Social and emotional needs – This may require professional learning for leaders or time to work with partnering agencies to identify, implement, and sustain social supports.

Assessing unfinished learning – Education leaders need to be included in discussions related to diagnostics assessment systems, acceleration strategies and equitable learning opportunities.

Supporting innovative teaching and learning – This will need to become the new normal. Education leaders should help implement a problem-solving process to support a distributive leadership model for continuous improvement.

Health and Safety  

 The physical health and well-being of students and staff should be the primary focus as education leaders work to reopen and maintain safe schools and colleges. District, school and postsecondary leaders will need to communicate and promote healthy practices across the community. Many institutions addressed health and safety in 2020, but there continues to be a need to ensure the safety of everyone who arrives on a campus.

Focus teams will need access to data that will help them address questions like:

  1. What personal protective equipment is needed?
  2. Do facilities have the appropriate ventilation and equipment to reduce the spread of infectious diseases?
  3. How can institutions provide greater access to health care providers?
  4. Is there a need for public health education programs?

Infrastructure and Facilities 

There will be immediate needs for improving facilities, information technology and systems.

Pertinent questions:

  • What technology devices and connectivity are needed to allow for remote and blended learning?
  • What facility enhancements will allow for a safe learning and working environment? (HVAC, touchless water fountains and sinks, lighting)

The infrastructure and facility enhancements come with costs other than the purchase price. Focus teams must study costs such as connectivity and installation of equipment, maintenance and upkeep, training staff to properly use equipment, inventory of related supplies, and indirect costs associated with procurement, accounting and human resources.

Beyond this year, there must be a plan for sustaining these improvements to facilities and systems. Recurring costs will have to be included in future budgets. How will the district, school or college fund these?

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