Florida last week became the last state to request the last-third of $7 billion in federal pandemic assistance – about $2.3 billion – approved for state schools under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) adopted in March.
Two days after U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy & Programs Ian Rosenblum asked state officials on Oct. 4 why they missed repeated deadlines – the original was June 7 – in applying for ARPA Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, the state’s Department of Education (FDOE) filed its request
FDOE’s 432-page application includes a letter from Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona maintains the request was filed late because Florida opened schools earlier than most states and had a massive data bloc to sort through in building its application.
“As Florida has been a national leader in offering in-person instruction five-days-a-week, we were able to assess 94% of our students in person for statewide, standardized assessment in Spring 2021,” Corcoran wrote.
The application charts a “COVID-19 slide” in comparing assessment scores from 2019 to 2021, with significant declines in algebra and geometry in the upper grades and mathematics for third- to eighth grade students.
Florida’s Black and low-income students, as well as those with disabilities, have seen the most significant declines in academic achievement according to FDOE.
“Among low-income families, the majority are not scoring at grade-level for language arts, math, algebra or geometry,” FDOE notes, adding before the pandemic, 50% or more of low-income family students achieved grade level in math and algebra while this year, just 36% did so – a 15% decline from 2019. In geometry, 33% of low-income students scored at grade level, a 13% drop from 2019.
The DOE documents similar “COVID-19 slide” in third- through eighth grade students from low-income families in mathematics with only 39% scoring at grade level, 12% below 2019 achievement levels.
“The data reinforces the need to accelerate learning in reading and math in order to close gaps negatively impacted by the pandemic,” DOE’s application maintains.