How to Make Your ESSER Funds Count (Before It’s Too Late)

Smore Team
4 min read
Mother and daughter reading a Smore newsletter from the school

Superintendents and district leaders know how important it is to seize every opportunity to address critical issues in their school or district. Emergency funds like the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund can help establish better systems and set educators up for long-term success. ESSER funds must be obligated by September 30, 2024—so school and district leaders need to act fast to take advantage of these resources. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore one avenue for using ESSER funds to address a major lasting impact of the pandemic: getting families engaged in their students’ academic success. 

Why investing in family engagement matters

One of the lingering impacts of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on in-person education is the lost opportunity to get a generation of families engaged in their school community. While students, families, and educators showed incredible resilience during the shift to remote learning, the transition back to in-school education has been anything but easy. 

recent survey by SchoolStatus on school-home communication revealed that less than 40% of families receive regular communication on how they can best support their child’s academic success. To support these families, it’s important for school and district leaders to invest in communication between school and home. Our recent survey on school-home communication revealed that while less than 40% of families get regular communication on how they can best support their child’s academic success, and over 53% expressed their desire for clear, actionable ways to support their students’ success. The best way for school and district leaders to provide this critical information is by ensuring tools and processes are in place to support strong communication between school and home. 

How ESSER can help recapture family engagement

By giving families the resources and support they really want, district leaders and superintendents have straightforward, common-sense opportunities to bridge the gap between school and home: improving communication. ESSER funds can be used to invest in improved outreach tools that bring families closer to the school community.

  • Help Families Learn Alongside Their Students. As students progress through the education system, so do their families. It’s up to educators to help families learn alongside their students, by providing families with resources about how best to engage with their child’s school and academic progress. Recurring outreach like school newsletters or teacher-led communications can help families grasp the importance of in-school education. And scheduling coaching sessions and virtual workshops allows families to engage directly with their students’ schools to support learning in school and at home. 
  • Overcome Language and Technology Barriers. Some of the families most impacted by sudden changes in their students’ education are families for whom English is not their primary language. What’s more, some families have trouble accessing school communications due to technology limitations. A one-size-fits-all approach to communication can fail to engage these families, and directly leads to worse student outcomes. District leaders can use ESSER funds to invest in communications resources that help educators connect with families in their preferred language. And a more robust communication platform that includes mailed outreach along with SMS, email, apps, and other channels is more likely to reach all families in the school community. 

Use ESSER funds to pay it forward for students and educators

Emergency funds don’t just mitigate the impacts of a crisis. They can help educators address systemic challenges and implement solutions that lead to better lasting outcomes. 

Looking for more ideas on how to make the most of ESSER funds? Our checklist 12 Ways to Use ESSER Funds to Engage Families has a wealth of ideas for how to use these funds to support student success now and in the future. And if you’re interested in learning how Smore can help you connect with families and keep them engaged in their student’s school community, get in touch for a live demo of our solutions.

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Psst: Did you know that Smore for Teams enables you to collaborate with colleagues on newsletters? Learn more about what Smore can do for your organization here

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Smore Team

Smore makes it fun and effortless to create engaging newsletters that keep families informed and involved in their children's education journey. At Smore, we're passionate about empowering K-12 educators, schools, and districts to foster strong connections with families through vibrant, user-friendly newsletters, easy-to-use technology, and resources from education experts.

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