Using ESSER to Expand Access to Digital Learning in Utah

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When Odyssey Charter School in American Fork, Utah was created in 2005, its founders emphasized direct instruction and limited use of technology. For 15 years, the school relied on transparency projectors and paper and pencil assignments. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, school leaders realized they would need to quickly upgrade their instructional strategies to support continued learning. 

With support from the state’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) set-aside fund, Odyssey Charter received a grant to expand the use of technology in the classroom. While the Digital Teaching and Learning grant program was initially started in 2016, funded with recurring state dollars, the Utah State Board of Education used its ESSER set-aside to expand the program to new grantees like Odyssey Charter. Thanks to the grant, Odyssey Charter provided one-to-one devices for every child in grades K-6, installed digital overhead projectors, and adopted new practices to better engage parents and families.  

At CCSSO’s 2023 Legislative Conference in March, Utah education leaders shared the impact of the Digital Teaching and Learning grant and illustrated how the state is using ESSER relief funding to support digital learning.  

In three short years, we now have one-to-one devices for every student in K-6.” - Brooke Austin, Assistant Director, Odyssey Charter School 

We were able to deploy in 2020 because a bipartisan group came together... and we created a digital teaching and learning master framework... and then we acquired legislative funding.” - Sydnee Dickson, Utah Superintendent of Public Instruction 

The needs for technology spanned across all of our public schools, and so our state board of education prioritized using ESSER state dollars to be able to make sure our charter schools had the resources and supports necessary.” - Sarah Young, Chief of Staff, Utah State Board of Education 

Watch the full video recording here, and read more about Utah’s Digital Teaching and Learning grant in CCSSO’s latest Road to Recovery report, How States Are Using Federal Relief Funds to Strengthen and Expand High-Quality Digital Learning. 

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