ED Review (07/09/21)

ED Review logoHaving trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Bookmark and Share

July 9, 2021


American Rescue Plan 

This week, the Department announced approval of seven American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund state plans -- Arkansas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia -- and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to those jurisdictions.  The plans detail how states are currently using and intend to use ARP ESSER funds to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and classrooms and address the needs of students, including by equitably expanding opportunity for students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. 

Earlier this year, the Department distributed two-thirds of ARP ESSER funds, totaling $81 billion, to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The remaining third is being made available to states once plans are approved.  The approval of the seven state plans resulted in the release of nearly $6 billion in ARP ESSER funds.  This follows the release of $12 billion in ARP ESSER funds to these jurisdictions. 

“It is heartening to see, reflected in these state plans, the ways in which states and Washington, D.C., are planning to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to schools and communities, particularly as we move into the summer and look ahead to the upcoming academic year,” Secretary Cardona explained.  “From investing in summer learning and enrichment programs, to expanding access to COVID-19 vaccinations for school staff and students, to addressing the academic impacts of unfinished instructional time and increasing students’ access to school counselors and mental health services, the state plans that have been submitted to the Department lay the groundwork for the ways in which an unprecedented infusion of federal resources will be used to address the urgent needs of America’s children and build back better.” 

Among the highlights of the approved state plans:

  • Arkansas created an Arkansas Tutoring Corps that will develop a system to recruit, prepare, and support candidates to become qualified tutors who provide instruction or intervention for students to meet the academic needs of at-risk learners or those most impacted by lost instructional time.
  • Massachusetts is helping fund Acceleration Academies this summer, allowing students to learn and build skills working intensively on one subject in small, hands-on environments with excellent teachers.  (This will be a multi-year program impacting some 50,000 students statewide each year.)
  • Rhode Island significantly expanded summer learning options through its All-Course Network platform, which provides free instruction to students on topics from Advanced Placement (AP) classes to animation courses.
  • South Dakota is focusing on strategies designed to re-engage students that may have missed out on instruction and educational opportunities over the last year.
  • Texas plans to offer high-dosage tutoring, high-quality instructional materials, and job-embedded professional learning to help address the academic impact of lost instructional time.
  • Utah is funding evidence-based summer learning and after-school programming through a competitive grant process for school districts and community-based organizations supporting students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.
  • The District of Columbia’s Out of School Time grants enable community-based organizations to provide summer learning programs for students, designed to improve academic performance via evidence-based interventions. 

A total of 40 states have submitted their ARP ESSER state plans to the Department.  Staff are reviewing the plans expeditiously and are in contact with states to ensure plans meet necessary requirements in order to access remaining funding.  They are also in contact with states that have not yet submitted plans. 

In other ARP news:


TEACH Grant changes 

Last week, the Department announced changes to the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program, the only federal student aid grant program that directly benefits teachers working in high-need fields and underserved schools.  The agency implemented these changes as the Administration proposes further enhancements to the program through the American Families Plan, which would double the annual grant amount, increase program flexibilities, continue to address high grant-to-loan conversion rates, and ensure better outcomes for teachers and students. 

The TEACH Grant Program provides grants up to $4,000 each year to students who are completing or plan to compete coursework needed to begin a teaching career.  Unlike other federal student grants, it requires recipients to agree to complete four years of teaching in high-need fields and underserved schools as a condition for receiving the grant.  For each year that a TEACH Grant is awarded, the recipient must complete online counseling that explains the grant’s terms and conditions and sign an agreement in which the recipient agrees to teach in a high-need field at a school or educational service agency that serves students from low-income backgrounds.  If a recipient does not complete the required four years of teaching (i.e., the service obligation) or submit the required documentation eight years after graduating from or otherwise leaving the school where they received a TEACH Grant, the grant is converted into a loan, which must then be repaid in full, including interest accumulated from the disbursement date. 

With the changes:

  • TEACH Grant recipients will no longer have their grants converted to loans if they do not certify that they have begun teaching or intend to begin teaching within 120 days of graduating or withdrawing from school.
  • TEACH Grant recipients will also no longer have to certify their intent to complete the service obligation each year no later than October 1. 
  • If TEACH Grant recipients do not submit their teaching certification at the end of each year of teaching, their grants are not converted to loans until they do not have enough time to complete the required four years of service within the eight year deadline, though recipients are still expected to submit annual certifications.
  • The Department has expanded the reasons for which a TEACH Grant recipient’s obligation may be suspended for a period of time and may teach for less than a full school year but still receive credit for the full academic year.
  • The Department has simplified requirements to enable TEACH Grant recipients to have their undergraduate and graduate service obligations grouped together, when possible.
  • The required TEACH Grant Exit Counseling will inform recipients that the grant program servicer, FedLoan Servicing, will send detailed annual notifications to recipients that include requirements and timelines, documentation reminders, accrued interest estimates, and explanations about the reconversion process.
  • The reconsideration process is open to all TEACH Grant recipients whose grants have converted to loans, and there is relief available for recipients whose TEACH Grants were converted to loans in error. 

Also, the Department’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office launched new and improved digital forms and resources to help inform and guide TEACH Grant recipients. 

