Educators have always experienced and stepped up to the challenge of how to best tailor instruction to achieve the best possible outcomes for students. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed growing disparities, and we must redouble our collective efforts to ensure all students, regardless of background or current learning level, can thrive. The Playbook for Accelerating Learning (PAL) was created to fill the space between our current challenges and the joyful and successful future we envision and deem possible for all our students.
In the following sections, the PAL will:
- review current research on how best to improve student outcomes,
- lay out models that practitioners can use to accelerate learning in their systems,
- propose ways in which they can plan with their teams in the pursuit of such goals,
- envision how their efforts may take place during and beyond the school day, and
- suggest ways in which LEAs can leverage community-based organizations and engage families as partners in the work.
By making these resources available in a concise and actionable format, the CCEE hopes to assist instructional leaders in California shorten their preparation period for accelerating learning and promoting the outcomes all students deserve.
After a year of interrupted learning imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, more students than ever are experiencing learning gaps. Remote and hybrid learning have increased the demands placed on families and students during the learning process. One study by McKinsey estimates that students will experience 4.5 months of learning loss on average, compared to typical in-class learning.
Students of color and low-income students are significantly more affected. When compared with expected learning gains from full-time, in-person learning, the McKinsey study indicates that white students will experience the equivalent of 4 months of lost learning in math and 3 months in reading on average; Latinx and Black students lost between 5-6 months and for students with low-income backgrounds, the picture is even grimmer: the McKinsey study predicts the loss of 6 to 7 months worth of learning.
Even before the pandemic, many students were not receiving grade-level instruction and assignments. According to Bellwether Education, as many as 3 out of 5 students in the U.S. enter school below grade level. Research by TNTP revealed that students spent more than 500 hours each school year on assignments that weren’t appropriate for their grade level and experienced instruction that didn’t ask enough of them—the equivalent of 6 months of lost class time in each core subject. Further, the study tells us that, while more than 80% of teachers supported standards for college readiness in theory, less than half had the expectation that their students could reach that bar.
We should focus on what we now know about how people learn effectively. To address the discrepancies in student learning and achievement that have been exacerbated by the past year and a half, we have an opportunity to focus on evidence-based information on how people learn effectively. According to the Learning Policy Institute, key factors that promote learning are:
- Positive relationships and attachments; feeling safe, affirmed, and deeply engaged within a supportive community of learners
- Creating connections between what children already know and what they are learning
- Physical activity, joy, and opportunities for self-expression
- Students’ perceptions of their own ability influence learning. All children are motivated to learn the next set of skills for which they are ready; few are motivated by labels that rank them against others or communicate stigma
(These important factors are addressed in CCEE’s Field Guide for Learning, Equity and Well-Being. This Playbook for Accelerating Learning will focus on instructional strategies to accelerate learning for all students.)
To provide better academic experiences than we did before, we should shift our efforts from remediation to acceleration. This study by Bellwether (slide 11) shows students who start a grade below grade level rarely catch up. If we focus only on “learning loss” and remove students from grade-level content, we will perpetuate structures that are riddled with repetitive and ineffective remediation efforts. Additionally, the New Teacher Project’s research suggests that, even when students are behind, grade-level content is one of the clearest paths to success and strong outcomes. Thus, finding ways to scaffold student learning while maintaining access to grade-level content may be the key to accelerating learning. This playbook is designed to offer LEAs insights into how to make the shift from “learning loss” to “grade-level content emphasis” to support student academic growth.
Create Your Acceleration Plan
Use the icons below to navigate to the different sections of the Playbook for Accelerating Learning: