3 ways school leaders and edtech partners can close learning gaps together

Focus on efficacy and equity, job-embedded professional development, and rich insights.
Jessie Woolley-Wilson
Jessie Woolley-Wilsonhttps://www.dreambox.com/
Jessie Woolley-Wilson is the president and CEO of DreamBox Learning. She previously held executive positions at edtech companies, including Blackboard, LeapFrog, and Kaplan. She has been a featured speaker at TEDx Rainier, SXSWedu, and the ASU GSV Summit, and Ernst & Young named her “Entrepreneur Of The Year" in the Pacific Northwest region. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from the University of Virginia.

This new school year marks another inflection point in education. While district leaders are already addressing staffing shortages, they remain under increased pressure to close learning gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. The recent National Assessment of Educational Progress report revealed the largest decline in student reading scores in 30 years and the first-ever decline measured in math scores.

We can’t wait decades to catch students up—we must act quickly. Fortunately, we’re not starting from square one. District leaders and education technology companies can partner to address these challenges through a focus on efficacy and equity, professional development, and continual progress monitoring. To meet each student right where they are, administrators can look to many examples where districts have successfully used dynamic personalized learning solutions in classrooms to prevent learning loss and support teachers.

1. Integrating efficacy and equity

The recent NAEP report scores show the last two years significantly widened the achievement gap. According to the report, from 2020 to 2022 there was a 13-point score decrease among Black students compared to a 5-point decrease among white students—a widening of the gap from 25 points to 33 points.

To help educators close this gap and others like it, we need to ensure classrooms have resources and technologies that are effective for all students—regardless of race, gender, or zip code. By now, teachers and administrators recognize that not all digital learning solutions are created equal. Teachers deserve the highest quality, research-proven tools to integrate into their classrooms. Learning technology companies should continue to investigate the impact of their programs across a wide range of districts and baseline achievement levels.

2. Building on teachers’ comfort with technology

When the pandemic hit, teachers were thrown into the deep end and quickly adapted over two years in remote and hybrid classroom settings. As a result, teachers now have an earned comfort with digital tools in the classroom. In a recent report, nearly 90% of teachers said their ability to incorporate technology into instruction has improved, and 99% of teachers plan to continue using new tools and techniques that they adopted as a result of the pandemic.

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Let’s build on teachers’ comfort with technology and equip them with relevant, job-embedded professional learning to leverage data provided by classroom technology in a way that saves them time. For example, to identify and address student learning gaps, teachers need to understand how to use short- and long-term progress and proficiency insights provided by digital tools on a continual basis. The best learning for teachers will help them quickly glean insights about students to differentiate in the classroom without taking more of their time.

3. Moving from insights to action

Finally, teachers need quick insights into how students are growing along with recommendations for how to close achievement gaps. We need to not only equip educators with data about where students are in their learning today, but also provide early, reliable indicators about how students are likely to perform by the end of the school year.

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Valuable predictive insights are already having an impact in many classrooms across the country—they are key to accelerating learning and ensuring teachers can spend more time with students and less time gathering and analyzing data.

Education technology companies must stand side-by-side with district leaders as they navigate a new school year. While much remains uncertain about the year ahead, we know what works. When teachers are equipped with efficacious technology solutions that can deliver insights to scale personalized learning support in the classroom, we can quickly counter pandemic learning loss and accelerate learning together.

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