Teachers using the summer to identify new funding sources to purchase valuable new tools for their programs should give themselves their own homework assignment: study the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
Those focused on student health and wellness should pay particular attention to ESSA Title IV, Part A. ESSA distributes $1.17 billion in federal grant funding that supplements the primary Department of Education budget.
- A well-rounded education
- Safe and healthy schools
- Effective use of technology
A growing volume of academic research shows that student wellness, most commonly incorporated into the health or physical education curriculum, ties directly into classroom performance. As a result, teachers and administrators constantly search for tools that can detail student fitness and academic performance.
Many have implemented the IHT Spirit System®, including the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitor, to empower students to increase their fitness, which sparks academic development. Physical education coordinators and curriculum managers say knowing how to navigate the district funding process will be essential to putting together a successful proposal.
First, said IHT’s Eric Larson, himself a former PE teacher and Coordinator at Denver Public Schools, teachers and coordinators must study the ESSA language.
“Whether you’re a teacher or a coordinator, it’s important that you stay up-to-date on what is happening with ESSA Title IV, Part A,” he said.
Mario Reyna, the PE coordinator in the McAllen (Texas) Independent School District, has used a portion of his district’s ESSA Title IV, Part A allocation to fund Spirit System purchases at several of his district’s campuses. He encourages teachers and coordinators to follow two important tips.
Know the district funding coordinators
“Study your district’s system,” he said. “Each district’s system to request funding is different, so you need to understand it and get yourself in there. The more you educate yourself about ESSA , the easier it will be.”
Reyna considers ESSA the same way he views large grants districts receive. It’s a significant source of funding and unlike the former PEP grants, the funding is not reserved for health and physical education.
“You have to treat ESSA funding like it’s a really big grant that your district receives,” he said. “Everyone wants a piece of that money.”
“While focused on a well-rounded education, health and PE is just one of the 17 subject areas that qualify for ESSA Title IV, Part A funding,” Larson explained.
Be ready with proposals that can be approved
“I am always ready with a proposal if they say they have ESSA money left over,” Reyna said. “ sent me an email that there was $20,000 left over and what could I do with it? Right away, I sent her a proposal. Perhaps she’s sending that same email to other departments, but I don’t want to miss out on it, so I am going to be ready to request money when given the opportunity.”
It’s important that coordinators advocating for PE teachers know what ESSA requires in a program. Irving ISD Health and PE Coordinator Sandi Cravens saw one proposal get sent back before getting approved for an initial $35,000 purchase that brought IHT ZONE monitors to each of her district’s middle schools.
“I went back and did some more research,” she said. “The program has to impact academic achievement. It had to be a new program. There has to be equity across the district. For the second meeting, I was ready to give as much detail as needed. I had videos. I had a one-page document outlining everything. Once I explained the program and the capabilities it offered, he decided that was enough and approved the program.”
Reyna said doing the necessary homework to build a successful proposal takes time, but it’s time well spent when students start to see the benefits, both with their fitness and in their academic performance.
“It’s a little bit time consuming to do the request, but at the end of the day, I keep thinking that this is like a mini-grant,” he said. “Wellness will improve academics without a doubt.”