Support Each Student With Appropriate Interventions and Opportunities for Accelerated Learning
When schools closed this spring, schools and districts deployed emergency strategies to support instructional delivery. In many cases, schools focused on reviewing previous content and could not use in-person diagnostic assessments to assess progress and identify students who needed additional supports. Nor did schools have time or resources to focus on accelerated learning strategies, such as increasing the pace of learning for struggling students with tailored interventions and eliminating barriers for on-track students to participate in advanced or postsecondary course work.
SREB offers five actions states, districts and schools can take to meet students where they are and adopt assessment and intervention practices that support their unique learning needs.
1. Develop back-to-school activities and lessons that promote well-being and establish expectations for the school year.
Schools offer more than just academics: They provide children and youth with positive, nurturing relationships with adults, social, emotional and mental health supports, nourishing food and vital opportunities to exercise.
While many schools and districts feel under pressure to make up for learning lost during spring school closures, SREB Task Force member Angela Martin, Coordinator of Accountability for the Alabama State Department of Education, urges leaders and teachers to launch the new year by reconnecting with students and families who may have lost jobs, homes or loved ones due to the pandemic. By intentionally reestablishing relationships, connecting with students and families where they are, and proactively seeking to identify and address their concerns, schools can help build trust, increase cooperation and avoid issues as the school year progresses.
- Balance academic learning with physical education and social-emotional learning experiences by designing and implementing a series of back-to-school events that reengage students and families with peers, teachers and other adults at school. Many schools already use structured weekly activities to cultivate positive character traits and encourage students to overcome obstacles. Review existing activities and schedules to determine how daily or weekly character development or relationship-building activities can be offered to students and parents before schools open, in the first week of school and throughout the year. To ensure all students can participate, embed activities during instructional time and also offer them in afterschool, weekend and anytime programs. Use activities to support a safe learning environment and students’ physical and mental health and well-being.
- Consider using CASEL’s Framework of Five Social and Emotional Learning Competencies to guide the development of social-emotional learning supports and an SEL system that works for each school. Many elementary and middle schools use programs like Character Counts, Leader in Me or Thriving Learning Communities as a foundation. High schools and technology centers often use individual graduation or college and career plans to help students grasp their interests and strengths and develop goals beyond graduation.
- Use available career interest and aptitude inventories to encourage middle grades and high school students to learn more about themselves and the learning styles that suit them best. Perkins funds can be used to support career exploration as early as the fifth grade. Encourage students to share and celebrate their diverse interests and learning styles with their peers and teachers through intentional classroom conversations, online and in person.
- Create opportunities for students and families to analyze and understand the results of diagnostic assessments administered at the beginning of the school year. Use these conversations to help students and parents set personal goals for growth and achievement.
- Ensure back-to-school activities and advisory periods include opportunities for students and families to learn how to efficiently use web-based applications and resources, such as the school’s learning management system and apps that support learning. Sessions should set and share expectations for technology use in in-person, online or hybrid settings.
Oklahoma’s Direct your Future – Career Exploration Curriculum provides activities that help students navigate high school and chart their course after graduation.
2. Launch the school year with a structured diagnostic assessment plan.
Standards-based, quick-result diagnostic assessments, administered early and throughout the school year, can help educators identify lost learning and ongoing academic progress and adopt meaningful interventions that help students master new content.
As schools gather data on returning students, district and school leaders will need to design a diagnostic assessment system that enhances and extends their current assessment practices.
- Prioritize the adoption of diagnostic assessments that capture individual academic performance data. Maximize time and resources by identifying assessments that quickly generate learning data. Target subjects and grade levels that would benefit from no-stakes assessments administered before or immediately after students return. Ensure that available grade-level diagnostic assessments:
- Align closely with state curriculum and/or assessment blueprints
- Generate fast results for planning instruction and identifying interventions
- Provide individualized, easy-to-read student reports
- Work with school leaders to select assessments for each grade level and special population group and create a plan and calendar for administering them. Consider assessments in relation to selected calendars and schedules and instructional settings. If instruction is being offered in person, social distancing requirements may impact assessment administration. Online assessments may be required if instruction must be offered online or in a hybrid setting. Create an organizer to summarize assessments used early in the school year.
