Lifting Up Together: Moving Forward to Accelerate Student Learning

a classroom of students with a teacher

February 2023

A year ago, we wrote about the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning. Since then, the evidence has confirmed that substantial overall learning deficits arose early in the pandemic and have persisted over time. States have accelerated student learning by investing unprecedented relief funding in varied areas, most commonly high-quality instructional materials, high-dosage tutoring, extended learning out of school and during the summer, and initiatives to support pre-kindergarten through grade 5 literacy development.

At the 2023 National ESEA Conference, Regional Comprehensive Centers 8, 14, and 17 and the National Comprehensive Center described investments that states are making in each of these areas in a session titled "Increasing Velocity and Effectiveness: State Approaches to Learning Acceleration".

Presenters discussed ways that Massachusetts is offering grants to support adoption of high-quality instructional materials and how Texas designed a series of HQIM to support learning acceleration. Leading Innovation for Tennessee Education—a group of 20 Tennessee districts collaborating to explore innovative approaches and share best practices that benefit students and other districts—also helped facilitate the use of high-quality instructional materials. In 2022, the group found that 67 percent of observed lessons reflected the demands of Tennessee’s rigorous standards, 85 percent of sampled assignments were grade appropriate, and 61 percent of students met the demands of grade-level standards on assignments.

The presenters also examined a March 2021 study by the University of Chicago Education Lab that found individualized, intensive (or high-dosage) tutoring can greatly increase the amount of math high school students learn each year, increase student grades, and reduce math and non-math course failures. Equipped with this information, Louisiana implemented Accelerate, a program that helps school systems implement tutoring at scale as a core function to achieve significant results for all students. In addition, Oklahoma initiated the Oklahoma Math Tutoring Corps, recruiting and hiring up to 500 educators and college students to provide virtual tutoring services outside school hours for up to 1,500 students in grades 7–9. Corps tutors meet virtually with groups of up to four students for 50-minute sessions three times per week. Among the initial cohort, 90 percent of participants believed that their understanding of math increased as a result of participating in the program.

Finally, presenters discussed how Arizona developed a shared policy framework, reflecting a strategic, targeted approach to scale what works to accelerate progress in early literacy and grade 3 reading. The framework consisted of:

Bringing evidence-based literacy solutions to greater scale through the Move On When Reading policy, implementation of a federal Comprehensive Literacy Development Grant, and a Summer Learning Camp initiative

Building educator capacity in the science of reading through the swarm literacy coaching initiative that deployed 25 master coaches to the state’s lowest performing schools and by including a statewide pre-K–5 literacy endorsement and teaching exam

Expanding and sustaining equitable access to quality early learning by developing an early care and education strategic financing plan to secure sustainable solutions beyond the three years of COVID-19 federal relief funding

As states work to ensure students maintain appropriate learning trajectories, the Comprehensive Center Network continues to connect resources and best practices not only to better serve state departments of education in our regions but also to facilitate networking across states to ensure the best ideas are shared and utilized by all states who can benefit.


Betthauser, B. A., Bach-Mortensen, A. M., & Engzell, P. (2023). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature Human Behavior, 1–11.

LIFT. (2022). Leveraging high quality instructional materials to accelerate student learning.

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