Kids Catch Up Best With Grade-Level Work — But Keep Getting Easier Assignments

Beth Hawkins:

Mounting evidence supports an academic strategy known as acceleration, in which students who are behind are challenged with grade-level material while getting help with missing skills or knowledge. But new research finds its use in schools “is currently more talk than action.” 

Analyzing data from 3 million students assigned lessons through a widely used literacy program, the nonprofits ReadWorks and TNTP found that during the 2020-21 school year — the first full year after the start of the pandemic — students were assigned work below their grade level a third of the time. Children in high-poverty schools were given less challenging materials more often than their affluent peers — even when they had already mastered grade-level assignments.

“Our analysis reveals a stark disconnect between the extent of students’ unfinished learning during the pandemic and the opportunities they’re getting to engage with the grade-level work they need to catch up,” states a report outlining their findings. “It suggests that while many school systems are talking about learning acceleration, far fewer have implemented a successful learning acceleration strategy.”