Sample School Reopening Assessment Organizer
|Grade Level/Student Group||Number of Students to Be Assessed||Assessment/Screener Name||Timeline for Administration||Timeline for Access to Reports||Who Administers||How Administered|
- Revisit district and school data analysis practices after collecting initial assessment reports. Ensure that assessment data protocols and analysis procedures support educators in understanding students’ academic progress in relation to state standards. Create and protect structured times for teacher teams to review data and share outcomes. Have district curriculum experts, instructional coaches or department heads support teacher teams in interpreting individual student data to identify which students retained content and which need additional support to reduce learning gaps. Consider adopting spreadsheets or other tools that allow teachers to sort and filter assessment data and use color codes or icons to flag standards for planning lessons and offering interventions. Determine how data can be connected to adapted curriculum resources throughout the school year.
- Create opportunities to analyze initial assessment results with students and parents. When schools closed this spring, many parents gained a new interest in their child’s success because they took an active role in supporting online instruction and assignments. When schools begin offering new instruction — in person or online — district and school leaders and educators should proactively plan to share and explain assessment results with students and parents. Consider creating engaging, accessible how-to videos, webinars, emails, websites, printable guides and other tools for diverse audiences that:
- Define key terms for non-educators
- Explain how to read graphs
- Include a FAQ on analyzing strengths and areas for improvement
- Encourage students to set personal goals related to their initial results
- Include time for data analysis and goal-setting in college and career counseling or portfolio review sessions with counselors, teachers, students and parents
3. Develop a focused assessment system for the new school year that incorporates opportunities to provide quality feedback to students.
District and school leadership teams need to revisit universal assessment practices and identify those that can be used online or in person. Possible recurring closures offer opportunities to restructure and recalibrate assessment practices instead of simply shifting them all online.
- Develop an integrated assessment system for strategically assessing learning progress and gaps throughout the year. Teachers and school leaders should analyze the following components to determine how they can be administered in-person and online:
- Classroom assessments include formative assessments and summative assessments. How are teachers supported in designing assessments that align with standards and clearly communicate how students are progressing, unit by unit? How are results shared with students and families? How are summative assessments connected to diagnostic assessments or interim assessments?
- Interim assessments are often created by districts and schools to capture and benchmark student learning data at given intervals, such as nine-week exams or mid-term exams. How do these assessments align with adapted curricula for the new school year? How are results shared with students and families? How are connections made to initial diagnostic assessments to show student progress?
- Formative assessments are lesson-to-lesson quick checks that allow teachers to assess students’ understanding and progression during a lesson. They also offer opportunities to provide one-on-one, ungraded feedback. What formative assessment practices are commonly used in in-person instruction? How do these practices translate to online learning? What new online practices might be available? How do students receive formative assessment feedback online versus in person?
- Encourage school leaders and teacher teams to work together to increase the quality of all assessments and determine how practices can be used online. Brainstorm how to:
- Creatively administer assessments using available platforms or apps
- Use built-in tools in the district’s LMS or platform (e.g., the browser lock-down feature of Google Classroom)
- Locate funds to purchase new assessment software (e.g., ProctorU or Think Exam)
- Facilitate small-group proctored assessments using Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams
- Use video conferencing options for performance-based assessments
- Support formative assessments and feedback with apps like Quizlet Live, Classkick, Quizziz and Forms
4. Review strategies and resources that support tiered interventions.
- Use initial diagnostic assessment results to validate student tier designations. Analyze available strategies or programs for each tier of intervention, using a worksheet to determine the available interventions by area of need, the number of students who can be served, the number who were served last year, the number identified in initial diagnostic assessments and the gap between available seats and the total number of students requiring support. Where gaps exist, work with teachers to identify and offer alternative acceleration options across tiers that help students quickly recover lost learning.
Sample Tiered Intervention Worksheet
|Tier||Intervention Strategy or Program By Area of Need||Number of Students Who Can Be Served (Seats)||Number of Students Identified in 2019-20||Additional Students Identified by Initial Diagnostics||Gap Between Available Seats and Students Requiring Support||Alternative Acceleration Options|
Tier 1 Supports
Many students will need extra time and support to recover lost learning in the new school year. To quickly close gaps, districts and schools should establish an accelerated approach to learning instead of a traditional remedial approach. District and school leaders can work together to redesign extra help and tutorial programs, including voluntary programs, that provide accelerated learning experiences.
- Determine how to offer one-on-one tutoring or small-group direct instruction. Identify district intervention specialists in core content areas. Use a pull-out schedule to support the delivery of these interventions in in-person settings. Investigate options for online, blended and hybrid settings and consider using paraprofessionals and instructional aides to support the delivery of one-on-one and small-group direct instruction in online settings.
- Identify web-based resources that provide students with extra support to recover lost learning. Many states have prioritized funding to provide districts and schools with online learning tools and resources at no cost. Include links to help related to these resources in every communication to students and parents.
