Accelerate, Don’t Remediate: New Evidence from Elementary Math Classrooms

Research suggests students have experienced more unfinished learning over the last year than ever before. With the COVID-19 pandemic waning, school systems are facing a critical choice about how to respond. Should they use the traditional approach of reviewing all the content students missed, known as remediation? Or should they start with the current grade’s content and provide “just-in-time” supports when necessary, known as learning acceleration?

New data from Zearn, a nonprofit organization whose online math platform is used by one in four elementary students nationwide, provides one of the first direct comparisons of these two approaches—and compelling new evidence that school systems should make learning acceleration the foundation of their academic strategies next year and beyond.

Findings include:

  • Students who experienced learning acceleration struggled less and learned more than students who started at the same level but experienced remediation instead.
  • Students of color and those from low-income backgrounds were more likely than their white, wealthier peers to experience remediation—even when they had already demonstrated success on grade-level content.
  • Learning acceleration was particularly effective for students of color and those from low-income families.

This is strong evidence that learning acceleration works, and that it could be key to unwinding generations-old academic inequities the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. System leaders have an important opportunity in the months ahead to start providing teachers with the resources and support they need—and to start building the skill and belief that’s necessary—to help every student engage in grade-level work right away.

For more, see: https://tntp.org/publications/view/teacher-training-and-classroom-practice/accelerate-dont-remediate

For practical advice about how to implement acceleration, see TNTP’s Learning Acceleration Guide: https://tntp.org/covid-19-school-response-toolkit/view/learning-acceleration-guide

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