Funding Mindsets for Leaders, Teachers, Students, and Families

Our Mindset series continues with advice from Dr. Dustin Bindrieff of Mindset Works on how to secure funding for initiatives to promote growth mindset in your district.

Research confirms “A child’s beliefs about learning profoundly shape that child’s experiences at school and ultimately their life trajectory.” Unfortunately, a 2016 Education Week poll found that while 98% of teachers surveyed felt a growth mindset in the classroom will lead to improved achievement, only 20% of teachers believed they were good at cultivating a growth mindset and fully 95% of those surveyed want more training in the area of growth mindset.

In order to help schools and districts meet this need, we wanted to share with you available sources that can help fund professional development, materials, and resources to better support teachers. Much of the following information is adapted from an article written by Ulrich Boser.

As Boser explains, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers education leaders several new pathways to promote student success. In particular, this legislation provides increased flexibility to design programs and schools that embrace “well-rounded education,” as well as providing state and local agencies with room to allocate funding to social-emotional learning programs and policies.

This article focuses on federal funding categories, but it is important to note that many states now include concepts such as resilience and perseverance in their definitions of college and career readiness. Even more states include social and emotional skills—including collaboration, social awareness, and responsible decision making—in their definitions. Exploring these pathways in your state and district’s funding may provide additional local funding streams to capitalize on.

Possible Funding Options to Explore

This chart summarizes funding options and how the funding in each area can be applied to provide “learning mindset” programs and training. Below, I will expand further on each area.

Title IV, Part A of ESSA includes the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, which focus on improving school conditions so that students feel safe and ready to learn. This provides the groundwork for educators to implement evidence-based programs, practices, and interventions that support learning mindsets and effective learning strategies.

Additionally, in 2016, the Department of Education issued new guidance describing how these funds can be used “for activities in social-emotional learning, including interventions that build resilience, self-control, empathy, persistence, and other social and behavioral skills.” These revisions replaced references to “core academic subjects” with language calling for a “well-rounded education” for all students. As Boser explains, the term “well-rounded education” appears more than 20 times in the law. This gives educators local control to develop their own definitions of “well-rounded education.”

Each year the federal government invests heavily in developing teacher quality and professional development under Title II. These funds can be used to provide the training on growth mindset that 95% of teachers told Education Week they are interested in. Title II funds allow schools to use these funds to train educators to help students develop the “skills essential for learning readiness and academic success.” Additionally, up to 3% of Title II funds can be reserved to invest in principal and school leadership.

Title I funds are another valuable funding stream many schools and districts have used to provide their staff with training and materials to educate students on a growth mindset. These funds can be used to provide professional development to staffs working with at-risk students.

Under ESSA, states must reserve at least 7 percent of their Title I, Part A funds for school improvement purposes. States and districts can use this to focus on creating a school culture that supports a growth mindset and as a lever for increased student achievement. Title I, Part A funds include significant flexibility, so schools can now dedicate funds to “any activity that supports the needs of students in the school.” As The National Center for Education Statistics explains More than 56,000 public schools currently receive grants through Title I, Part A.  Yet, few districts are using these funds to support students’ learning mindsets and skills in a targeted, coherent, and systemic way.

ESSA requires districts to reserve at least 1 percent of their Title I funds for parent and family engagement activities, including for “activities that districts identify as appropriate.”  Boser suggests districts use the funds “to help parents understand the value of learning mindsets and provide them with training on ways to help their children gain learning skills.” Interestingly, recent research shifting parents’ mindsets has been shown to improve academic achievement of their students.

Boser stresses the need to be deliberate and careful in the application of this powerful research. As he explains, “...there are clear dangers associated with going too far, too fast with a reform. And in education, history shows that there are risks associated with an aggressive push for new policies and interventions that reach beyond what is known to be effective.” These concerns echo warnings about Mindset research recently expressed by Carol Dweck and John Hattie.

Academic mindset research is providing educators with research-based interventions that can improve student motivation and engagement. Even more exciting, much of this research has been conducted targeting at-risk, poor and/or minority students in middle and high school. The ability of these interventions to shift the mindsets of students most in need at critical times in their life can be an important new avenue for schools to consider. Capitalizing on the resources available to create quality systematic implementation of this research is an important next step. 

Read more on growth mindset in the classroom in this post by Emily Diehl.