Teacher sits with group of students.

BetterLesson November 18, 2021

An Action Plan for Closing Gaps and Accelerating Growth


Unfinished learning is high on teachers’ priority lists this school year. But in bringing students up to speed, maintaining depth over coverage is essential for closing existing gaps and accelerating growth.

In a recent webinar, BetterLesson provided an action plan for helping educators prioritize acceleration and close existing gaps.

View the Webinar: 3 Asset-Based Approaches to Accelerating Student Growth

Continue reading for highlights from the session.

Unfinished Learning vs. Learning Loss

While the idea of “learning loss” has existed for quite some time, use of the term skyrocketed during the pandemic.

But at BetterLesson, we prefer the concept of unfinished learning over the idea of learning loss. Here’s why:

Learning loss…

  • Places the burden on students to bridge the gap
  • Ignores learning, progress, and innovation that did happen during the pandemic
  • Encourages a deficit mindset
  • Stigmatizes students who have already experienced losses and setbacks during the pandemic

Unfinished learning…

  • Places agency on the learning system
  • Provides an opportunity to fix systemic issues that existed pre-pandemic (e.g., homework gap)
  • Focuses on the positive
  • Implies an asset-based way forward

What does accelerating student growth really mean?

Accelerating growth does not mean speeding through content to cover more ground. Instead, it means intentionally supporting students with the knowledge, skills, and the personalized, targeted supports they need to continue with grade-level work.

For educators, accelerating growth means figuring out ways to close topical gaps while continuing to teach at grade level, prioritizing depth over coverage. Acceleration is the concept of teaching grade-level material while also building in stopping points to address gaps in fundamental understanding. Through this, teachers can ensure every student has an equal opportunity to demonstrate grade-level mastery.

Three “must-haves” for accelerating student growth

Educators can achieve growth acceleration by focusing on three simple interconnected outcomes:

  1. Pedagogy that supports grade-level content
    Prioritize grade-level standards and concepts by chunking and implementing supports along the way.
  2. Mindset informed by Universal Design for Learning
    Universal Design is centered around providing access to a variety of meaningful, challenging learning experiences that align with students’ unique needs.
  3. Supports provided through targeted “remediation”
    Educators can use differentiated, targeted supports to develop impactful remediation systems and structures

Prioritize growth acceleration with BetterLesson

Schools and districts are facing the challenge of supporting students at varying levels of achievement to close academic gaps and accelerate learning. This entails thinking about time and space flexibly while building diverse and robust tools and strategies to help students learn and grow.

Accelerating student growth requires an instructional approach that prioritizes making grade level content accessible to all students by using differentiated, targeted supports that are embedded into the instruction.

For additional resources and guidance on accelerating student growth, visit BetterLesson’s Accelerating Growth learning domain.