Acceleration focuses on teaching what must be learned at any given level, instead of trying to teach learning students missed in previous grades. When students require accelerated learning, teachers identify the crucial content that students need to learn so they can access grade-level material as soon as possible. Prioritizing grade-level standards, providing students with intentional, planned, practical, just-in-time support, and focusing formative assessments on current grade-level standards accelerates student learning.
When teachers identify learning gaps, they can utilize differentiated instruction to move learning forward. Differentiated instruction uses a variety of instructional strategies to meet students where they are and move them to where they need to go, adjusting the content and process to help students progress. Teachers can use scaffolded grade-level lessons to support students as they move toward academic independence.
Acceleration Supported by Research
Based on past practices, schools too often want to remediate student learning gaps and delay access to grade-level work until all missing learning is remediated. But research shows that students are better served by more effective approaches to unfinished learning.
Acceleration prepares students for new grade-level learning by combining “just-in-time” teaching (covering any missing key skills or concepts) with the purposeful context and relevant content of current lessons. Opportunities to accelerate learning occur within robust grade-level instruction that includes grade-appropriate assignments targeting the skills students need to remain at grade level.
The Importance of Diagnostic Assessments
Reliable diagnostic assessments ensure that students are working at the right grade level. As students make progress, ongoing formative assessments provide teachers with data that helps keep students on track. Accelerated learning utilizes ongoing assessments to recalibrate the path of instruction. The formative assessment process should be part of any teacher’s toolkit.
Accelerate Learning for Growth
EdWeek suggests choosing technology to accelerate learning, defining acceleration as “reviewing information from a previous grade only to the extent necessary to support learning new, grade-level subject matter” and noting that “acceleration gives students the background information they’ll need to access a particular grade-level concept, as opposed to trying to catch them up on all the information they may have missed the previous year.”
Moving students forward to successfully complete appropriate grade-level work requires accelerated learning. Educators should seek out programs offering effective diagnostic screening tools and scaffold content just enough to help students reach grade-appropriate learning outcomes.