To help young students read, acceleration beats remediation

Focusing on teaching students what they’ve missed while continuing with grade-level material can close learning gaps in reading with acceleration and not remediation.

Due to the pandemic, many students have fallen behind grade-level expectations. Educators are trying to get students caught up in the most efficient way possible. It may feel like we’re so far behind that we’ll never catch up, but by focusing on teaching students what they’ve missed while continuing on with grade-level material, I believe we can help close the learning gaps created over the past two years.

Despite teachers’ natural inclination to slow down when students are struggling, our district is taking a different approach to literacy. Instead of focusing on remediation, we are diving into acceleration. With the limited district data gathered over the past two years, analysis shows that we can’t slow down in order to get students caught up to grade-level reading. We have to continue on our path forward; otherwise they’ll be catching up until they get their diploma. Here’s how we’re implementing reading acceleration for our students.

Mastery Is Not Bound to Time

Many districts say they’re practicing mastery learning, but they have a traditional grading system where, if a student doesn’t finish their homework, they’ll get a zero. Mastery learning doesn’t align with that process. In a traditional classroom, educators tend to stop and slow down when a student is struggling instead of continuing on. We don’t follow that workflow.

We don’t practice a unit of skills for a set amount of time, test on it, and move on to the next unit without an action plan to support struggling students. If a student doesn’t master skills from unit 1, they’ll continue practicing those skills in unit 2. This is where our collaboration and use of tech tools come in to help. We use Reading Horizons Discovery for all K-3 students, but it’s especially beneficial for students who need extra practice and differentiated instruction on crucial foundational literacy skills. In all literacy domains, students get an opportunity to re-demonstrate their proficiencies after they have received reteaching and corrective opportunities. This approach allows us to differentiate instruction with individual students and run multiple lessons while still focusing on grade-level standards rather than learning loss.

Reading Acceleration in Action

Reading acceleration isn’t about bulldozing over topics and moving on despite struggles students might be facing. It’s about continuing forward down a path, analyzing data, and targeting students individually or in small group, when applicable. Instead of stopping what you’re doing and targeting obstacles in a whole-group setting, educators can utilize data to tailor instruction that meets the needs of students along the path to the next lesson.


To help young students read, acceleration beats remediation