Funding is Coming: Get Your Evidence Ready!

Here’s a sentence we don’t often get to say in education: the motherlode of funding is coming our way!

The recently-passed American Rescue Plan Act has set aside … brace yourself … over $2 BILLION for out-of-school time (OST) — after-school and summer — programs!

Not to mention, there is funding for community schools and all the wraparound services that so rarely get enough attention or funding but are absolutely critical for bolstering families in underserved communities.

This is a game changer for kids, families, schools, and OST/community school providers. 

But we can’t rest on our laurels and wait for the money to rain down on us. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) It’s time to be proactive!

I’ve had a lot of conversations with OST folks recently about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)’s evidence requirements.

Basically, if a school or district is going to purchase a program or services with federal funds (ie. Title I), they need to make sure that there is some evidence to show that what they’re purchasing is effective. 

Makes sense, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not as easy or straightforward as it sounds.

Many small, community-based, minority-owned organizations don’t have the capacity or funds to hire an evaluator. For me, this is a serious equity issue.

But for no money, there is a way to get your foot in the door.

To be deemed evidence-based, a program needs to meet one of the following levels:

Level 1: Strong Evidence
  • Experimental study (randomized control trial)
  • Minimum of 350 participants


This means that you have two comparable groups of kids and randomly assign which group gets the program or intervention.

​Then you compare the two and see if there are statistically significant differences that you can attribute to the program.

This is super difficult and expensive to accomplish in education! Not a lot of programs are at Level 1, especially in the family engagement world.

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Level 2: Moderate Evidence
  • Quasi- experimental study
  • Minimum of 350 participants


You still have two comparable groups, and one group is getting the program or intervention, but there was no random assignment, so there may be bias.

​You still compare see if there are significant differences between them, but you can’t say that the program or intervention​ caused those differences.

This is a little easier to accomplish but still requires a lot of resources!


Level 3: Promising Evidence

  • Correlational study
  • No minimum number of participants


Here you are compare the outcomes of two groups of kids with some fancy statistical measures to try to account for any possible bias. 

You are still looking for significant differences, but at Level 3, we can only say that there is a relationship between the intervention and those outcomes. 

This is where a lot of our family engagement and OST programs will eventually land. While not as rigorous as the first two levels, this is a much more feasible study design.

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Level 4: Demonstrates a Rationale
  • Logic model of your program
  • Citations of studies of similar programs that have had an impact
  • Plan for evaluating your program


For level 4, you present a collection of supporting evidence that shows that it’s likely that your program has an impact on the kids and families you serve and also that you’re planning to study it. 

This is where we can get our foot in the door! Level 4 says that you have reason to believe your program makes an impact and gives you time to study it, while opening you up for most federal funding opportunities.


For most programs, Level 4 is a natural place to start. With a little bit of guidance and planning, you can be on your way to accessing Title funds!

Now, the American Rescue Plan Act does not seem to specify that spending is limited to evidence-based programs … but why hurt your chances of getting access to this lifeline?

Now is the time to position your program for maximum benefit from this upcoming funding opportunity. 

If you want to get more information about Level 4 and becoming evidence-based, sign up for the FREE mini-course that Tamara Hamai and I developed.

Each week you’ll get emails with videos and graphic organizers to help you get ready to become an evidence-based organization!