Accelerating Learning when Students Return to School

Tamala Wiley and Ryan Colon

A few weeks ago, as a part of our Learn with Teaching Lab series, we hosted a discussion that focused on how we can equitably accelerate student learning to account for extended gaps and interruptions in schooling. Led by members of our Math team, Tamala Wiley (Director of Partnerships) and Ryan Colon (Director of Math Content), we presented a strategy to accelerate learning, from an asset-based perspective and in an equitable way, when students return to school.

What We Know Doesn’t Work…

TNTP offers ideas about what we know doesn’t work:

  • The typical approach to remediation: providing work better suited for earlier grades will likely compound the problem.
  • The students stuck in this vicious cycle are disproportionately the most vulnerable (students of color, from low-income families, with special needs, or learning English).

What does Work

At Teaching Lab, we stand by our belief that high-quality instructional materials and strong instruction are paramount to achieving educational equity.

  • High-Quality Instructional Materials: strong instructional materials intentionally develop student understanding.
  • Strong instruction: support students with accessing the curriculum by providing just-in-time supports.
  • Using the focus and coherence in the curriculum: helps students build connections between what they know and grade-level content.

At the same time, we need to double down on the instructional shifts to make sure students are engaging with grade-level content and making connections to what they know.

Accelerating Student Learning

A recent article published by Steiner and Weisberg on The 74 resonates with us, saying in part, “Instead of delaying access to grade-level work for students who’ve fallen behind, we need to accelerate it… All school systems should commit to…planning right now for accelerating students who have fallen behind instead of remediating them.”

At Teaching Lab, we define accelerating student learning to mean:

  • Access to grade-level content: we don’t deny students access to grade-level content. Denying student access to grade-level content is counterproductive and in the end, will only further widen the gap.
  • Provide just-in-time support: we need to be intentional about providing students with just-in-time supports. The tool provided below gives guidance for teachers to be intentional about planning those supports in a practical way.
  • Potential additional instructional time: accelerating student learning means offering students additional instructional time where possible, i.e tutoring, intervention blocks/hours, extended blocks, etc. We must recognize that students might need different levels of support, so using resources such as extra staff, time, or instructional materials will be imperative.

Accelerated learning does not mean:

  • Speed up to cover more content
  • Reconstruct or rearrange curriculum units (coherence matter)

Essentially, acceleration means spending the majority of instructional time focusing on supporting students with learning grade-level content as opposed to spending the year focused on remediating what they didn’t get.

“Just-in-time” Support Guide

It’s clear that what is top of mind for many is: how to move student learning forward and minimize the damage caused by school interruptions?

This Just-In-Time Support Guide was developed to provide a framework for teachers to prioritize prerequisite content (whether it was untaught or unmastered), and to be intentional about infusing appropriate supports within a lesson.

While this tool was developed specifically related to the content area of Math, these principles can be extrapolated across other content areas. It was designed to be used by anyone in schools who has the responsibility of supporting or facilitating (math) instruction, including teachers, coaches, interventionists, etc. This tool also supports teachers in making practitioner decisions about instruction, and so, ideally, we envision it being used during PLCs, collaborative planning meetings, etc.

If you are interested in learning more about Accelerating Student Learning with Teaching Lab, reach out to us here.

Did you miss the discussion? Watch the recording here.

June 26, 2020

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