How do we create positive student outcomes despite interruption of learning?


Remote and hybrid learning have increased the demands placed on families and students during the learning process. Research by TNTP shows that, even before the pandemic, many students were not receiving grade level assignments and instruction. Research also shows that even when students are behind, grade level content is one of the clearest paths to success and strong outcomes. 

To prevent learning loss and accelerate learning in any context, consider specific strategies for Math, Early Reading, Reading Comprehension, and Science. 


To accelerate learning, LEAs can: 

  1. Prioritize the most critical prerequisite skills and knowledge for each subject area and grade level now. 
  2. Plan your approach to diagnosing students’ unfinished learning in prerequisite content knowledge and skills, prioritizing only that which truly merits diagnosing. Pivot and UnBound Ed provide a toolkit “to help districts better understand the impact school closures have had on their education community and identify key areas of need within ELA and math.”
  3. Adapt your scope and sequence/pacing guidance for each subject area and grade level to reflect where teachers might need to provide acceleration support. 
  4. Train your teachers and leaders to diagnose students’ unfinished learning and provide acceleration support. 
  5. Monitor your students’ progress on grade-appropriate assignments and adjust your supports for teachers and leaders based on student results.
  6. Ensure that educators have access to both high-quality materials and support and guidance that enables actually using them. Prioritize ongoing professional learning and coaching opportunities, and create structures for educator collaboration around implementing high-quality curricula in new settings. Here are some resources for choosing instructional materials with new neds in mind:
      • Collaborative for Student Success collected information from educational publishers, including information on how they are meeting the COVID-19 context with remote learning support and curricular adjustments.
      • EdReports free reviews of K-12 instructional materials. 

(Tools and resources from this section were created with support and inspiration from the Learning Accelerator, the TNTP Learning Acceleration Guide, Instruction Partners’ Guidance for Accelerating Student Learning, and CCSSO’s Restart and Recovery Tools. Links for each are provided in the sections that follow.)


1. Mathematics 



  • Update your scope and sequence and curriculum to align to the priority standards for each grade level. For examples of priority standards, consult Achieve the Core’s 2020–21 Priority Instructional Content in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. Mathematics standards require a focus on depth over breadth. Students should spend time on the most critical standards within their grade level both because access to grade-level content is a marker of equitable practices and because the priority standards within any grade level provide an essential foundation for future learning.
  • Avoid over-remediation. Many students enter a grade level missing mathematics content from previous grades, but that may not require remediation. In some cases, grade-level content can be taught without previous standards, and in other cases a very small amount of embedded remediation is sufficient. Similarly, avoid reteaching full units from the previous year at the beginning of a school year. This approach to remediation is unnecessary and will hold students further behind, wasting time on content that may not be required for grade-level success.
  • Ensure students are placed in heterogeneous classes where expectations for learning are high. Given that access to learning may have been inequitable, there may be a push to further sort students based on perceived readiness for grade-level content. The practice of tracking students by perceived ability has substantially widened the achievement gap, and further tracking students will only exacerbate disparities.
  • Identify the content that is best delivered in person and schedule lessons accordingly while maintaining lesson coherence. Some lessons—particularly those involving the most collaboration—are best taught in person. (For more detail, review Math Guidelines for Distance Learning Models from Instruction Partners.) If a remote setting is required, leverage technology to ease collaboration in small groups. Do this, however, while maintaining lesson coherence. 
  • Ensure access to manipulatives. While it may be more challenging in a remote setting, make sure students can bring manipulatives home, create manipulatives at home, or access an identical virtual manipulative.
  • Maintain the same highly effective teaching practices regardless of learning environment. 
        • Establish mathematical goals to focus learning. 
        • Implement tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving.
        • Use and connect mathematical representations. 
        • Facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. 
        • Pose purposeful questions.
        • Build procedural fluency from conceptual understanding. 
        • Support productive struggle in learning mathematics. 
        • Elicit and use evidence of student thinking.