The program changes are reflected on the TEACH Grant Program web page at StudentAid.gov/teach. 


Puerto Rico trip 

Secretary Cardona visited Puerto Rico June 27-30.  As the first member of President Biden’s Cabinet to visit, he reinforced the Administration’s commitment to the island through the ARP and its continued support for Puerto Rico’s K-12 and higher education students, educators, and families. 

In San Juan, the Secretary met with the Governor, Interim Secretary of Education, House Speaker, Senate President, union leaders, and University of Puerto Rico system president and local campus chancellor.  Then, he traveled to several schools outside the capital city to engage directly with students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders (media advisory, staff interview, and video recap). 

Before the trip, the Secretary informed the Governor and Interim Secretary of Education that they have full access to federal education pandemic relief funds earmarked for the island and other education program grants.  These funds total nearly $4 billion, with $2 billion from the ARP, $1.2 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, and $662 million in Fiscal Year 2020 program grants. 


Also last week, across two Facebook pages, two Twitter accounts, Flickr, and YouTube, the Department highlighted this year’s cohort of U.S. Presidential Scholars.  Scholar profiles, presented in videos by region and state (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8), feature student photos (with many wearing their medallions) and words of inspiration.  A final video leads with remarks by the Secretary, followed by all 161 Scholar profiles.  Furthermore, the Scholars in the Arts collaborated virtually, creating a multi-disciplinary video montage: Salute to the Presidential Scholars.  Congratulations 2021 Scholars! 


A Homeroom blog commemorates the 57th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

In an op-ed in The Advocate, Secretary Cardona emphasized he is standing with LGBTQ+ students. 

In the inaugural Open Letter Session, Adi, an 18-year-old college student from California who is currently an early education teacher, writes a letter to his past self as a reflection of his journey. 

The Secretary also sat down with 2021 National Teacher of the Year Juliana Urtubey to get her thoughts on post-pandemic education. 

In case you missed it, the first installment of the Department’s Equity Summit Series is posted for viewing. 


  • By the end of the 2020-21 school year, 98% of public schools serving fourth- or eighth-grade were offering at least some in-person instruction, and 63% were offering full-time, in-person learning for all students (Secretary’s tweet and interactive dashboard).
  • On June 25, Secretary Cardona visited Howard University, where he toured a community COVID-19 vaccination clinic and urged students and members of the public to get vaccinated (tweets 1 and 2).
  • The latest “Lessons from the Field” webinar focused on indoor air quality and ventilation in schools.
  • As required by law, the Department issued annual determinations regarding states’ implementation of IDEA (fact sheet).  Each state was evaluated on key indicators under Part B (ages 3 through 21) and Part C (infants through age 2) and placed in one of four categories: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention, and needs substantial intervention.  All states fell within the top two groups. (Note: Determination letters were sent to states and are posted online.)
  • The Department announced approval of over 1,800 borrower defense to repayment claims for students who attended three institutions: Westwood College, Marinello Schools of Beauty, and Court Reporting Institute.  This is the first time the agency has announced approved borrower defense claims for those who attended institutions besides Corinthian Colleges, ITT Technical Institute, and American Career Institute since 2017.  Borrowers will receive 100% loan discharges, for approximately $55.6 million in relief.
  • In support of a comprehensive education agenda, the Secretary proposes six priorities and related definitions for use in discretionary grant programs.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a new funding opportunity to help schools close the homework gap: the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF).  Under ECF, eligible schools and libraries can apply for financial support to purchase connected devices, such as laptops and tablets, wi-fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve the unmet needs of students and staff at home during the COVID-19 emergency period.  The filing widow runs through August 13, 2021.
  • The bipartisan infrastructure package unveiled by the White House and Congress includes funding for purchasing electric school buses, replacing lead pipes in schools, and expanding broadband access.
  • The Department shared information about new political appointees who will lead parts of the agency. 


“The Build Back Better agenda starts with education….  [I] want to guarantee an additional four years of public education for every person in America, starting with providing two years of universal, high-quality preschool for three- and four-year-olds…  [T]hen I want to add two years of free community college for everyone…  My plan will also do more to invest in high-quality job training and apprenticeships in fast-growing sectors like public health, childcare, manufacturing, information technology, [and] clean energy so that all Americans can get the skills that employers want that lead to good middle-class and -- I make no apology -- union jobs.  It would also make strategic investments in the teacher pipeline.  Because even before the pandemic, our school system was 100,000 teachers short here in America, particularly in high-demand areas.  Our children are the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft, and our teachers are the ones that help them believe they can do anything.”

-- President Joseph Biden (7/7/21), from remarks delivered at McHenry Community College in Illinois on the Build Back Better agenda for working families 


The 2021 FSA Training Conference for Financial Aid Professionals (November 30-December 3) will again be delivered virtually, with dynamic keynote addresses, engaging general forums, and informative breakout sessions. 

ED Review is a product of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Communications and Outreach, State and Local Engagement

This newsletter contains hypertext links to information created and maintained by other public and private organizations.  These links are provided for the user’s convenience.  The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this outside information.  Furthermore, the inclusion of links is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed, or products or services offered, on these sites, or the organizations sponsoring the sites.

You are subscribed to ED Review for U.S. Department of Education.