Learning Recovery Resource Center

Resource Center

Learning Recovery Resource Center

Six Strategies to Accelerate Learning

The pandemic has disrupted academic learning for nearly all students, but district leaders can still prepare students to succeed in the next grade and beyond. To do this, schools will need a comprehensive strategy for learning recovery.

EAB has spent the past year searching nationally and internationally for replicable instruction-based practices that improve learning outcomes in a short period of time. The results can be found on this resource center—which is designed to help you develop a plan that is rooted in research and easy to implement.

Interested in discussing your learning recovery needs with an expert?


Prioritize limited instructional time on the lessons and skills that matter most

Instructional minutes are only as valuable as what occurs during that time. Don’t resort to adding time to the school day or school year for the sole purpose of improving learning before examining what occurs during the original time allocated for instruction. While adding time can be helpful, more class time (on its own) does not necessarily lead to more learning. Prioritizing class time on high-impact lessons and activities has proven to be much more effective.

With more students behind and class time at a premium, teachers need to be hyper-critical of what they teach and assign—especially now. On average, teachers spend roughly 40% of typical class time on low-impact activities—such as teaching skills that students have already mastered or spending too much time on activities that are unrelated to academic goals or social-emotional development. Teachers who aren’t mindful of their time or what they teach can inadvertently miss opportunities to provide students the instruction they need to advance.

While many teachers have started to eliminate old lessons that don’t appear to serve students, their process of doing so is often inconsistent and not always effective. Districts will need to provide a shared definition and standardized set of criteria to help educators discern what is and is not considered a high-value lesson. By making the district-wide commitment to refocus class time on the lessons that matter, teachers can increase the likelihood that students learn.

To help educators maximize instructional time, EAB developed an interactive, easy-to-use curriculum prioritization tool informed by curriculum experts nationwide, a resource center dedicated to this strategy, and implementation resources for district leaders. Download the resources below to begin this strategy.

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Use summer “prepare to learn” days to gather sample data on student learning gaps

Educators and students can’t afford to forgo data collection this year. Teachers need some level of insight into what students have and haven’t learned to be effective this fall.

Prepare-to-learn days during the summer are an excellent way to gather information on academic learning gaps, while socially reorienting students to in-person school. These highly-encouraged, half-day events are designed for two purposes:

  1. To provide students opportunities to build relationships with teachers and reconnect with peers
  2. To measure students’ mastery of essential standards in a low-stakes setting using short reading and math assessments that are designed and analyzed by a group of teacher leaders from each grade

Although securing 100% student participation is unlikely, districts can maximize student attendance by providing multiple date options and offering bus transportation for students in need. In the end, districts should strive for some data this summer instead of none. Even partial participation can yield useful information for instructional planning.

Interested in using this strategy? Download the implementation resources below to bring prepare-to-learn days to your district.


Develop district-wide knowledge on the science of learning and its implication for instruction

Learning recovery initiatives cannot be effective without instructional quality. Research consistently suggests that pairing students with highly effective teachers leads to better learning outcomes, increased learning retention, and more motivated students—regardless of the mode of instruction. But what does quality instruction look like in practice and how can districts scale it?

It turns out that there is a science to effective teaching that can be shared and learned over time. The key is to develop a district-wide shared understanding of high-quality teaching that is grounded in this science. For nearly forty years, research centers across the globe representing diverse fields— including neuroscience, psychology, and child development—have examined how the human brain learns, how reading works, and what gets people motivated. These various research disciplines draw surprisingly similar conclusions on how students learn and what instruction should entail. This collection of scientific insights provides a blueprint for districts that want to enhance teacher efficacy.

District leaders should begin to scale these science-based practices by refocusing professional development opportunities on the science of learning and its practical implications. Our research found that districts that have taken these initiatives noticed dramatic improvements in academic outcomes in the span of a few years. Additionally, because the science of learning has a profound impact on academic outcomes, a small handful of top university teacher programs are beginning to integrate this body of research into course offerings.

But connecting teachers to this body of knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean you will need to start from scratch. EAB has developed several resources to help district leaders start integrating the science of learning into classrooms. If your leadership team is interested in bringing the science of learning to your school community, use the implementation resources below or contact our experts for additional support.

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Redesign small group instruction to target students’ underlying skill deficits in reading and math

How students are grouped for small group support can either expedite or hinder student learning. Using broad grouping metrics—such as reading or math levels or composite scores—to organize students for small group instruction rarely leads to significant changes in learning gains. That’s because students who may appear to have similar achievement levels often have very different underlying skill needs. Diagnosing and addressing these skill needs is critical for students’ academic progress and confidence.

Districts that have achieved large-scale academic success not only align their instruction with the science of learning, but they also deploy a skills-based grouping approach for reading and math instruction. Instead of using generic achievement levels to provide targeted support, skills-based grouping means that educators diagnose and target students’ specific skill needs. This proven-to-work method places students from different “levels” in the same small group because they struggle with the same skill.

Using a skills-based grouping approach in small group instruction refocuses teachers’ attention on underlying skill gaps, and provides students the targeted support they need to advance. Use the resources below to begin scaling this high-impact technique in your district.


Crowdsource virtual tutor volunteers to provide additional skill-based support

High-intensity tutoring programs have the potential to help struggling students advance their skills and gain up to three additional months of learning within 25 sessions. They also tend to be expensive to launch and operate.

But districts don’t necessarily need large discretionary budgets to provide highly effective tutoring. District leaders have found innovative ways to replicate similar high-quality tutoring without the added cost. To do this, districts used two creative strategies. First, they sourced virtual tutor volunteers directly from staff networks. Second, they intentionally strengthened teachers and tutor communication about students’ specific learning needs using hand-off sheets. This ensured that tutors spent more time on students’ underlying skill gaps than on homework.

Whether your district is looking to launch a high-quality tutoring program for the first time or is interested in enhancing the efficacy of your existing tutoring services, the resources below are designed to help your district at each stage. Download the toolkit and corresponding task force planning sheet to get started.

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Source promising learning recovery solutions directly from teachers

Research on learning recovery is still emerging, so it’s imperative that district leaders actively learn from successes and mistakes along the way. The most promising solutions are likely to come from teachers who are innovating on the ground—particularly during a time of crisis.

Don’t let promising teacher-led ideas for learning recovery go unnoticed and remain hidden. Instead, formalize a way to collect and share out the best ideas across the district so that the entire school community can benefit. An effective way to do this is to ask teachers every month to submit their most promising ideas and corresponding results via email or google doc. Then disseminate the ideas that appear to have results in emails, newsletters, and staff meetings.

At the end of the day, learning recovery is an all-hands-on deck effort. By sourcing innovative solutions from teachers, district leaders are better equipped to address and adapt to the learning challenges ahead. Download the implementation resources below to learn how to formalize a district system that effectively sources teacher-led ideas throughout the year.

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