With guidance from her department head, Irving Independent School District (Texas) Health and Physical Education Coordinator Sandi Cravens applied for and received $35,000 from her district’s Every Student Succeeds Act allocation.
After working with her supervisor and the district’s director of federal funding, Cravens researched the program she wanted to develop and gathered supporting material to create a proposal to purchase a set of IHT’s IHT Zone heart rate monitors and physical education assessment software in each of her district’s middle schools. Irving ISD funded Cravens request through the district’s ESSA’s Title IV allocation, which designates that funding be used for Student Support and Academic Enrichment.
Though the Department of Education is still approving ESSA implementation plans from several states, funding for the current school year has already been distributed. Physical educators are still adjusting to the new reality that they can — and must — seek out the funding that can only be used for specific programs.
“I was familiar already with Title IV but I didn’t pay too much attention to it because I assumed the money would go to another group of people in our district because that’s usually how it works,” Cravens said. “They discussed that a certain percentage of Title IV money had to be spent on the health and safety of kids. My boss, thankfully, said he knew exactly who to talk to about it.”
Irving ISD Division Director of Student Services Dr. Lance Campbell met with Fernando Natividad, Irving ISD’s director of federal funding and learned that a significant portion of the district’s Title IV funding hadn’t been allocated. Campbell left the meeting and immediately approached Cravens about developing a physical education program that could utilize the funding.
Natividad listened to and subsequently denied Cravens’ first request for funding because the proposal focused on the expansion of a program already in use rather than a new program, but he didn’t send her away empty-handed.
“He laid it all out for me,” Cravens said of the initial meeting. “The program has to impact academic achievement. It has to be a new program. There has to be equity across the district. We couldn’t just choose one or two schools.”
Under ESSA’s Title IV, funding recipients must meet several requirements with their purchases, depending on the amount. Title IV programs must:
- Provide students with a well-rounded education;
- Support safe and healthy students;
- Support the effective use of technology.
Armed with that knowledge and Natividad’s advice, Cravens focused on IHT’s Spirit System and IHT Zone wrist heart rate monitors, the technology she’d wanted to purchase previously but lacked the funds.
“I’ve always looked at the IHT technology, but because I didn’t have the money it went off my radar,” Cravens said. “When I had Title IV funding that I didn’t know I had…that started the ball rolling again. I think capabilities are beyond what the other heart rate monitors can do.”
Cravens researched the heart rate monitors and assessment software, pulled all of the information she gathered into a concise data sheet and met with Natividad a second time. Her plan included implementing the technology at each of the district’s eight middle schools and using the data and Spirit System reporting to demonstrate the correlation between improved fitness and increased academic performance. The research proved time well-spent.
“It probably took me a couple of hours to pull it all together, but I did spend some time watching videos so I would feel comfortable talking about everything if questions came up,” she said. “I focused on the link to academic development, how each element of the program could be measured and show the impact on academic performance. Five minutes into the meeting, he stopped me and approved the program.”
Irving ISD purchased eight class sets of IHT Zone heart rate monitors and will deploy one set at each of the district’s middle schools. Cravens said the majority of students take P.E. in sixth and seventh grade. The initial plans call for between 200 and 400 of each school’s 1,000 students to wear the heart rate monitors during the second semester.
Cravens said meeting the health-based requirements of Title IV proved to be the simplest part of the quest for funding.
“Health is the key foundation for what you will do in the rest of your life,” she said. “We just need to measure how a positive impact on a student’s health impacts the rest of the world at school: academics, attendance, etc.”
Seeking out ESSA funding
Nationally, the Department of Education distributed $400 million to states and U.S. Territories to fund Title IV-qualifying programs. Though that amount is only 25 percent, according to Education Week, of what educators originally hoped, schools are making the most with what they’ve been given. Using a formula based on student population, per-state Title IV funding ranges from $1.94 million to $46.4 million (California).
State education agencies received the authority to distribute the funding to districts as they saw fit. Some opted to spread the federal allocation evenly among the school districts — with each district receiving a minimum of $10,000 according to Education Week — and a few created a competitive application process for the funds.
As of Nov. 21, 2017 only seven states had distributed ESSA funding and eight others were in the process of distributing them, including Texas ($36.3 million in Title IV), Massachusetts ($6 million), Maryland ($5.9 million) and Ohio ($15 million).
Nine states have indicated they’ll distribute funding to districts by the end of December, and another five have announced plans to distribute funding in advance of the Sept. 2018 federal deadline. The remaining states and territories haven’t indicated when they plan to pass the funding along to the local school districts.
While aware of ESSA funding and Title IV specifically, Cravens nearly missed out for two reasons. First, she’s recently requested local funding for projects and received it.
“I would have enquired more in my district had I not just gotten funding for several other things I had asked for,” she said. “Those were paid for with local money.”
Second, physical educators hold a simple, now-outdated, mindset that P.E. teachers don’t deserve funding for new projects.
“We are trained in physical education and health to believe that we don’t deserve it,” she said. “It’s not on purpose. That’s just the way it usually works. So, we don’t ask for things and we assume, like I did, that we wouldn’t be eligible. I assumed the money would go to another group of people in our district because that’s usually how it works.”
That mindset became the perceived reality under the No Child Left Behind Act, which prioritized core curriculum subjects over electives such as art, music and P.E. ESSA re-establishes P.E. as a vital part of a well-rounded education, and P.E. teachers and administrators must train themselves to ask for appropriate funding.
Request ESSA funds for 2017-18 and 2018-19 purchases
The current school year is nearly halfway over, and while funding through TItle IV may still be available to make a 2017-18 purchase until Sept. 2018, teachers should start thinking ahead, building their requests for purchases when the new budget allocations are handed down.
“Reach out to the decision makers and let them know you have ideas for how we can spend the money and talk to them about programs that impact the children,” Cravens advises.
She also says it’s imperative that physical educators learn the specific language of what Title IV requires. That way, when questions arise, they can respond quickly and authoritatively.
“I should have done this,” she admits. “Just look up the Title IV funding wording so you are really clear about what it can be used for. That way, when someone says ‘oh, that doesn’t apply to you,’ you have it right there and you really know what it can be used for. Preparation is important.”
Physical education and health departments had to fight and search for funding under NCLB. While the subjects have gained traction and standing under ESSA, advocates must still hustle to access funding that may already be waiting in the local school district budget.