America’s longstanding achievement gaps have been made more acute by the learning losses of the COVID-19 crisis. As a response, we have seen an increasingly strong admonition that states and districts adopt an acceleration strategy. Instead of the almost universally used strategy of remediation, in which schools try to teach students what they missed a year or more ago, acceleration looks forward: acceleration readies students for upcoming grade-level lessons.
Acceleration is easy to write about and extremely challenging to accomplish. It starts with establishing what students absolutely need to know, which requires accurate diagnostics geared to immediate learning targets. It also requires close linkages between the diagnostics and the curricular material that the teachers will use. Painfully but necessarily, it also means restricting the number of learning goals for the academic year: One cannot accelerate students who are seriously behind to the point at which every grade-level skill becomes accessible. A smaller number of key goals is crucial to success. Finally, additional professional support for school personnel is likely to be needed, while more typical supports such as tutoring, in-class differentiated instruction and Response to Intervention strategies may need restructuring.
To meet the challenges of accelerated learning, organizations such as TNTP and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute have compiled extensive guidance for school districts. But the devil is very much in the details: How, exactly, is a district to approach the nuts and bolts of addressing a very specific set of learning challenges? In an earlier co-authored piece, a school principal who had long used acceleration described her strategy around mathematics. It is compelling. But that was a story from a single school. The field needs broader but nevertheless concrete advice.
Read the full article about fighting COVID slide by David Steiner and Barbara Wilson at The 74.
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