The U.S. Department of Education released non-regulatory guidance on Oct. 31 to help states, districts, and schools provide students with a more well-rounded education under Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants (SSAE). The grants are part of the education system’s Title IV program.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. (Courtesy Photo)

The new grant program is in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and focuses on safe and healthy students; technology integration into schools to improve teaching and learning; and a well-rounded education that includes music, the arts, social studies, environmental education, computer science, and civics.

“Our future depends on how well we prepare every young person to find their path to success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. during a press call. “I’m confident that students will make great use of the opportunities they’ll gain.”

King said the guidance allows educators the flexibility to be more creative and looks forward to the grant making educational opportunities available in school communities that have typically lacked courses in STEM, music, the arts, and language. He also noted that even though “many more” Blacks and Latinos are going to college, only 57 percent of Black and Latino students have access to the full range of STEM compared to 71 percent of Whites.

“These inequalities begin early and have long-lasting affects across the student’s lives,” he said. “Every young person should have this in their own school.”

Through this guidance, the Department of Education provides resources, tools, and examples of strategies to implement the SSAE grant program while also acknowledging that SSAE funds may not be sufficient to independently fund innovative activities, such as accelerated learning opportunities including Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, supporting re-entry programs and transition services for justice-involved youth, and building technological capacity and infrastructure.

“Our hope would be that when Social Studies folks look at the guidance they will think about how they’ll use Title I and Title II dollars to support a well-rounded education,” King said. “We’re going to continue to work with Congress on the budget agreement after the election. Certainly resources will be a challenge because use of Title IV funds is so expansive.”

Tracy Weeks, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, said she is looking forward to more schools transitioning from print to digital education. “By using digital content, classroom teachers can help students learn by connecting them with grade level content, in the mode the student is comfortable with,” she said. “ provide students with access to blended learning.”

To facilitate this, she noted that schools will need access to broadband, applications, educators who learn this new approach to teaching, and leaders who are willing and able to support digital programs in their schools.

Several other agencies joined the press call including the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the Healthy Schools Campaign, and the Arts Education Partnership.

“This is the education that the 21st century requires,” said Tim Shriver, a former high school Social Studies teacher who now works with CASEL. “I hope that people don’t read this guidance as a piece meal series of separate topics. We hope people will see it as an opportunity to integrate arts, school climate, integrate social-emotional to a whole child perspective in everything we do.”