School Practices to Address Student Learning Loss

Elaine Allensworth | Chicago Research Consortium
Nate Schwartz | Annenberg Institute at Brown University

Breaking Down the Issue

  • Learning losses are likely to show up differently across grades and subjects, with intensive recovery needs concentrated in the early grades and among already struggling students.
  • Supportive school environments and strong teacher-student relationships speed recovery from learning loss.

Strategies to Consider

  • High-dosage tutoring that is directly tied to classroom content – helping students succeed in their coursework – can substantially accelerate learning in both math and reading for the most struggling students.
  • Extended learning time interventions, including weeklong acceleration academies staffed with highly effective teachers and some double dose math structures, show strong evidence of effectiveness.
  • Strong systems to monitor for early student warning signs paired with strong norms and routines help students recover emotionally and engage academically.

Strategies to Avoid

  • Compressed content, grade retention, and enhanced Response to Intervention (RTI) show less evidence that they substantially shift learning outcomes for struggling students, and some have potential adverse long-term consequences.

Broad-Based Academic Supports For All Students

Heather Hill | Harvard University
Kathleen Lynch | Annenberg Institute at Brown University

Breaking Down the Issue

  • For children meeting academic benchmarks before the shutdown, slowdowns through September will not be catastrophic. However, delayed openings or shutdowns combined with weak remote learning offerings in the fall may set students’ learning back significantly.
  • In order to move students through grade-level content, schools will need to lean heavily on tiered strategies that include broad-based supports for all students and intensive intervention for students who have felt the pandemic’s impacts most directly.

Strategies to Consider

  • Face-to-face instruction is particularly important for early elementary students.
  • Targeted support strategies for families, such as take-home books, text messages, and family involvement programs, can effectively supplement in-school curriculum.
  • Teaching grade-level content to all students in the fall, while identifying students needing special support, can help students remain on track.
  • Scheduled time for teachers to communicate across grade-level teams and efforts to maximize instructional time can help students catch up while avoiding redundancy.
  • Teacher looping structures that keep students and teachers together for more than one academic year seem to be beneficial, but the evidence is thin, and large-scale shifts would require teachers to learn new content across multiple grade levels.

Strategies to Avoid

  • Large-scale, standardized testing is unlikely to yield results quickly enough and/or at a grain size that teachers can use to plan instruction.
  • Remediation programs that supplant regular instruction are likely to prevent students from learning new, grade-level content.

Improving the Quality of Distance and Blended Learning

Alix Gallagher | Policy Analysis for California Education
Ben Cottingham | Policy Analysis for California Education

Breaking Down the Issue

  • With the abrupt end of in person schooling in the spring of 2020, learning opportunities available to students varied enormously with some students receiving almost no distance instruction and others engaging in meaningful learning.
  • Student engagement in available distance learning opportunities was uneven and inequitable in the spring, partially but not entirely due to students’ challenges in accessing online learning.
  • The move to distance learning reduces opportunities for many of the crucial social aspects of learning.
  • Early elementary children and vulnerable student populations are most at risk from the move to a distanced setting.

Strategies to Consider

  • Access to individual devices and broadband technology is an important but not sufficient step toward high-quality distance learning.
  • Successful implementation of distance learning depends on the extent to which schools and teachers shift to new pedagogies, such as the flipped classroom model, to ensure strong lesson design.
  • Synchronous class time is most effective when it is built around small group peer interactions and direct teacher-to-student feedback.
  • Teachers will need additional daily planning time and training to redesign instruction and make the substantial instructional shifts necessary to provide high-quality learning experiences.
  • Students need reserved time to connect socially in ways that build community and engagement.
  • Priority for in-person schooling should be given to the students who are likely to struggle most with distance learning, including younger students and students with IEPs.

Strategies to Avoid

  • Distance learning will likely be unsuccessful if teachers ask students to watch expository instruction for multiple hours each day.
  • Punitive practices for students who are not meeting expectations for attendance or engagement can be inequitable and will likely discourage student engagement even further.

Advancing Student Learning and Opportunity through Voluntary Academic Summer Learning Programs

Jennifer McCombs | RAND
Catherine Augustine | RAND

Advancing Student Learning and Opportunity through Voluntary Academic Summer Learning Programs at a Glance

Programs that last at least five weeks and include at least three hours of academic instruction per day have been demonstrated to generate significant and lasting effects on student achievement. Optimally, programs will be offered to students for multiple summers.

Class Size
Small classes capped at 15 students per teacher support stronger individualized instruction and help build relationships in academic and enrichment periods.

Attendance is strongest when programs communicate the benefits of high attendance during recruiting, establish an enrollment deadline, and create an engaging site climate with positive adultstudent relationships.

Enrichment Activities
Engaging enrichment activities that take place alongside academics can help fill the "opportunity gap" and have been shown to reinforce regular attendance.

Academic Curriculum
High-quality curriculum materials, including lesson plans that align with school-year standards and student needs, maximize the effectiveness of instruction. Summer programs are short in duration and provide little time for teachers to plan their own lessons.

Accelerating Student Learning with High-Dosage Tutoring

Matthew Kraft | Brown University
Beth Schueler | University of Virginia
Susanna Loeb | Brown University
Carly Robinson | Brown University

Design Principles for Effective Tutoring at a Glance

Tutoring is most likely to be effective when delivered in high doses through tutoring programs with three or more sessions per week or intensive, week-long, small-group programs taught by talented teachers.

Group Size
Tutors can effectively instruct up to three or four students at a time. However, moving beyond this number can quickly become small group instruction, which is less personalized and requires a higher degree of skill to do well. 1-on-1 tutoring is likely most effective but also more costly.

