Accelerating Learning to Promote Equity: Challenges and Strategies in the Midst of a Pandemic

Additional Strategies for Accelerating Learning

There are a number of strategies available to accelerate learning, and we will be exploring some of them during Session III. These readings are to give a sense of some of the predominate ones mentioned during planning calls for Meeting 43. These are not priority readings, so read them as your interest and time permit.

Essential Standards

Donovan, K. (2020). Prioritize standards and accelerate learning amid COVID-19: COVID-19 implications and considerations for K-12 school districts. International Center for Leadership in Education. Available at

This article outlines the approach of selecting a subset of standards, emphasizing depth of instruction, and supporting instruction with targeted formative assessment. The author argues that educators need to (1) identify readiness for students’ next level of learning, (2) evaluate the endurance of the standard to the next grade level, (3) leverage any crossover application of a content area to other content areas, and (4) align the standards to external exams, such as college entrance exams and occupational competency exams. Additionally, the author recommends that educators consider how their subset of standards have vertical K-12 alignment to support differentiation when needed. The author suggests that selecting priority standards is one way to accelerate learning during the pandemic, rather than superficially tackling every aspect of a standard when time and resources are limited.


Miao, K. (2020, December 15). What we’re learning: Ingredients for a high-quality math tutoring program. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Available at

This blog post shares what the Gates Foundation is learning about effective math tutoring from a program they support. Gates staff both reviewed the evidence on effective tutoring and asked participating students—who were predominately Black, Latinx, and lower-income—what practices were the most effective in teaching them math. Students identified regular small-group instruction, high-quality instructional materials and formative assessments, and committed and trained tutors as critical for their success. Additionally, tutoring programs should be supported by caring adults who affirm students’ abilities and effectively respond to social and emotional needs. The article suggests that buy-in and engagement of all stakeholders (e.g., students, families, school staff, and district leaders) allows tutors to build relationship with students and families and facilitates on-going communication teachers and school leadership. In order to cut down expensive tutor programming costs, creative approaches—such as the use of technology, peer grouping, and tutor pipelines—may help in the implementation of an affordable, high-quality effective tutoring program.

Edgerton, A. K. (2021, January 21). The importance of getting tutoring right. Learning Policy Institute. Available at

This blog offers evidence-based solutions for policymakers to consider when developing tutoring programs. Research suggests that successful tutoring programs include (1) staff of varying teaching backgrounds, (2) a consistent schedule (at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes), (3) groups smaller than 5, (4) high-quality tutor training and ongoing support, (5) structures that maintain relationships among students, tutors, and teachers, and (6) content that aligns to classroom curriculum. Additionally, the authors examine four existing tutoring programs that might provide lessons for other programs like them. Reading Recovery, Number Rockets and Roots, and Match Corps offer evidence of the benefits from the following strategies: integrating reading intervention plans, tapping into other educator workforce systems to build a pipeline of tutors that have content knowledgeable and familiar with student learning, and providing on-going training and coaching support for tutors to implement tutoring programs effectively for all students.

Expanded Time/Learning Opportunities 

Opportunity Institute & Partnership for Children & Youth. (2020, August). No longer optional: Why and how expanded learning partnerships are essential to achieving equity in school reopening and recovery. Available at

Expanded learning programs are not new in California, but they gained a renewed level of interest since the COVID-19 pandemic. This brief asserts that these programs should become an essential part of districts’ pandemic recovery because they are an opportunity to engage with students beyond what has been a less-than-successful school year. The authors provide background on what funding and infrastructure already exist for expanded learning within California Department of Education; they then outline five major challenges introduced by the pandemic and potential opportunities within each (e.g., community-based organizations can provide additional academic supports to students, programs increase the number of trained adults young people interact with). The authors also suggest that districts leverage other state and federal funds to implement expanded learning programs. They conclude with recommendations to district leaders for building successful programs, including taking a needs assessment prior to planning, having external partners that share the district’s vision for success, and developing protocols for sharing data between schools and their external partners.

Partnership for Children & Youth. (2020, November 18). COVID quick guide: Expanded learning supports. Available at

This reference sheet briefly explains the activities and funds are available to districts implementing expanded learning programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The table on page 1 names four areas expanded learning programs can supplement – learning loss, socio-emotional needs, engagement and outreach, and community health and wellness – and lists examples of virtual, in-person, or hybrid activities that programs can use for each area. The second page clarifies important regulations related to expanded learning. For example, the location of these programs does not have to be school campuses, and the time programs have students can be much more flexible than the regular school day. Finally, the authors list potential partners, staffing arrangements, purposes, and locations that expanded learning programs could have or use.

Huntsberry, W. (2020, December 14). One way to remedy this disastrous school year: Redo it. Voice of San Diego. Available at

One rather radical strategy for extending learning time to recover from the 2020-21 school year is to start it over in fall 2021. This article captures reactions to that idea and spotlights a state assembly bill that might give students that flexibility if they feel they need it. Everyone profiled in the article agrees that students are not making the same kind of progress they would during a typical school year but disagree on how to move forward. Some research suggests that holding students back may actually decrease their likelihood of graduating, but the findings may not be applicable in the vastly different context of a pandemic. Most people profiled in this article are open to a middle ground, such as redoing the school year for a small number of students for whom the extra time may be appropriate and helpful rather than instituting a complete, one-size-fits-all redo for the entire state.