8 ways urban schools are accelerating learning in the wake of COVID

Many administrators have lengthened the school year or school day and expanded summer school programs.
By: | December 1, 2021

Extended learning, tutoring and small-group instruction lead the way as schools work to accelerate—rather than remediate—to ward off COVID-era learning loss.

Many administrators have lengthened the school year or school day and expanded summer school programs, according to a Center on Reinventing Public Education analysis of 100 large and urban districts. For example:

  1. Atlanta Public Schools has added 30 minutes to the elementary school day to provide support for students who are struggling.
  2. Cobb County School District, also in Georgia, has launched “vacation academies” for students selected using multiple factors like reading proficiency, math proficiency, in-person vs remote instruction time, and attendance.
  3. Cincinnati Public Schools’ extended learning program initiative prioritizes English language learners and high school newcomers who are considered at risk of dropping out.
  4. Fort Worth ISD‘s Saturday Learning Quest program offers 14 additional instructional days on Saturday for students in grades 1-3 in the lower quartile for math and literacy. The program also includes social-emotional learning and parent education,

Many districts are still hammering out the details of their tutoring programs. Only 11 of the districts surveyed by CRPE have created a schedule for tutoring, how many students they can serve and who will provide the tutoring:

  1. Providence Public School in Rhode Island’s Inspiring Minds program employs community members as mentors and tutors.
  2. In Sacramento, California, and Jefferson County, Kentucky, schools have contracted with online tutors.
  3. In Denver Public Schools, school staff will tutor K-5 students and 6-12 students will go online.
  4. Florida’s Orange County Public Schools will train tutors to monitor student progress weekly throughout the school year.
  5. California’s Long Beach USD will use a vendor to provide high-dosage tutoring to students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

As far as paying for these initiatives, Boston Public Schools and Chicago Public Schools both plan to distribute relief funding to their schools based on demonstrated needs. Principals will have leeway on acceleration programs and piloting new solutions, CRPE says.

Chicago schools developed a School Investment Index to determine needs and provide information to communities to make more detailed recovery plans. Boston is applying a Racial Equity Planning Tool to break down assessment data by race, disability, language status and economic disadvantage.

While the initial rounds of COVID relief were spent on technology and COVID prevention, the bulk of ESSER III funds are being devoted to student success—academic and social-emotional—and advancing teachers’ skills, says administrators in several states. “Instead of focusing on everything students have missed—instead of a drill-and-skill approach—it’s about moving students forward so they pick things up along the way,” says Timothy M. McInnis, assistant superintendent of the Hancock Place School District in St. Louis.