  • Use the information gained from formative assessments as the primary source of data regarding what students know and can do. Most assessment throughout the school year should occur primarily via targeted checks (e.g., math fluency inventories) and formative practices (e.g., leveraging exit tickets, student work, student discussions to inform instructional choices). In many cases, recommendations for these practices should be informed by high-quality instructional materials.
  • Don’t prioritize screening data over the need for grade-level content. While universal screeners often provide a grade-level equivalent and a student profile with areas of strength and growth, these recommendations should not take priority over ensuring students experience grade-level content for the majority of their mathematics instruction. Instead, these recommendations should be taken into consideration for ways to supplement core instruction.
  • Use assessment to determine flexible groupings for just-in-time interventions to prepare all students for daily grade-level instruction. These assessments should reveal what students already understand and what further connections might be necessary for them to fully access grade-level content. These assessments should not lead to the labeling and sorting of children, which often leads to segregation, marginalization, or privileging in ways strongly correlated with race, language, class, and ability status.
  • Rethink the need for pre-assessment: 
    • In some cases the prerequisites are few. It is best to leverage curricular guidance to identify which units require prerequisite learning and which do not. Some vendors will provide information on this.
    • In many cases, the prerequisites for a unit are naturally and efficiently prompted by the content of the unit itself, allowing for just-in-time, not just-in-case, remediation. 

2. K-2 Foundational Reading 



  • Consider implementing an early reading accelerator. 
  • Teach reading foundations in a coherent order, beginning with missed skills if needed. The skills of early reading are meant to be taught sequentially. If students missed parts of reading foundations, it is appropriate to go back and teach the skills beginning where they left off. 
  • Focus time and attention on phonological and phonemic awareness starting in early kindergarten, with an increasing emphasis on phonics in early/mid-kindergarten through grade 3. Emphasize fluency in grades 2 and 3.
  • Ensure students receive foundational skills instruction each day, including:
    • Explicit teacher modeling of new content;
    • Opportunities for student practice of targeted skill(s) through speaking, reading, writing, and/or listening; and
    • Reading of decodable text (i.e., sentences or text containing previously taught sound and spelling patterns and high-frequency words) that students read and reread for automaticity and accuracy.
    • Support students’ decoding and fluency development through additional small-group or individual support; through opportunities to amplify or embed practice with needed skills within existing instruction or practice opportunities; and through modified student practice or scaffolds.
  • Make instruction equitable and culturally relevant. 



  • Administer a brief screener at the beginning of the year and at periodic checkpoints throughout the school year. Prioritize letter inventory, phonological awareness, and grade-level appropriate sound and spelling patterns for each student.
  •  Ensure frequent formative assessments of: 
    • Students’ phonological awareness, connecting to phonics as appropriate;
    • Students’ ability to decode and encode new words based on grade-level appropriate phonics instruction

These assessments can be folded into daily lessons (e.g., checklists, sampling dictation responses, monitoring of student work) and should be used to adjust instruction.

3. Reading Comprehension K-12



  • Avoid updating the scope and sequence for ELA reading comprehension. Students can progress into the units as anticipated, even if they missed complete units from last year. Reading comprehension rests on background knowledge and vocabulary preparation, which can be embedded in the approach to the new units or aligned across disciplines with science and social studies. 
  • Focus remediation on specific vocabulary and background knowledge, not isolated skills or standards. All students are capable of exploring and discussing the ideas of grade-level text, no matter their reading level. This portion of their reading instruction must allow all students to do so. The curriculum should provide suggestions for this targeted remediation. See lexile level guidance and text feature guidance in 2020–21 Priority Instructional Content in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics.
  • Avoid reteaching full units from the previous year at the beginning of this year. This is unnecessary and will hold students back, wasting time on content that may not be required for grade-level success. 
  • Identify the content that is best delivered in person, and adjust lessons appropriately while maintaining lesson coherence. If at all possible, reserve the lessons requiring the  most collaboration (e.g., socratic seminars, collaborative group projects on text, second and third reads where eliciting meaning through conversation is critical) for in-person instruction. Do this, however, while maintaining lesson coherence. 
  • Ensure students have remote access to the necessary texts for each lesson. If they are not available virtually, plan ahead to send home appropriate texts.  
  • Make instruction equitable and culturally relevant



