U.S. Department of Education Announces Engage Every Student Initiative to Ensure Every Student Has Access to High-Quality Learning

To support President Biden’s call last week for schools to use American Rescue Plan funds to support summer learning and afterschool programs, the U.S. Department of Education is announcing the Engage Every Student Initiative. The Initiative will help communities utilize American Rescue Plan funds alongside other state and local funds to ensure that every child who wants a spot in a high-quality out-of-school time (OST) program has one. This announcement coincides with National Summer Learning Week.

“Quality out-of-school time programs have always supported students’ academic, social, and emotional growth, but as we recover from the pandemic, these opportunities have never mattered more,” said Secretary Miguel Cardona. “We need bold action, especially for low-income students and students of color who have historically struggled to access quality afterschool programs and rich summer learning experiences. This new partnership cements the Department of Education’s commitment to ensuring that more students have access to meaningful, enriching out-of-school programming, not just some of the day, but all day, all year round.”

The U.S. Department of Education is announcing a public-private partnership with five coordinating organizations: the Afterschool Alliance, The National Comprehensive Center, the National League of Cities, The National Summer Learning Association, and AASA, the School Superintendents Association who will work with more than 20 allied organizations to ensure that students have access to these critical learning and development opportunities year-round.

The Initiative will encourage and support schools, districts, local elected officials, local government agencies, community-based organizations, states, and others connected to out-of-school time efforts to take up ED’s call to action on universal access, and to encourage the utilization of American Rescue Plan resources in addition to other federal, state, and local resources to support access to out-of-school time as an evidence-based strategy to support student recovery from lost instructional time during the pandemic.

The National partners will provide coordinated support by organizing the technical assistance offerings in one centralized, readily available location to navigate for those who are not familiar with particular interventions or programs.

Secretary Cardona will make the announcement in opening remarks at an Engage Every Student event today at the U.S. Department of Education. This will be followed by pre-recorded remarks by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and panels that include educational leaders from various partner organizations. Following the program, students from high schools and colleges from across the country, will participate in the event and in an ice cream social. The event will conclude with closing remarks from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten. A livestream of the event can be found here.

“At the Department of Labor, we are committed to providing young people with workforce opportunities that put them on the road to success. I am proud of programs such as Workforce Pathways for Youth, as well as the Department of Education’s Engage Every Student Initiative, that expand summer jobs, career exploration, apprenticeships, and so much more. I am grateful for the partnerships—in and out of government—that make this work possible,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.

This announcement builds on the more than two decades of work to build and grow the 21st Century Community Learning Center Initiative that began in 1997. Now through the American Rescue Plan funds, schools and districts are further able to expand access to out-of-school time programs that support student learning and have lasting, positive impacts on youth development. Today, the Department is also announcing new resources to support out-of-school time including:

A $3-4 million dollar contract that will be awarded in FY2023 to provide best practices in program implementation for summer and out-of-school time.
A new tool from the Institute of Education Sciences to support states, districts or programs in building and using evidence to implement afterschool and summer learning programs. This tool is part of IES’ Evidence-based Practices for Renewal and Recovery, which curates evidence, tools, and other materials from a wide range of sources—showcasing the use of evidence-based practices in this period of recovery and renewal to improve outcomes for all learners, especially those that education systems have historically underserved.
Importantly, this initiative centers on elevating and expanding quality out-of-school time programs. Quality out-of-school time programs are well-planned and well-implemented and center opportunities for enrichment and social engagement alongside academic achievement, helping students build connections to their peers and in their schools.