Curriculum & Leadership

Planning for Acceleration: A follow-up conversation with Jeffrey Tsang of TNTP

The Newsela Team
Jun 1, 2020

After our May webinar with The New Teacher Project (TNTP), many attendees followed up with questions prompted by the conversation. In this follow up post, Jeffrey Tsang of TNTP addresses attendees' questions around standards and instruction, hybrid schedules, and more.

On standards and instruction:

How can we accelerate when the previous year got cut short in regards to their reading and understanding their foundational skills?

TNTP:  First, we recommend not starting the year teaching all the skills and knowledge your students will have missed in the previous grade. Instead, we encourage teachers to start teaching students grade-level material and only to teach content missed in the previous grade if and when necessary for students to access the grade-level material. This will require working through a few steps: (1) prioritizing and narrowing the standards you will teach this year, (2) identifying the “prerequisite” standards required to access the standards prioritized for this year, (3) diagnosing students mastery of prerequisite standards to identify gaps, and (4) planning to teach students the prerequisites immediately before teaching the related grade-level skill.  Please see TNTP’s Learning Acceleration Guide for more details.

Is there a process you might recommend for examining coherence between standards?

TNTP:  The best and fastest way to understand coherence among standards is to use the Coherence Map published by Achieve the Core.

On hybrid schedules:

It seems likely that we will experience remote learning and split schooling next school year.  Can you differentiate between in-person activities and things that will be done remotely?

TNTP:  There are a variety of considerations that should drive decisions about which learning activities should be remote and which should be in-person. Depending on your specific context, these considerations might include: the grade level and subject matter, students’ ability to work independently, teachers’ remote and in-person instructional abilities, the needs of special student populations (e.g., ELL, special education), the availability of remotely accessible curricular materials, and the accessibility of technology to students and staff.

We are thinking about hybrid models; what are your thoughts about that? How are discussions seeing a hybrid model being successful?

TNTP:  The appropriateness of adopting a “hybrid” model (with elements of in-person and remote learning) will depend on your school and district context. Considerations driving some schools and districts toward hybrid models include: uncertainty about future health and safety requirements, the desire to be prepared for intermittent school closures, the need to serve vulnerable student populations and accommodate vulnerable staff, and a discovery of certain advantages of remote learning. 

What is the best way to plan for logistics for restarting school in August when we don't know the parameters that will exist?

TNTP:  We recommend that schools review the guidance from the CDC and their state and local agencies to understand the universe of likely scenarios and then develop plans that will allow staff, students and families to rapidly transition between scenarios while minimizing disruption in students’ learning and social-emotional well-being, families logistical challenges and staff’s workflow.

Will you be addressing partial school opening models (e.g. limited students on campus) as well as a full-opening model?

TNTP:  TNTP is working with schools and systems to help design both operational and instructional models that will address their specific contexts. Based on social distancing, transportation, food service, vulnerable populations and other COVID-19 related requirements, most of these models will include modifications to the on-campus presence of both students and staff. TNTP will support the implementation and continuous improvement of these models with an eye to ensuring equal access to high-quality instruction.

How can we alter schedules to accommodate social distancing recommendations, particularly when we can't have a full class of students in a classroom at a given time (particularly for elementary school)?

TNTP:  There are a variety of ways schools and systems are accommodating social distancing requirements. These typically include measures such as leveraging outdoor and flexible spaces, installing dividers in classrooms to separate cohorts of students, and combining remote and in-person learning for different groups of students on different days and/or at different times.

On teacher preparation:

How can we roll out the idea of acceleration rather than remediation to staff, and get them working on providing missed instruction within current grade-level content/standards?

TNTP:  Our recommendation is to involve staff in the planning process from the beginning to ensure that there is a shared understanding of both why learning should be accelerated and how to plan and deliver instruction for accelerated learning. We think the research in TNTP’s study, The Opportunity Myth, is a good place to start. At the same time, given the difficulty for teachers of shifting to new remote and hybrid learning models, schools and systems should minimize the lift for teachers by doing the prioritization of standards, identifying prerequisites from the previous year, establishing a common approach to diagnosing gaps and providing appropriate curricular resources.

Jeffrey Tsang is a Partner at TNTP, based in San Francisco. His work is dedicated to helping educators expand student access to opportunity through capacity building and innovation. Prior to TNTP, Jeff founded an education consulting firm that partnered with school districts to redesign, launch and scale innovative, personalized school models that put students in charge of their learning. In this work, Jeff managed complex, district-wide, school-redesign projects requiring coordination across central office departments and the principals and teachers of multiple schools.

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