5 ARP Resources That Center Equity

Public education is at an inflection point. Learn how to dream big about the future of education in America.

By Hana Beach

You may not know it, but public education is at an inflection point. On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law and enacted a historic investment in America’s public education. ARP’s Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding is the largest investment in schools ever made by the federal government. This funding allows us to dream big about the future of education, so we’ve compiled a list of our favorite resources that help us envision an equitable school system. 

Dive into these best of resources and get to work rethinking high school.

Remote learning has shown us that not all students have the same access to resources. How can we ensure that it doesn’t affect their ability to learn effectively?  

Why it matters: Unequal levels of access to resources can affect how students engage at school. This gap has only widened in light of COVID-19. It’s important to meet students where they’re at—meaning, we need to provide learning options for students at all access levels.

When designing distance learning curriculum and activities, consider the challenges students may be facing in and out of the classroom:

  • Administer accessibility surveys to examine whether students need additional support
  • Build trusting relationships with students and create safe spaces where they can talk about any challenges they may be facing at home
  • Bring the conversation on equitable teaching practices to your reopening plans

Extra Credit: Tips on Creating an Equitable Classroom During Remote Learning

School communities across the nation are looking to graduate from talk of representation and move towards building equity. 

Why It Matters: Building diversity in education for diversity’s sake isn’t enough. While bringing more BIPOC teachers to the classroom is a great first step, we now need to be asking ourselves: how can we push for equity in our classrooms—and create tangible change? 

Change looks like honest discussions where students and teachers can relate to one another because of shared identities and experiences. It looks like culturally relativist approaches to teaching that promote acceptance and understanding of cultures different from one’s own. It looks like facing our implicit biases and encouraging students to do the same.

Together, we can all create change by building more diversity in education:

  • Teach Black history year-round
  • Bring in guest speakers from different cultural backgrounds to share their stories and experiences
  • Create lesson plans that feature BIPOC voices to help students understand and reflect upon others’ perspectives as well as their own

Extra Credit: Tips for Making Classrooms More Inclusive

Restorative justice circles—a group discussion tool—in breakout rooms, team meetings, and other group settings can help open up vulnerable conversations. 

Why It Matters: Employing restorative practices when facilitating class discussions offers a step towards building a more inclusive education—one that includes all voices. 

In order to help students candidly open up about the challenges they’re facing, we first need to create safe spaces. We can use restorative practices to make judgment-free zones possible. Here are a few guidelines for restorative justice circles to follow: 

  • Situate everyone into a literal circle around a centerpiece that’s important to all group members (for example, a relevant book)
  • Implement community agreements that encourage all students to share openly
  • Guide group discussion by prompting topics of conversation

Extra Credit: Ways to Implement Restorative Practices in the Classroom

The 74 recently published almost a dozen essays with ideas for using ARP on Flipboard. The collection features 11 essays on how to spend ARP funding responsibly, help students most barred from success, and tap into the ingenuity of your school community. 

Why It Matters: Unprecedented ARP funding demands collaboration and a desire to work together to use funds to transform education for the better. By crowdsourcing advice from education leaders across America—and reading their insights—we can learn:

  • How to spend money to push equity forward
  • How to create college and career pathways to engage students
  • How to support students from all backgrounds

Extra Credit: To view the breakdown of funding by state, check out the tool offered in this analysis by the Learning Policy Institute.

When XQ School Brooklyn LAB faced the task of reopening, they rose to the challenge by making a plan to accommodate all students and families right from the start. Their success shows that accommodating learners makes schools stronger.

Why It Matters: ARP includes funding specifically set aside for groups of students who may need extra support—for example, students experiencing homelessness. Some ways schools can use those funds to accommodate students effectively include:

  • Training educators on the particular needs of the students they’re serving
  • Building out infrastructure both in and out of school to make it easier for students to attend classes
  • Investing in robust community collaboration

Extra Credit: This High School Is Sharing How to Make Remote Learning Work for Every Student

Want to learn more about how the American Rescue Plan can impact high schools across the country? Want to know what this funding means, how much money is coming to your state, and how you can get involved and participate in rethinking high school? 

Check out XQ’s hub on all things ARP at Choose High School Now.