302 Thoughts Fireside Chat: ESSER Funds 101–Listen to Our Chat About How School Leaders Should Be Using ESSER Money

302 Thoughts Fireside Chat: ESSER Funds 101–Listen to Our Chat About How School Leaders Should Be Using ESSER Money

How School Leaders Should Be Thinking About ESSER Spending

Education is a people business–a community built on the premise that through excellence in teaching and learning students can and will learn. However, the road to learning is fraught with ups, downs, obstacles, and challenges. No one expected the tumult of Covid19. The path that we were on was shut down, and educators had to find a whole new route. We commend teachers, support staff, and school leaders for pivoting quickly and working tirelessly to educate students. But, we’re just getting started. 

Now, months after the pandemic first hit, in an industry completely disrupted and upended, we find ourselves with an influx of money to help students in an accelerated fashion and to minimize the devastating impact of the pandemic. The big question looming is how best to spend our new ESSER funds?

For us at TheSchoolHouse302, we go back to where the greatest impact lies and that’s with people. Investing in our people first, developing their capacity, helping and enabling them to learn and grow so that they are better equipped, is the key to success. Below, you’ll find our model for investing in people–pay the people, get them what they need to be successful, and develop them as experts in their domain. We need to retool our thinking around money and how we use it. One tip for that is to consider that our staff are builders–builders of the future by teaching our students, supporting them socially and emotionally, and offering them unique learning experiences.

This is what we call a learning culture, and it’s why principals who want to build a learning culture need to think about all of their pots of money in these three primary buckets. This culture doesn’t just happen, though; it is a concerted effort to empower our teachers–as expert builders–for a sustainable and productive future. The alternative is to spend the money–new and old–on contractors, shiny new programs, and other stuff that simply goes away when the money runs out. 



Using ESSER Funds to Invest in Your School’s Future

Administrators must ask, what investments will yield the highest returns? When considering staff members, be sure to have a 360° view, including administrators, instructional staff, support staff, and non-Instructional personnel. Schools need an all hands-on-deck approach, which we describe in great detail in our book, Passionate Leadership

Professional learning should be dynamic, not only focused on equipping the educator with skills, but also diving deep into self-care and ways they can fill their own cup each day. There should also be a clear distinction between training and professional learning. There are incredible products that can definitely help students learn and assist teachers in the classroom. But, consider services and products that help staff to learn beyond training them to use a new tool–a new way to rejuvenate and get better at the work, now and into the future. We think highly of the following purchases that school leaders might make with ESSER funds because we believe that they can be impactful as we ask ourselves this critical question: what investments will yield the most sustainable returns? 

    • Great educators are lifelong learners, but that doesn’t mean that they have had access to some of the most impactful experiences for lifelong learning, including a mastermind group designed to lead better. Check out Danny Bauer’s mastermind, Better Leaders Better Schools, and join a group. Also, get his new book and don’t miss our review of it
    • An investment that we find captivating since it solves so many common problems in the classroom is Organized Binder. Organization, goal setting, productivity, and more are all skills, and as we seek to address unfinished learning, we need our students to be organized and ready for what we put in front of them. 
    • We also dug into what is called the fitbit of education, TeachFX. Great teachers design lessons where the learners are the ones who are working the hardest within the classroom, not the teacher. Put simply, TeachFX measures teacher talk versus student talk. Check it out. 
    • It wouldn’t be an episode of 302 Thoughts without a book recommendation or two. We simply can’t ignore the expansive research found in neuroscience and how that impacts the classroom. As much as Joe tried not to mention a particular book, three titles were dropped quick:

One thing we learned after No Child Left Behind is that money is not the answer for sustainable outcomes if not used wisely. In fact, hiring more personnel and filling voids can lead to unwanted vacancies in just a couple short years. Invest in your people, help them develop and grow by asking them what they need and want. They are the professionals in the classroom and can provide tremendous insight. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

PS — If you have a topic you want us to cover or need recommendations on books to read in a particular area of leadership, just send us a tweet or an email. 

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Dear DE School Leaders, 

We hope all is well with you. 

This week, our friends at TheSchoolHouse302 are hosting a live event, much like their FocusED podcast, where they’ll be live for a conversation about school funding. They will be available for questions after about a 20 minute recorded chat. The topics covered this month: funding 101 for principals, including a framework for thinking about spending, how ESSER money should support capacity, and a product review of some of their favorite services and solutions right now. 

We hope you can join us on Wednesday at 7:30PM EST. The registration information is below. Bring a friend. 

302 Thoughts Fireside Chat — School Funding for Principals — Live Event — July 14th @ 7:30PM EST

July — Spending/budgeting/ESER funds — Danny Bauer


Organized Binder 

August — Post-pandemic student engagement 

Differentiation is the king — Dwight Carter 

Each one is a bit redefined for users, like differentiation is really about outcomes


Sept. — The 10 surefire ways to build an SEL-focused school culture — 

Taking Social-Emotional Learning Schoolwide: The Formative Five Success Skills for Students and Staff

by Thomas R. Hoerr

Oct — Richard Shell — 5 tips for amplifying your ambitious goals so that they are unstoppable 

Conscious Code: Lead with Your Values. Advance Your Career 



Feedback for Impact

As the late Grant Wiggins wrote, “less teaching plus more feedback is the key to achieving greater learning.” This is as true for educators as it is for the students we work with. In this issue, we will explore the key characteristics of effective, actionable feedback—whether provided in the classroom, following a teacher observation, or during a coaching conversation—and how schools can create cultures of effective feedback and make the most of feedback for growth. Articles will look at feedback protocols and routines; evidence-based formative assessment strategies; best practices for differentiating and delivering feedback; and how to make feedback stick.

Submit a manuscript for this issue.

Deadline: November 1, 2021