Because the skills required for tutoring are different from the skills required for effective classroom teaching, a wide variety of tutors (including volunteers and college students) can successfully improve student outcomes, if they receive adequate training and ongoing support.

Researchers have found tutoring to be effective at all grade levels—even for high school students who have fallen quite far behind. The evidence is strongest, with the most research available, for reading-focused tutoring for students in early grades (particularly grades K-2) and for mathfocused tutoring for older students.

Tutoring programs that support data use and ongoing informal assessments allow tutors to more effectively tailor their instruction for individual students.

Ensuring students have a consistent tutor over time may facilitate positive tutor-student relationships and a stronger understanding of students’ learning needs.

Using high-quality instructional materials that are aligned with classroom content allows tutors to reinforce and support teachers’ classroom instruction.

Tutoring interventions that are conducted during the school day tend to result in greater learning gains than those that are after-school or during the summer.

Delivery Mode
Most research has focused on in-person tutoring, but there is emerging evidence that tutoring can be effective when delivered at a distance.

Programs that target lower-performing students can support those students who most need personalized instruction but can also create a negative stigma where tutoring is perceived as a punishment. Programs that target all students in a lower-performing grade level or school benefit from broader organizational commitment and the perception that tutoring is for everyone but are more costly.

Guidance and Support for Students Moving into Postsecondary

Celeste Carruthers | University of Tennessee
Sade Bonilla | University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Dominique Baker | Southern Methodist University

Breaking Down the Issue

  • Recent recessions have increased existing employment gaps between workers with and without a college degree.
  • Research generally shows that students are better off attending college versus not and better off attending a more selective bachelor’s degree granting institution.
  • Both college-bound and career-bound students are at risk of losing momentum in 2020-2021 and transitioning to a less secure postsecondary pathway.

Strategies to Consider

  • Student trajectories can shift when students are made aware of institutional discounts, grants, and scholarships, particularly those offered by more selective universities.
  • Students often benefit from a better understanding their chances of admission to institutions with the best track records of bachelor’s degree completion.
  • Student coursework and School Profiles can communicate college readiness and how COVID-19 played out at individual schools.
  • Students moving from high school straight to careers may benefit from advanced career and technical education (CTE) in addition to employer and postsecondary partnerships.

Strategies to Avoid

  • Reducing access to effective counselors will limit informed course selection and hinder college enrollment, which is likely to increase inequality in postsecondary outcomes.
  • The Class of 2020 may have graduated, but they should not be forgotten. All students, and especially those who delay college enrollment, will likely benefit from proactive advising and support from their K-12 schools and districts.

Design Principles for Effective Online Credit Recovery

Carolyn Heinrich | Vanderbilt University

Design Principles for Effective Online Credit Recovery at a Glance

Instructional Design

Blended Learning: Students are most likely to benefit from online credit recovery when it blends online instruction with face-to-face time, rather than being conducted fully online.

Class Size & Grouping: Grouping students into smaller, subject-specific classes allows for stronger instructional support.

Progress Monitoring: Course monitoring data and student check-ins help instructors develop personalized learning supports for students, which improves their likelihood of successful course completion.


Student Selection: Carefully targeting which students are offered the opportunity to repeat courses online may increase the chances that students will learn the missed material.


Student Support: Instructors who are trained to deliver both academic and nonacademic support are better positioned to help students succeed.

Professional Development: Instructors often need professional development in using online credit recovery technology and accommodating special student learning needs in an online environment.


Vendor Selection: Selecting a vendor and negotiating a contract that supports blended learning and individualized curriculum adaptation increases the likelihood that students will learn the material they missed.

Technical Capacity: Investment in sufficient Internet connectivity, devices, and technical support reduces disruptions and increases the quality of the student experience.

Tier 1 Instructional Strategies to Improve K-4 Reading Comprehension

James S. Kim and Zhongyu Wei | Harvard University

Strategies to Consider (Curriculum Content)

  • English language arts curricula that integrate science and social studies content show strong promise in improving reading comprehension outcomes from kindergarten to grade 4.
  • Schools that adopt curricula that simultaneously build word recognition and language comprehension skills can boost student reading outcomes, especially when instruction begins in early grades.
  • Simple, low-cost changes to the texts that students read, such as using sets of texts that contain overlapping words and related concepts, can improve skills that support reading comprehension.
  • When districts and schools allow teachers to select from structured adaptations to interventions and curricula, student reading comprehension improves relative to when teachers must strictly follow a specific protocol.

Strategies to Consider (Context & Supports)

  • Intentionally planning the sequence of English language arts curriculum and assessments from kindergarten to grade 4 to progress toward more complex subject matter while avoiding repetition supports stronger reading comprehension.
  • Using formative assessments to flexibly group students by skill level has strong positive effects on students’ word recognition, vocabulary, and reading comprehension outcomes.
  • Districts can amplify the effects of curriculum interventions by offering literacy coaching and sustained teacher professional development focused on translating reading research findings into classroom practice.
  • Tutoring is an effective Tier 2 intervention for students who are struggling with Tier 1 core instruction and the impact of tutoring can be amplified when it is connected to Tier I classroom content.

Strategies to Avoid

  • Reducing instruction time in science and social studies undermines efforts to improve reading comprehension outcomes for all learners.
  • The oft-repeated phrase, “learning to read, then reading to learn,” diverts attention from the need to build systems and curricula that continuously develop young children’s language comprehension skills, particularly for historically marginalized students.
  • A narrow focus on shortterm solutions for improving grade 3 reading scores works against the broader goal of improving Tier I ELA instruction across a system.