The only organization dedicated solely to helping state boards advance equity and excellence in public education.

NASBE Report Examines State Board Role in Advancing Accelerated Learning


Alexandria, VA—Based on 2020 estimates, K-12 students lost about seven months of instructional time on average due to school building closures, with black, Hispanic, and low-income students falling furthest behind. As states leverage American Rescue Plan funding to safely reopen schools and expand opportunities for summer learning, accelerating learning has risen to the top of their priorities.

In a new NASBE report, Dr. David Steiner, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and professor of education at Johns Hopkins University, and Joseph Hedger, NASBE’s associate editor, offer five questions for state boards of education to ask as they advance accelerated learning in their state.

  1. What do the data say about effective strategies for closing achievement gaps? Historically, schools have tried to return students to grade-level learning through grade retention and remediation, but these methods have proved ineffective. Focusing on crucial skills and knowledge can improve academic, psychological, social, and emotional outcomes.
  2. How can accelerated learning work for every student? Only about a quarter of students reported being stretched and challenged in school before the pandemic. But in classrooms where rigorous materials are well taught, even students who started the year behind their peers were able to make real progress. State boards can help ensure that all students have the resources they need to meaningfully engage and feel like they belong.
  3. What is the state’s role in identifying gaps and accelerating learning? Assessing learning gaps by subgroups across state systems is needed to target resources most effectively.
  4. What supports will districts need in order to identify and leverage high-quality curriculum for accelerated learning? Outside groups, such as EdReports, can help school leaders determine whether their students and teachers have high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials that are also culturally and linguistically responsive. State leaders can also provide guidance on which curricula are well aligned to academic standards.
  5. What kind of educator support and professional development makes acceleration possible? To get teachers on board with the process, states can help raise awareness of the research and reasoning underpinning the push toward acceleration. Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, and Missouri exemplify ways to better support teachers and leaders and convene stakeholders.

“Acceleration cannot be achieved without one important trade-off,” writes Steiner. “It would be counterproductive to try to accelerate students who are by definition far behind so they learn the full complement of material in their grade level. A successful strategy of accelerated learning will mean reducing the number of learning targets for struggling students while not lowering grade-level expectations.”

Read Five Questions State Boards Should Ask about Accelerated Learning.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

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