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July 10 -- The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Department of Education (ED), invites comments by September 8, 2023 regarding the National Implementation Study of Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Title IV, Part A).

The goal of the study is to develop a national picture of how states and districts are implementing the Title IV-A program. Survey data were collected from states and districts in the spring and summer of 2022, as intended. OMB also approved an optional follow-up district survey. However, since OMB cleared this data collection, the Title IV-A program was significantly impacted by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which provides an additional $1 billion in Stronger Connections grants (SC) via Title IV-A to enhance states’ and districts’ ability to address acute school safety and student mental health needs in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. To better align the study’s data collection plans and timeline to this recent development—Congress passed BSCA in June 2022, with funds only starting to flow to states in the fall—IES is requesting approval to conduct a follow-up state survey in lieu of the previously-approved optional district survey. No other changes are requested.

The justification for the 2022 data collection was detailed in the original approved Supporting Statement. To briefly recap, Title IV-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), resulted from a consolidation of several programs as part of a congressional effort to allow more state and local decision-making about use of funds. Title IV-A encompasses three broad program priorities that are intended to improve students’ academic achievement by increasing districts’ capacity to (1) provide all students with a well-rounded education, (2) ensure that the school environment is conducive to learning, and (3) enhance and personalize learning through technology. The purpose of the data collection was to understand how states and districts were implementing the Title IV-A program, particularly the ways in which it supported school systems as they sought to recover from the pandemic during the 2021–2022 school year. To date, the study has completed fielding and analyses of the 2022 approved surveys of state and district Title IV-A coordinators, with findings expected to be released in 2024.
 
Congress’s passage of BSCA in June 2022 provided additional funding for activities authorized by Section 4108 of the Title IV-A program. Via Title IV-A and BSCA-SC, state educational agencies were to award competitive subgrants to high-need local educational agencies to promote safer, more inclusive learning environments and support the social, emotional, physical, and mental health of students. There is strong interest from the Department and Congress to understand how quickly and effectively states have distributed these funds and what kinds of needs have been targeted by the subgrant competitions. The best way to address this need is through a follow-up state survey of Title IV-A coordinators in late fall 2023/early winter 2024 since most will have recently awarded BSCA-SC funds to districts at the time the survey is administered. But because awarded districts will not yet have had time to use their BSCA-SC funds, it is likely too soon to follow-up with a district survey of Title IV-A coordinators. Thus, this package requests approval to revise the study’s original data collection activities, approved in March 2022, by replacing the optional follow-up survey of a representative sample of district Title IV-A coordinators with a follow-up survey of the census of state Title IV-A coordinators. Doing so would enable IES to generate timely, policy-relevant information on how quickly states have been able to set-up competitions using Title IV-A BSCA-SC funds and to what extent they are following the Department’s recommendations for directing these funds to districts in the first year of the program.  
 
To study the new BSCA-SC program, as part of Title IV-A implementation, the study team, Abt Associates (Abt), with which IES has contracted to conduct this evaluation, will administer a 2023-24 Follow-up Survey of State Title IV-A Coordinators. Information requested in this survey will answer the following questions:
 
-- Given the urgency of signing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) into law, how quickly did states distribute Stronger Connections (BSCA-SC) grant funds to districts?
-- To what extent did states define high-need districts using criteria that the Department recommended in its guidance to states?
-- Did states set key priorities for districts’ use of BSCA-SC subgrant funds that reflect the Department’s recommended use of funds?
-- What challenges have states faced in carrying out BSCA-SC’s requirements and the Department’s recommendations?
 
The study team will administer the survey to 56 state Title IVA coordinators, including representatives from Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and the Outlying Areas (American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).  
 
T4PA Center: https://t4pacenter.ed.gov/
Draft survey instrument and technical documentation: https://www.regulations.gov/docket/ED-2023-SCC-0125/document
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-14436

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