As a teacher in a Title 1 school, many of my students lagged behind in meeting benchmarks each year. To teach them my grade level standards, I began by attempting to remediate missed learning. However, their progress was limited. Attempting to backtrack to their level just took too much time and resulted in frustration and disengagement. In order to achieve more within the year, I began to use the accelerated learning approach by integrating the required concepts for specific standards into the current lesson. I saw increased student engagement and achievement. And when I started using Proficiency Scales, my students’ motivation soared!
Understanding Accelerated Learning
While remediation seems logical — going back to teach missed concepts before new content — it involves spending significant time in content below grade before moving on to new learning. This puts students further behind in grade-level content and is only appropriate for some learners. On the other hand, utilizing the Accelerated Learning model within MTSS allows educators to reinforce missed skills while introducing new concepts. Research indicates that the accelerated learning approach creates a quicker pace of learning and is more effective than traditional remediation. (TNTP 2021)
In Accelerated Learning, teachers employ accelerated learning to revisit previous skills or standards in the context of when students need to use them.
For example, before introducing a unit on poetry, I would review figurative language and have students practice writing with figurative language and then identify different types of figurative language within the poetry we were currently reading. I would assess as I went, identifying students who might need more targeted support or specific interventions.
How Can Accelerated Learning Build a Strong Core
Within Core Instruction (also known as Tier 1 instruction), there may be areas where a large percentage of students need to “catch up,” whether from unfinished learning, absenteeism, out-of-class placement, or other barriers to consistent education. Constructing a core curriculum for accelerated learning begins with conducting universal screening and then using that data to prioritize the standards that are absolutely essential for making progress.
Integrating accelerated learning helps to swiftly address large groups of students that are falling below grade benchmarks.
The term “power standards” was coined by lifelong educator and Executive Director of Professional Development at the Leadership and Learning Center in Englewood, Colorado, Larry Ainsworth. He suggests that power standards meet the following criteria:
Learning Endurance: Does the standard offer skills or learning beyond one test on grade level? Examples: Learning to read and learning to use a map
Learning Leverage: Is this standard relevant across other disciplines? When a standard has skills that apply in other content areas, it has leverage.
Example: learning to analyze data or engage in persuasive writing
One way to make accelerated learning successful is to bring students into setting those goals for learning for themselves. Research has shown that student agency can impact student achievement.
Student buy-infor accelerated learning begins when students clearly understand the goal, where they are starting with the goal, and what it will take them to reach it.
Similar to setting health goals based on current health status, students need background information on their progress. Using proficiency scales based on essential standards helps break down content into manageable chunks, especially when expressed in student-friendly language at their grade level.
To break down content for student understanding, use proficiency scales based on power or essential standards. Introduced by Robert Marzano, proficiency scales indicate the learning progression for a given standard or learning objective.
In my experience, students who are behind know it and often feel overwhelmed and frustrated about school. As we work to move students forward in their learning, we want to empower them to be active participants in their own growth. Using Proficiency Scales helps to ease frustration and gives students a sense of accomplishment as they make progress step-by-step.
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Hoegh, Jan K. 2019. A Handbook for Developing and Using Proficiency Scales in the Classroom: (A Clear, Practical Handbook for Creating and Utilizing High-Quality Proficiency Scales in the Classroom.) N.p.: Marzano Resources.
Larissa Napolitan is the Digital Content Creator for Branching Minds and the host of Branching Minds' podcast "Schoolin' Around." As a former middle school English teacher and instructional coach, she has over 13 years of experience building systems for improvement, training and coaching teachers in new technology and instructional methods, and leading efforts to build curriculum and literacy initiatives. She holds Masters's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Education Administration from Emporia State University. Not only is she passionate about using her experience and academic knowledge, but loves to use her writing and voice to make a broader impact on education, teachers, and students.