Our motivating question at EdLight is: What is the biggest problem we can do the most about?
Last year, we identified seeing thinking remotely as the biggest problem we could do the most about. We pulled the thread, and pivoted to be a remote learning-first company.
It was 100% the right decision. We were able to help 50+ schools keep student work at the center of learning through the craziest year in education.
Now, remote learning is (thankfully!) declining. It’s time for us to ask this question again.
The answer is again tied to our founding mission of making great teaching easy.
The central challenge of teaching students with unfinished learning is balancing rigorous grade level instruction with targeted acceleration / intervention. Go too far in either direction, and things fall apart. But balancing them requires doing two hard things well!
When I first joined UP Education Network in 2012, I asked an academic leader how we generated such unprecedented learning gains. He replied, “we basically threw students in the deep end. It turns out, they had been waiting their whole lives to be asked to swim.” Teaching great content at grade level really works! When we tried to scale this, however, we found that teachers shut down if it’s all rigor all the time — there is a deep-seated need to meet students where they are.
Go too far in the intervention / pathway direction, on the other hand, and you end up remediating random below-grade skills that kids simply forgot when taking the diagnostic. In our best years at UP, we were constantly overriding the detailed “pathways” to target the specific barriers to grade level understanding. Focused small group instruction really works!
Tragically, this experience is broadly relevant today. The academic challenge for next year is: how do we focus on rigorous grade level material while also addressing the barriers to grade level understanding?
This is a big problem, and we can do something about it.
How we are helping schools next year
• We launched an “Assign to Tutoring” feature that allows teachers to share classwork with tutors + identify skills to target. Tutors see the actual misconceptions from grade level work and can extend the rigorous materials from class. Teachers see the progress made during tutoring, giving them the confidence to focus on rigorous material during core instruction.
• We are adding acceleration capacity to schools by providing tutoring with highly qualified tutors. We are scheduling tutoring at the beginning / end of the day, so we can use classroom teachers in a different timezone to provide tutoring that is aligned to grade level needs. (E.g., right now we have West Coast teachers tutoring students in Chicago in the morning).
• We are building teachers’ capacity to implement rigorous grade level material by running student work study meetings with teachers. Comparing student work to a standard is the best way to build fluency in diagnosing students’ needs. We run data meetings focused on building teacher skill over time.
How you can help us
• Social Engagement — We are @edlightpbc on social, help us build our following!
• Spread the word with schools, districts, and education types who believe in the urgent need to focus on grade level instruction supported by targeted acceleration.
What’s the biggest problem you can do the most about?