When students and their teachers return to the classrooms each fall for the start of a new school year, they can be challenged by the disruption to learning caused by the summer break and by any learning loss (the summer slide) resulting from that break in learning. Educators can accelerate learning by prioritizing grade-level standards and focusing instructionally embedded assessments and formative assessment practices on current grade-level standards. This strategy avoids the loss of valuable instructional time and provides the most effective option for addressing incomplete learning.
Keep Moving Forward
Accelerating student learning requires intentional, practical, just-in-time support. It does not mean speeding through content or trying to cover more ground; rather, it means supporting students in well-planned ways so they can succeed with their essential grade-level work. This support may include tutoring, small group instruction, regularly scheduled intervention blocks of focused learning, and the use of data to determine the level of mediation needed for each situation.
Acceleration focuses on teaching what must be learned at a given level, instead of “catching up” by covering things that weren’t learned in previous grades. Waiting until missed learning is remediated to deliver grade-level work can actual cause student learning to stagnate or move backward. Accelerated learning keeps students moving forward on their intended grade-level trajectories by strategically preparing them for success in current grade-level content.
Don’t Let Unfinished Learning Postpone New Learning
Within the purposeful context of current lessons, opportunities to accelerate learning rely on robust grade-level instruction, with grade-appropriate assignments supported by whatever skills or services students need to meet goals for those lessons. Schools often want to remediate student learning gaps and delay access to grade-level work until all missing learning is remediated. Unfortunately, research shows that this approach moves hampers student progress by widening the academic gap between students being remediated and their grade-level peers (Rollins, 2014).
Why Focus on Essential Skills?
Essential skills are a grade level’s core concepts and abilities, which students need to comprehend deeply to be ready for the next grade level. Essential skills act as building blocks for coherent learning trajectories, curricula, and assessments that support grade-level instruction for students. Teaching grade-level content to all students, while identifying students who need additional support, can help students remain on track (Lynch & Hill, 2020).
By focusing on essential skills and core ideas or concepts, educators encourage a deep understanding of these important concepts and avoid superficial coverage of disconnected topics. Intentional curriculum supports mastery. “We know that the longer a student is engaged with content and the more deeply they are invited to think about it, the more likely they will be to retain it for future use” (Boudreau, 2020).
Educators can start students with new content and move them forward based on data gathered through the formative assessment process to identify student assets and needs to accelerate learning.
Moving Students Forward with Formative Assessment
Clarify your purpose, being explicit about your goals for the assessment and how the data will be used. Actionable information is central to high-quality assessment; if data from the assessment can’t be utilized to inform instruction and improve learning, then the assessment isn’t useful.
Staying cognizant of students’ social, physical, and emotional well-being, assessments should be used to determine how, not whether, to bring students into grade-level instruction. Assessments are not a gatekeeper to grade-level content, but a valuable tool to support and accelerate learning and growth.
Reporting Guides the Path to Proficiency
Reports in Coach Digital Compass and Catch Up with Coach provide recommendations for additional instruction and practice for students scoring below the teacher-selected proficiency score. This feedback provides a path to move students toward achieving grade-level mastery.
- Identify the essential skills needed for just-in-time learning of current grade-level content.
- Implement instructional approaches to meet student needs as they return to school in the fall.
- Design new (or use existing) pre-assessments.
- Utilize data from pre-assessment results to inform instruction.
- Use ongoing targeted assessments to continuously improve instruction and help ensure student success.
Supplemental Curriculum Tools Move Accelerated Learning Forward
The integrated tools within Coach Digital Compass move students forward in grade-level instruction, with features that focus on building any missing priority skills necessary to succeed at grade level.
- Recovery Project at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University has published a series of research briefs in five categories: Student Learning, School Climate, Supporting All Students, Teachers and Leaders, and Finances and Operations. https://annenberg.brown.edu/recovery
- Boudreau, E. (2020, April 8). The Applied Science of Learning. Retrieved from Usable Knowledge: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/20/04/applied-science-learning
- Lynch, K., & Hill, H. (2020, July). Broad-Based Academic Support for All Students, Retrieved from EdResearch for Recovery: https://annenberg.brown.edu/sites/default/files/EdResearch_for_Recovery_Brief_6.pdf
- Rollins, S. P. (2014). Acceleration: Jump-Starting Students Who are Behind. Retrieved from ASCD: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/114026/chapters/Acceleration@_JumpStarting_Students_Who_Are_Behind.aspx