  • Avoid administering back-to-school assessments focused on isolated standards or to determine students’ generalized reading comprehension level. The goal of any assessment designed to inform instruction throughout 2020-2021 should be to provide information to support all students with access to grade-level work. Instructional assessments, if administered, should be highly streamlined to check on only those necessary elements that might hinder access to grade-level work (e.g., students’ knowledge base, fluency with grade-level text). User the 2020–21 Priority Instructional Content in English Language Arts and Literacy to make these choices.
  • If students need extra support, remediation should be brief and embedded within grade-level ELA/literacy instruction. Instructional assessments should focus only on checking for the necessary background knowledge and vocabulary for the unit about to be taught. High-quality curriculum providers will have identified this content.
  • Use the information gained from formative assessment as the primary source of data regarding what students know and can do. Most assessment throughout the school year should occur primarily via targeted checks (e.g., checks for reading fluency) and formative practices (e.g., leveraging exit tickets, student work, student discussions to inform instructional choices). Recommendations for these practices should be informed by high-quality instructional materials.

4. Science 



  • Ensure educators have access to materials designed around three-dimensional, phenomenon- and problem-driven learning experiences. Students will need ongoing opportunities to explore core ideas. Ensure they have time to practice and explore cross-cutting concepts to achieve the learning goals defined by the state’s science standards. High-quality materials for science are criticalespecially for students from marginalized groups, for whom they have been shown to have a notable impact on student learning. 
  • Prioritize student sensemaking using the three dimensions, not delivery of discrete content. Focus first on the quality of the learning experience, even if it means fewer topics will be covered. Carefully consider the progressions for all three dimensions—not just core ideas—as well as the organization of high-quality materials before adjusting scope and sequences or materials. Curricular experiences should emphasize opportunities for student sensemaking that engage student preconceptions, allow students to share their thinking with others, and are organized around core science concepts. High-quality units built around larger bundles of standards may allow students to work toward mastery of more standards while maintaining an approach compatible with how students learn science.
  • Leverage mathematics and ELA connections with science. Goals of ELA and mathematics can be accomplished through science instruction, allowing more time and deeper learning in all subjects. Science investigations provide meaningful contexts for students to engage in reading, writing, and mathematics, building core knowledge and content-rich vocabulary. 
  • Leverage curiosity as motivation. The natural curiosity of young learners provides an opportunity to leverage student motivation and interests related to the natural world, particularly for ELs for whom science learning provides a rich context for language development.
  • Ensure adequate time for coherent and continuous science learning experiences for all students, including in elementary. Science learning begins with allocating sufficient time for learning. In particular, elementary science should be a priority because three-dimensional science standards were designed as a coherent progression, from kindergarten through grade 12. Missing years of science instruction in early grades leads to gaps in knowledge and practice that are difficult to narrow in later years.
  • Make time for collaboration and student-to-student discourse, even during virtual or asynchronous instruction. Talking is thinking. Students need opportunities to share their ideas and respond to peers and teacher feedback in distance learning environments. 
  • Engage family members as learning partners during at-home learning. Families can play a critical role in supporting at-home science learning. Support and encourage opportunities to engage families in meaningful, equitable ways.
  • Leverage the expertise and resources of STEM community partners. Local informal institutions, businesses, and universities can offer resources to increase opportunities for out-of-school STEM engagement. 



  • Consider the most important science assessment purposes for this time. Embedded assessments in high-quality materials can provide evidence of student understanding before, during, and after instruction and can also assist students with monitoring their own learning, fostering autonomy, and responsibility. Use this tool to understand the progression within the science standards. 
  • Formative assessment opportunities can also facilitate, assess, and promote the science learning of ELs. High-stakes and diagnostic assessments may be less useful, considering the time constraints of distance learning and their purpose of providing evidence of achievement.
  • Do not assess student science understanding using assessments that measure their ability to read or perform mathematical operations. Focus on assessments that make clear whether they understand the concepts or main ideas of a phenomena.


  • What changes did we make as a result of COVID that positively impacted student learning and are worth continuing? 
  • How familiar is our team with research about the importance of children getting grade-level content to accelerate learning?
  • Who on the team is doing this work well, and how can we best leverage that expertise?
  • Are there any gaps in our curricula or assessment tools?
  • What are our professional development priorities?
The Field Guide for California LEAs
The Field Guide for accelerating learning, equity, and well being was developed by the California Collaborative for
Educational Excellence for California LEAs in collaboration with technical assistance partners.