Accelerate, Don’t Remediate

New Evidence from Elementary Math Classrooms

Accelerate, Don't Remediate publication cover.

School systems must decide how to help students catch up from COVID-19. New evidence suggests learning acceleration is the right approach.

Research suggests more 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.

To learn more about how to accelerate learning in your school system, download our Learning Acceleration Guide.

To learn more, download the report.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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