PDE's ESSER/GEER Extra Vol.2

Enclosed below is PDE's ESSER/GEER Extra Vol.2 , which was recently distributed. The PDE Extra series will also be cross-posted on the PASBO ESSER site.

Of special note for this release:
  • See the Allowable ESSER fund use determination process (a three part test) that PDE will follow in evaluating your ARP plan submissions. It is very similar to USDOE's issuance this past May. Both slides and a video are included. As a college professor may point to material that perhaps will be on the next test, everyone should take note of this three-part process. Following this guidance will be critical to help you cover the necessary components that need to be articulated for a plan submission approval.
  • Full service Community schools and ESSER fund use is covered.
  • Additional and linked information for PDE's evidence-based interventions and their resource center is included.

As is the case in most LEA's, ESSER plan submissions require coordination and cooperation across district leadership, departments, and schools. These resources can be shared and leveraged with staff to better inform all of those working towards improved student outcomes and the effective use of one-time ESSER funds. This is a tremendous amount of work to plan, write, submit and implement these programs. It is hoped that sharing the work-load lift with better informed key staff will make that task easier, and improve outcomes.


ESSER/GEER Extra, Volume 2

As you work to implement your federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will continue to provide resources and information via ESSER/GEER Extra to help guide your decision-making processes.

Visit our ESSER/GEER Extra archive on the PDE website to keep track of and reference prior messages, and remember to visit the What's New section of PDE's website for a list of the latest COVID-19 updates and information.

The second edition of ESSER/GEER Extra highlights the following topics: allowable uses, community schools, and evidence-based interventions.


How do I know if my intended use of ARP ESSER funds is allowable?

The United States Department of Education (USDE) has issued guidance that articulates a three-part test to determine the appropriateness of proposed ESSER expenditures.

The three-part test includes the following:

  1. Is the use of funds intended to prevent, prepare for, or respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including its impact on the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students?
  2. Does the use of funds fall under one of the authorized uses of ESSER or GEER funds?
  3. Is the use of funds permissible under the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR Part 200)? In particular, is it necessary and reasonable for the performance of the ESSER or GEER award?

This test should help guide your LEA's decision-making processes, as well as help you prepare your applications for ARP ESSER funds. Watch a brief webinar to learn more about this three-part test and access the three-part test slides. Additionally visit the USDE's website for answers to frequently asked ESSER/GEER questions.


Can I use my ARP ESSER funds to implement full-service community schools?

Yes. The USDE has reiterated that ARP ESSER funds may be used to expand existing full-service community schools or implement the model in new schools. Additionally, LEAs may use funds to develop or expand in-school student support centers that provide mentoring, counseling, and social and emotional learning supports to students in individual or group sessions. More information regarding the use of ESSER funds to support full-service community schools is available on the USDE's Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on Full-Service Community Schools webpage.


What are evidence-based interventions, and how do I use them in my ESSER planning?

The ARP Act requires LEAs to address student learning loss and respond to the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students, particularly groups of students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, through the implementation of evidence-based interventions.

When building, expanding, or enhancing programs, such as summer enrichment and comprehensive after-school programs, the ARP Act requires LEAs to rely on evidence-based interventions. The term "evidence-based" is defined as having the meaning in section 8101(21) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Under ESEA, "evidence-based" means an activity, strategy, or intervention that:

  • Demonstrates a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes based on:
    • Strong evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study ("tier 1");
    • Moderate evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study ("tier 2"); or
    • Promising evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias ("tier 3"); or
  • Demonstrates a rationale based on high-quality research findings or positive evaluation that such activity, strategy, or intervention is likely to improve student outcomes or other relevant outcomes and includes ongoing efforts to examine the effects of such activity, strategy, or intervention ("tier 4").


As you develop your ARP ESSER plans, please consult PDE's Evidence Resource Center (ERC), which was designed by Pennsylvania educators and some of the nation's foremost education scholars. The ERC identifies strategies backed by rigorous research and allows educators to filter these strategies based on federal evidence tiers, school type or grade level, specific student groups, and other factors. Access a slide deck to learn more about the ERC.


Who are my federal programs contacts?

As your LEA prepares your ARP ESSER application(s), don't hesitate to contact your regional coordinator in the PDE Division of Federal Programs for additional support or guidance. Your PDE federal programs contacts can answer your ARP ESSER questions, assist you with eGrants permissions, and help you on all federal program fronts.


Topics for Future ESSER/GEER Extras

Do you have questions you would like answered, or topics you would like covered in future editions of ESSER/GEER Extra? If so, please email your ideas to:


Additionally, we'd like to know about how your LEA has successfully implemented, expanded, or improved a program or supports using ESSER or GEER funding (or plans to do so)! We want to highlight and share innovative, creative, and successful uses of federal COVID-relief funds to inspire and assist LEAs in their planning and implementation. Please send your success stories (or plans) to: Thank you in advance!