Are your accelerated learning plans set for success? Let’s evaluate

There are several questions you can ask to determine if accelerated learning strategies—such as tutoring and expanded learning—are equitable and effective.

While you may not yet have hard data on your accelerated learning initiatives, there are several ways to evaluate whether your strategies are equitable and if they are designed for student success. In a review of the most promising practices for academic recovery, the equity advocates at the Education Trust are also sharing fresh guidance on the key components of accelerated learning.

Many districts are providing targeted and intensive tutoring to help students bounce back. Here are some questions EdTrust’s experts recommend asking to determine if your tutoring programs are likely to meet your goals:

  1. Are you prioritizing students with the greatest need (e.g., students from low-income backgrounds) and those who, based on assessment results or other data, have fallen the furthest behind?
  2. Is the program free and accessible to students and families?
  3. Do your tutors have experience in education—are they certified or retired teachers or paraprofessionals?
  4. Are students being tutored in groups of four or fewer?
  5. Are students being tutored during the school day and at least three times s a week?
  6. Is the program using a skill-building curriculum aligned with grade-level content?
  7. Are you partnering with community-based organizations to bolster tutoring programs?

A model for tutoring is Nashville Metro Public Schools, which used academic data to identify the students most in need of extra support for tutoring sessions that take place three times a week and always with the same teacher.

This week’s NAEP results show that educational leaders have a lot of work to do in helping students recover from unfinished learning,” said Allison Socol, vice president for P-12 policy, practice, and research at The Education Trust. “Continued federal and state investment is crucial. However, how well funds are spent is equally important.”

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As critical as the instructional strategies are for academic recovery, providing safe and equitable learning environments is equally important, EdTrust advises. The following are key to success:

  • A multi-tiered system of universal supports for all students as well as interventions that meet the needs of individual students.
  • Opportunities for students to build strong relationships with teachers, school counselors, social workers, clinicians and other certified professionals.
  • Educators and leaders who are culturally and linguistically responsive in connecting with families and communities.
  • A set of specific goals—such as increasing student engagement or supporting student mental health—and use of assessments to measure safety and equity.

EdTrust warns that suspensions, expulsions and similarly punitive practices and policies that treat students as threats—such as the use of metal detectors—will degrade school climate. Safety will also suffer if students feel there are more adults who are policing than who are focused on their academic and emotional development.

EdTrust’s analysis provides administrators with more questions they can ask to evaluate whether their teacher recruitment and retention strategies are likely to be effective and if their district’s data policies are equitable and transparent.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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