How to fund Playworks programming at your school

  1. Updates

Did you know Playworks programming can be funded by a variety of federal, state, and private streams? Here is a list to provide guidance and resources to help administrators in Michigan determine the best funding source to support bringing Playworks to your school.

Government Grants

For Schools

Playworks has been found to be evidence-based under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This certification makes Title I, II, and IV, and CARES Act funds valid sources to financially support Playworks programming.

Title I

Awarded based on the number of students and poverty level, the purpose of Title I is to “help disadvantaged children meet high academic standards by participating in either a Schoolwide or a Targeted Assistance Program. Schoolwide Programs are implemented in high-poverty schools following a year of planning with external technical assistance and use Title I, Part A funds to upgrade the entire educational program of the school.” This is the most common funding stream used by Playworks partner schools.

Title II

Awarded based on the number of students and poverty level, the purpose of Title II is to “increase the academic achievement of all students by helping schools and districts improve teacher and principal quality and effectiveness.” All Playworks program models, and particularly our TeamUp model and PlayworksU, include intentional professional development, making Title II a viable funding stream.

Title IV Part A

This funding is intended to “increase the capacity of State Educational Agencies (SEAs), Local Educational Agencies (LEAs), schools, and local communities to: 1) provide all students with access to a well-rounded education, 2) improve school conditions for student learning, and 3) improve the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students. ” Click here for the most recent Title IV Resource Guide including allowable interventions (Playworks can be applied under Strategy B).

Section 31A At-Risk

This funding is “focused on the following student outcomes: attending school regularly, reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade, being proficient in mathematics by the end of 8th grade, and being career and college ready by high school graduation.” An independent evaluation by Stanford University (2015) found that Playworks programming reduces chronic absenteeism and increases attendance among elementary school children.

School Improvement Grants (SIG)

Competitively awarded to schools in districts with the greatest need and the greatest commitment to improvement. Funds must be used for evidence-based practices to support provision and improvement in leadership, effective instruction, and student supports.

CARES Act

Through ESSER allocations, CARES Act funding can be used to provide principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools and provide mental health services and support. Through GEER allocations, CARES Act funding can be used to provide educational services for the most significantly impacted districts/schools, early childhood education, and social and emotional support – all of which Playworks programming can support.

For After-School Programs and Organizations

Title IV Part B – 21st Century Community Learning Centers

Competitively awarded to youth service organizations, schools & districts, 21st CCLC funding seeks to provide at-risk students a safe environment during non-school hours. Ideal for Playworks services that impact after-school staff, as well as educators.

Other Grants

Fuel Up to Play 60

This grant supports physical activity and healthy eating (up to $4,000 per school). Due April 28, 2021

The Education Innovation and Research (EIR)

The EIR announces various grants each year with varying due dates. Previous grants have supported effective educator development, Full-Service Community Schools, quality charter schools, and innovative approaches to attainment and achievement in high-needs student populations.

Grant-Writing Resources

Playworks Grant-Writing Assistance

These links will take you to the Playworks website and include ideas for where to find additional grants and narratives helpful for grant writing. Additional research can be provided upon request.

Relevant Research

Social and Emotional Learning Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (RAND Corporation, 2017)

The RAND Corporation review found that the Playworks Coach service is one of only seven elementary school SEL interventions to meet the highest criteria for evidence of impact under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It was one of only three elementary school SEL interventions reviewed to show “strong evidence” of impact on more than four outcomes. States and districts can potentially use three ESSA funding streams—Title I, Title II, and Title IV—to support SEL programming in schools.

AIR Case Study: Playworks and the Science of Learning and Development (American Institutes for Research, 2021)

The American Institutes for Research shared a case study about how Playworks is leveraging the power of play to support whole child development. The Science of Learning and Development is a cross-disciplinary body of knowledge that describes how people learn and develop. It also provides many powerful lessons that can transform education systems, advance equity, and help every young person thrive.

The Relationship between Playworks Participation and Student Attendance in Two School Districts (Stanford University, 2015)

Based on prior research indicating that Playworks can improve school climate and reduce bullying, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Playworks, and two San Francisco Bay Area school districts partnered with the Gardner Center to study whether the positive outcomes of the Playworks program may reduce absenteeism by decreasing student aversion to coming to school. This study focuses on elementary and K-8 schools and students participating in Playworks and includes a comparison group of students in similar schools not currently participating in Playworks. The research design includes a series of multivariate regression analyses estimating the relationship between Playworks participation and student attendance.

Playing Fair: The Contribution of High‐Functioning Recess to Overall School Climate in Low‐Income Elementary Schools (Wiley, 2015)

Using data collected from Playworks’ partner schools, it was concluded that recess is an important part of the school day for contributing to school climate. Creating a positive recess climate helps students to be engaged in meaningful play and return to class ready to learn. Recess improved in all schools, but 4 of the 6 achieved a higher‐functioning recess. In these schools, teachers and principals agreed that by the end of the year, recess offered opportunities for student engagement, conflict resolution, pro‐social skill development, and emotional and physical safety. Respondents in these four schools linked these changes to improved overall school climate.

The impact of a multi-component physical activity programme in low-income elementary schools (William V. Massey, 2017)

After studying Playworks programming for one year, results suggested an increased amount of positive interactions between adults and students and a decreased amount of conflict in the playground post-intervention. Results also suggested that a peer-leadership training program had beneficial effects on students’ classroom behavior. Results from this study provide evidence that school recess can be used to teach social–emotional competencies that can impact student behavior during recess and in the classroom.

Impact and Implementation Findings from an Experimental Evaluation of Playworks (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2013)

Key findings of this evaluation indicate that students at schools where Playworks programming is implemented experience increased feelings of safety at school, decreased bullying, and increased readiness to learn.

More Updates


March 25, 2021

Top 6 Games to Play Physically Distant with No Equipment ›

As more and more schools transition back to in-person learning, we know educators are looking for games that are physically-distant and don’t require equipment. The need for play is more important than ever due to the isolation that our kids have endured during COVID-19. Play encourages creativity, flexibility, teamwork, and other critical social skills. We’ve…

March 12, 2021

Playworks: One Year Later ›

One year ago… All of our partner schools closed their buildings and our work serving kids in schools risked coming to a halt. We knew our mission had to continue. We remained committed to providing opportunities for joy and connection through play for kids in a COVID safe way, regardless if their school was virtual,…

December 15, 2020

Top 6 Games to Play Virtually ›

Many educators have risen to the challenge of transitioning their lessons to accommodate virtual education, and Playworks has been helping educators ensure play remains in every child’s day, even online. Kids prioritize play, and with our support educators are leveraging play when teaching virtually in order to keep kids engaged, active, and to build community.…