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Preventing Learning Loss & Accelerate Growth for All Students

Written by
May 29th, 2020

As we reflect on recent weeks, how can we capitalize on opportunities to change the way we approach instruction and learning moving forward? If we’re intentional towards adjusting our approach now, we can reap some long-lasting impact in the future.

After initial transitions to remote learning, many districts focused on a sense of connection and well-being with students. They are crucial to the overall growth and health of our remote learners. But as districts determine the well-being of students and a mode of staying connected, many are also moving toward increased efforts to prevent learning loss and accelerate growth. But what does this look like? 

The good news is we certainly aren’t starting from scratch: the key to preventing learning loss and accelerating growth is combining best practices that you might already have in your district: a comprehensive assessment system and a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS)

Let’s dig into each concept here, starting with preventing learning loss.


Preventing Learning Loss

Many are anticipating the “COVID slide” will be greater than the “summer slide” we’re used to seeing. An MTSS framework comes into play here: we can begin with prevention instead of waiting for students to struggle before acting in response.

To prevent learning loss, we need to use our high-quality assessment tools to continue monitoring learning, identifying students who are struggling, and providing support for our remote learners as much as possible. 

In a remote learning environment, the purposes for assessment shift even more to a focus around feedback and learning—truly understanding student needs, informing next steps, and helping students track their own learning. (This is an existing purpose for assessment that is simply amplified in the current context.) To do this, it’s important to gather and document both quantitative and qualitative data:

When you can bring these data together, you can identify groups, themes, and trends to provide proper help to students—both individually and at the universal level. (For sample data questions and other resources, check out our free toolkit.)


Accelerating Growth & Supporting the Whole Child

Although prevention is the first focus, we also need to create a flexible, data-driven plan to support each student in the fall. MTSS and comprehensive assessment systems are more important now than ever: they provide load-bearing structures that can flex around the uncertainties of the coming school year. So, how do we implement these structures to help us expedite data-based decisions in the fall?

It essentially breaks down into two key questions:

Question 1: Where are students right now in terms of social-emotional behavioral (SEB) and learning?

Every student has had a different experience this spring. In order to move forward, we first need to pinpoint where students currently are in terms of academics and SEB. Who is struggling or at-risk? What are the SEB areas of need (and urgency of need)? In the academic arena, what are their standards and skills mastery, students who are struggling or at-risk (urgency)?

Your comprehensive assessment system comes into play here. Universal screeners measure academic and SEB skills and risk. Grade-level standards-based testing also helps in measuring what students know and don’t know yet. This combination of measuring both standards and skills is a key component of accelerating student success. High quality assessment tools will accommodate this work both remotely and onsite.

Combined with the other whole child data we have for each student, these initial assessment pieces helps us move onto our second question.

Question 2: How do we accelerate growth for all?

Once we’ve identified student needs around SEB and academics, we need to address those needs through tiered instruction and intervention through your MTSS.

While the traditional tiered structure still serves us, the needs we see within the tiers (especially Tier 1) may be different this year. For instance, there might be a universal need for trauma-informed instruction as all students deal with the uncertainty of this environment. As always, use your learnings from Tier 2 and Tier 3 to strengthen Tier 1 (sometimes called double-loop learning). 

The next step is to monitor intervention and instruction using tools in your comprehensive assessment system. Progress monitoring assessments help us track whether interventions are working and if they’re working fast enough. Formative assessment processes give us critical insight into student learning so that we can make in-the-moment instructional decisions and provide critical, just-in-time feedback. 

Finally, one of the most commonly overlooked steps: evaluate and adjust. Build in time to work in collaborative teams and monitor the effectiveness of interventions, intervention programs, and universal efforts.


Summary: Spring, Summer & Fall Action Steps

To summarize, here is a quick checklist of action steps you can take now and in the following months to help prevent learning loss and accelerate student success.

Spring (Preventing Learning Loss)

  1. Continue collecting and using data as much as possible.
  2. Work as a team to be proactive about the data you have today. (For instance, determine what student groups can be formed for immediate action in the fall, then align resources.)

Spring/Summer (Preparing Your Plan & Team)

  1. Evaluate your comprehensive assessment system. Do you have all the key assessment tools that you need?
  2. Communicate your “Assessment and Aligned Support Plan” with parents, students, and staff.
  3. Schedule any needed virtual training, professional learning, and new implementation rollout.
  4. Create your fall data teams and schedule your meeting.

Fall (Accelerating Growth & Providing Whole Child Supports)

  1. Implement the assessment plan and screen immediately.
  2. Used a tiered structure for aligning intervention and instruction.
  3. Collaborate around data with PLCs and data analysis teams.

Want to dig into these ideas more deeply? Watch our on demand Prevent Learning Loss & Accelerate Growth for All Students: A Whole Child Approach webinar and download our free toolkit for step-by-step support around completing the action steps. 


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Illuminate Education partners with K-12 educators to equip them with data to serve the whole child and reach new levels of student performance. Our solution brings together holistic data and collaborative tools and puts them in the hands of educators. Illuminate supports over 17 million students and 5200 districts/schools.

Ready to discover your one-stop shop for your district’s educational needs? Let’s talk.

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