How the OECD Test for Schools meets the criteria for ESSER funding

Kayleigh Kahlefeldt|July 27, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced uncertainty into many aspects of national and global education. The true impact of US school closures on K-12 student learning remains to be seen. While schools are grappling with virtual learning models, there’s broad disparity in their means and methods, making it challenging for any one school to gauge its academic position and plan for the future.

Thanks to a significant Federal Government support package being released to districts and schools across the country via State Education Authorities (SEAs), we have the opportunity to rebalance the scales and support schools impacted by the global health crisis.

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), designed to set schools back on their feet in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, favors an ability to address the impact of the pandemic on students. Fortunately the OECD Test for Schools meets this criteria, giving your school access to all the benefits of a world-class test.

Turning disadvantage into advantage with the ESSER

Broadly speaking, the financial support provided by Congress must be applied to addressing students’ pandemic-related academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs, such as ‘learning loss’ and the safe return to schools. It must also prioritize the needs of groups of students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, by poverty or homelessness for example.

Funding in the region of USD126 billion is specifically earmarked for K-12 institutions resulting from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Education Stabilization Fund (ESSER) II and The American Rescue Plan (ARP) containing ESSER III funding. This leaves states, districts and schools facing pivotal decision-making and a huge opportunity to set up students and the education system for future success.

What is the OECD Test for Schools?

The OECD Test for Schools (also known as PISA for Schools outside of the US) is a unique tool that allows individual schools to compare student’s academic and learning environments with other US based and global schools in the pursuit of excellence. Developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) it assesses high school students near the end of their compulsory education, thus delivering a clear and proportional perspective of a school’s strengths and weaknesses.

The test measures students’ knowledge and competencies in reading, mathematics and science, as well as their attitudes towards learning and school, providing precise data that educators can use to shape future strategic plans, allocate spending, and drive improvement.

What kinds of initiatives are eligible for ESSER funding?

1. Assessments

High-quality assessments such as the OECD Test for Schools help empower teachers to determine the academic needs of the cohort.

The OECD Test for Schools qualifies for ESSER funding because it:

Is a holistic “health check” with valuable insights into academic performance, learning environment, and your students’ ability to apply their knowledge of reading, math, and science in real-world scenarios. The two-hour test is delivered via an online assessment platform with an intuitive interface, yielding streamlined reporting linked to the global PISA frameworks.

●       School level assessment for high school students in reading, math, and science
●       Insight into academic performance, learning environment, and knowledge application
●       Virtual platform with easy-to-use dashboard and streamlined reporting

2. Addressing learning loss

Remediating lost or unfinished learning requires an evidence-based approach, which can be achieved through tools such as progress assessments and the provision of technology to enable distance learning where it’s not already possible. By providing this kind of support to students, including from low-income families, those with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care, schools can actively close the gap in learning outcomes caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

The OECD Test for Schools qualifies because:

It provides actionable insights that help schools and school leaders measure students’ academic performance and understand the challenges of their learning environments. Test results pinpoint areas for instructional practice improvement by building teacher capacity and shape data-driven program changes for school improvement.

“The OECD Test for Schools is not just another test. It’s a system diagnostic that provides rich and actionable data that districts can really use to drive their school improvement efforts.”

Dr. Patricia Deklotz, Superintendent Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin

●       Actionable insights to measure academic performance and learning environment
●       Identify focus areas to inform instructional practice improvements and program changes
●       Data-driven school improvement

3. Professional Development

The ESSER funding application process recognizes that the solutions capable of setting our schools on a good trajectory emerging from the pandemic need to be led by teaching staff. Resourcing principals and other school leaders to address the needs of their individual schools, including giving them data insights and professional development opportunities, is a valid application of ESSER support.

The OECD Test for Schools qualifies because:

Comprehensive school reports empower education leaders to develop the knowledge, skills, and competencies that are most relevant to students. Additionally, participating in the OECD Test for Schools gives teachers access to a portal where they can exchange best practices with fellow teachers and school leaders worldwide. Every teacher in a school that sits the test receives their own unique login to the OECD’s peer-learning Online Community. The school is also invited to participate in post-assessment workshops with the OECD to help unpack the data in their individualized school report. You can download a sample copy of the 80+page report here.

●       Insights and reporting empower schools to further develop knowledge, skills, and competencies
●       Opportunities to connect and learn from others to inform professional development
●       Sharing of ideas and successes with other teachers and school leaders worldwide


Empower your school to drive excellence for all students.

The OECD Test for Schools is the only assessment of its kind that brings together hearts and minds. The data driven and actionable insights help schools in the US and across the globe measure their academic performance and learning environment. Learn more.

4. Social and Emotional Evaluation

Among the consequences of the pandemic for students is a negative impact to mental health, through falling behind and feeling disconnected. This makes addressing students’ social and emotional needs an important qualifying criterion for financial support.

The OECD Test for Schools qualifies because:

It’s designed to surface students’ attitudes towards learning, learning environment and socioeconomic background by asking students to participate in a student questionnaire. The questionnaire includes questions from the Five Domains of Psychology and the Global Crises Module survey which specifically evaluates the educational impact of COVID-19 disruption.

This knowledge, in turn, helps to guide excellence and equity going forward.

●       Global Crises Module gives insights into socioeconomic and learning environment
●       Evaluate impacts of COVID-19 disruptions on student attitude toward learning, motivation, and self-efficacy
●       Report on impact of learning loss, access to educational materials, and preparedness for future crises

5. Data Collection

Data collection and the creation of State- or LEA-level data dashboards delivering public reporting relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example real time impact on learning, also qualifies for ESSER support.

The OECD Test for Schools qualifies because:

It provides streamlined reporting on both academic performance and learning environment. Participating schools each receive a detailed, 80+ page report with actionable insights into teaching practices and the school environment to fast-track schools to better outcomes.

●       Online platform with built-in intuitive dashboard and streamlined reporting
●       Detailed, 80+ page report with actionable insights into teaching practice and school environment
●       World-scale comparative data

Making the case for financial support

The OECD Test for Schools checks many of the boxes required for a successful application and a bright future of education.

ARP – ESSER I/II/III Qualification Assessments Learning Loss/Evidence-Based Intervention Diverse Students Professional Development Social Emotional Evaluation Data Collection

OECD Test for Schools


Interested in finding out about how to take advantage of the ESSER fund-eligible OECD Test for Schools? Read our handy checklist to find out more.

About the author

Kayleigh Kahlefeldt

Founder, Cornerstone Content

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