Implementing a Learning Acceleration Plan
As educators plan how they will address unfinished learning, research from TNTP (The New Teacher Project) shows that they should forgo the traditional remedies of remediation and intervention in favor of a strategy known as learning acceleration.
What is Learning Acceleration?
The U.S. Department of Education describes learning acceleration as a focus on quickly diagnosing gaps in critical concepts that may impede students from accessing grade-level coursework.
Students on a learning acceleration plan learn material appropriate for their current grade level and relearn only the skills and lessons from earlier grades that are vital to understanding the new content.
Any additional help a student receives before or after school aligns with what they’re learning in the classroom.
How Teachers Can Integrate Learning Acceleration in The Classroom
While shifting from the status quo can be overwhelming for school districts, integrating accelerated learning into every classroom can be done effectively. By focusing on the following key elements, educators can propel their students forward and ensure that they’re ready for grade-level content.
1. Determine what each student needs right now.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), school districts should prioritize key skills and core knowledge for the academic year based on frequently used academic standards. From there, they can identify any critical skill gaps facing their students through pretests on specific on-grade-level topics.
2. Tailor instruction to grade-level goals.
Once teachers identify each child’s learning gaps and strengths, they can leverage tools to inform instructional choices. A digital solution like Apex Learning Tutorials by Edmentum links topic-level pretests, supporting topics, and on-grade instruction together so that teachers can fill gaps and quickly move to on-grade instruction in a seamless way. It also provides ongoing diagnostic assessments on both a student and classroom level, allowing instructors to adjust lesson plans as needed.
3. Use interactivity to keep students engaged and learning.
A multimedia solution must center on proactive learning rather than passive instruction, presenting concepts in different ways to stir students’ curiosity and help what they learn stick. In addition, if the digital curriculum is constructed with multiple scaffolds, students build on the skills they know and receive support as they grasp critical concepts. Struggling students no longer have to wade through in watered-down content—they are challenged and empowered to reach grade-level mastery.
4. Choose the highest-quality digital curriculum that accelerates learning.
The most effective way to implement an accelerated learning program is to streamline it by working with one partner that offers a complete suite of customizable solutions designed around the learner experience. As school districts compare software solutions, it’s important to critique the comparison data between students who used the product and those who didn’t, along with gains on meaningful measures like high-stakes tests. Request real-world efficacy studies from every vendor to determine how each curriculum has made a difference in school districts similar to yours.
Learning Acceleration in Practice
Krista Lasky, one of Edmentum’s elementary K–5 virtual teachers and EdOptions Academy Teachers of the Year, shared some of her insights about learning acceleration. Krista provided tips and tricks that have led her to success.
Use Multiple Data Sources to Identify Students in Need
"We look at a variety of data to determine students who are performing below grade level.
First, we look at their performance and progress grades in their regular coursework.
Second, we use teacher-created progress monitoring during live lessons.
Next, we review progress in Exact Path, Edmentum’s K–12 adaptive diagnostic assessment and individualized learning path solution.
After reviewing/using all the data, we are able to identify those students who are not performing at the expected level. As soon as a student’s performance level shows us the need for more intervention, we discuss it with all parties and begin a plan for the student."
Partner With Parents and Stakeholders
“We work closely with stakeholders in the districts and guardians to monitor the students’ progress on a daily or weekly basis and get them back on track.
We typically request that a student attend live lessons daily and/or one-on-one or small-group sessions. We continue to provide feedback and support for daily coursework."
Keep Students Engaged
"Engaging students on a learning acceleration path is often done through supplemental live lessons designed for students who need more support.
The live lessons are fun and engaging, and they encourage critical thinking and creativity.
We also give daily feedback on assignments/projects that are positive and encourage students to continue to develop their skills and ask questions when they need support.
Teachers work hard to create a positive environment for students so that they are willing to ask for support and do their best to make progress. Our curriculum has built-in projects throughout each unit that offer the students a more creative way to show off their skills and knowledge of concepts.
The projects are a great tool for students who need learning acceleration and a different way to display the skills they’ve learned."
Teachers Should Embrace the Challenges
"For teachers who are new to this approach, I would encourage them to embrace the challenges and differences that we have with online learning, adopt a growth mindset, and remember that, above all else, we are here for the students.
In the end, even though they may look different, the relationships that you build with your students will make all the difference in their world.
It is always possible to offer students challenging and stimulating learning experiences that will accelerate their return to grade level. Attempts at achieving this goal will provide significantly better experiences for many students, even if the process is imperfect."
Differentiating Learning Acceleration
Educators are here to support students, and although challenges are an inevitable part of the educational process, it is important to remain optimistic and look forward to progress.
Researchers have discovered that as schools spend time filling in learning gaps, they also create new ones. Instead, when teachers coach students on missing skills rather than wind back to remediate losses, students complete 27% more grade-level work.
In addition, accelerated learning has proven to be more beneficial than remediation for children with learning disabilities and other educational constraints. By implementing the best digital curriculum, administrators can ensure that all students make meaningful progress toward grade-level content.
How does learning acceleration compare to instructional approaches such as remediation and intervention? This article answers those questions and advises on when to employ each approach.