- Be innovative in using student groups and community volunteers to provide virtual tutorials or guided practice sessions. Many schools have honor societies and other student leadership groups. Work with these student organizations to offer virtual tutorial or study sessions to students needing extra help. Consider how advanced or honors students can be paired with other students from the same grade level to provide peer-to-peer support or work with lower grade levels to provide technology-based assistance, such as monitoring breakout rooms or creating read-along videos. While community and civic groups have a desire to help, many reopening plans do not allow for on-campus visitors. Consider how virtual tutoring sessions can serve as an opportunity to safely engage community members, including retired educators, who want to help in this time of need.
- Build extra help and acceleration activities into set times and structures within the school day. Review proposed schedules for in-person and online learning and safeguard time for students to engage in in-person acceleration activities whenever possible.
Oklahoma will offer Edmentum’s Exact Path to districts and schools throughout the 2020-21 school year. Exact Path combines adaptive diagnostics with individualized instruction and learning pathways to promote growth in math, reading and language arts. Oklahoma has also secured IMAGINE MATH, a supplemental math solution, that provides students with adaptive learning pathways and access to 1:1 differentiated instruction from certified math teachers.
Texas District Home Learning Guidance includes web-based curriculum resources.
Tennessee shared a list of open source resources in its school closure toolkit for districts.
Tier 2 and 3 Supports
Many districts found themselves unable to effectively support Tier 2 and 3 services during the spring school closures. District and school leaders should work with special education leaders to analyze what worked in the spring and build on those successes in the new school year.
- Create an on-boarding communications plan and set of related how-to tools that help students and families understand tiered services and how to access them in any setting, using the Sample Tiered Intervention Worksheet as a base. Work with students, parents, teachers (including content, special education and resource teachers), and school leaders to clearly and consistently connect diagnostic assessment results with selected interventions and set and communicate targets for students to reach throughout the intervention process.
Before school begins and during the first weeks of school, show students and parents where to find tools and supports, following these suggestions:
- Consider embedding tools in existing learning management systems or platforms
- Ask special education and resource teachers to create separate classes within the LMS to support their caseload
- Take advantage of in-person instructional time to teach students and parents how to use audio, videoconferencing and screensharing tools
- Record how-to sessions for students and parents and make them available on all school and district platforms, websites and social media channels
- Invite parents to participate in scheduled videoconference check-ins
- Review manipulatives used with interventions, determining which are essential and creating a similar set for at-home use
5. Review and expand options for engaging students in advanced course work.
Accelerated learning should include opportunities for students to reach new heights of achievement in every grade. District and school leaders and postsecondary partners should use approved assessments to identify high school students who are eligible to enroll in advanced courses like Advanced Placement courses, dual credit courses and courses at state and local technology centers or postsecondary institutions. Elementary and middle grades students should also have opportunities to accelerate their content area learning.
- Use diagnostic assessments to identify elementary and middle grades students who would benefit from participating in above-grade-level content. For example, a second-grader who is reading at the fourth-grade level could be placed in a fourth-grade class for reading instruction and activities. Eligible middle grades students could participate in more advanced middle grades courses or high school course work.
- Collaborate with technology centers and postsecondary institutions to determine how advanced courses will be offered in the fall. Clearly identify alternative scheduling or instructional delivery methods and platforms for students enrolled in these courses, should campus closures require a shift from in-person to online instruction.
- Determine whether technology centers and postsecondary institutions are offering greater flexibility during the enrollment process to overcome some of the obstacles encountered this spring. Some postsecondary campuses may accept emails in lieu of original signatures on enrollment forms, for example.
- Review students’ assessment results and individual graduation or college and career plans to determine which students are eligible to participate in advanced courses. Work with technology centers and postsecondary partners to expand access to these options so more students can benefit, with or without an “early college” designation.
- Use in-person and online college and career counseling services and all district and school websites, platforms and social media channels to share accelerated learning opportunities with students and families. Proactively invite and engage students and families in selecting advanced courses that align with their goals. Cross-reference individual student schedules with applications to ensure that students remain on track to enroll in and complete advanced courses. Work with postsecondary partners to establish regular check-ins, share students’ progress and provide just-in-time support.
- Use advanced courses as an opportunity to provide more support to struggling students and speed progress for others. For example, enrolling more eligible students in advanced online courses may free space in the schedule for one-on-one and small-group interventions and transitional readiness courses for struggling students. Review staffing allocations to determine how to maximize staff impact within existing Tier 1 and intervention services. Encourage advanced students to take advantage of afternoon sessions, anytime online courses and term-length courses to earn high school and college credits and graduate early.