$190 billion in federal relief raised achievement — but not very much

Joanne Jacobs:

“The per-dollar returns of ESSER, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, measure up poorly in comparison with those of previously studied efforts to boost achievement,” writes Mahnken.

“The impact was small,” said Dan Goldhaber, the lead author of the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) study. “Only 20% of ESSER money was even earmarked for learning loss, and I don’t think there was a lot of oversight of whether that 20% was well spent.”

The Education Recovery Scorecard, led by Stanford sociologist Sean Reardon and Harvard economist Thomas Kane, found very similar results.

High-poverty districts that got significantly more funding per student showed stronger gains, said Goldhaber. But there was no attempt to track what kinds of spending were correlated with higher performance. “There are pretty big differences across states and districts in the degree of catch-up,” and we don’t know why.