How Schools Are Addressing Learning Gaps

June 18, 2021
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Whether you call it learning loss, unfinished learning, or learning gaps, schools are sorting out ways to bring students up to speed after a long stretch of remote learning. In this post, we share what educators and education leaders are doing during the regular school year and summer school to help students catch up on missed learning opportunities.

While we looked for common threads, what we found was an array of approaches. Everyone is doing the best they can and coming up with solutions that work for their particular students, teachers, and families.

Here are the highlights of what we learned from surveying educators and education leaders, our recent LinkedUp Podcast episode, Addressing Learning Gaps, and our very first Clubhouse discussion.

Here’s how schools are helping students catch up on missed learning opportunities.

Adding Support

In December, Jeff McCoy, Associate Superintendent of Academics for Greenville County Schools, SC, added more elementary interventionists to every elementary school in his district. At the high school level, he brought in additional aids to help in content and credit recovery. Then, if teachers were willing, the district paid them to do virtual and in-person tutoring during their planning periods and before or after school for students who needed support.

Flexible Summer School Options for Teachers

Schools know teachers are tired and need a break, but more students than ever need learning support this summer. Districts are getting creative, so they can help students while still honoring teacher’s needs. McCoy says teachers who work summer school in his district have the option to work just a portion of the summer school schedule.

For example, two teachers can split the school day. In this case, one teacher might work in the morning while another takes over for the afternoon. Teachers also have the option to work a portion of the allotted weeks of summer school. In this instance, one teacher might work the first two weeks while another teacher covers the final two weeks.

Integrating SEL Into Summer School and Beyond

Darcy Kraus, Elementary Director of Lawrence Public Schools, KS, says, “Integrating social and emotional learning throughout is paramount for the adults and our little ones as well.” Her district found morning meetings, where teachers check in on how students feel, incredibly effective during virtual learning, so they’ve decided to also add morning meetings to their summer school classes, which are entirely in-person.

Focusing on Reading and Math

In many districts, middle school summer schools are focused on leadership and STEM, while elementary schools are working hard to support emergent readers.

Historically Greenville’s summer school program has been very successful in helping students make reading gains, with 88 to 94 percent of students making gains in reading over the summer. They’ll stick to their usual program this year, just at a larger scale since they’re expecting to grow from their usual 800 summer school students to 15,000 students this summer.

McCoy explains the secret sauce for his district’s summer school success is a scripted reading program that incorporates fun but is intentional and laser-focused on reading. “We’re a Balanced Literacy district [we use] Fountas and Pinnell,  LLI for intervention,” explains McCoy.

“Those teachers who teach summer school go for an additional two full days of training on Balanced Literacy and LLI.” He says teachers report they’re happy to have a scripted program because it reduces the amount of time they have to spend planning.

The district also incorporates fun reading activities such as readers’ theatre into the school day and provides resources to encourage reading at home. Their resource site for parents includes reading lists, tips, and resources to support activities families can do at home to increase a child’s reading proficiency.

Making Time To Have Fun and Feel Good

Many of the educators we talked to understand that mental health and well-being are critical to learning. If students (and teachers) aren’t mentally healthy, no matter the program we use or the standards we focus on, learning won’t be as successful.

So schools are breaking out yoga mats, meditation moments, "Well spaces," mid-day dance parties, social-emotional check-ins, and more to help put teachers and students in the best mental space for learning.

More Ideas and Tools

We also discovered a few tools we think you’ll find helpful for ideas and guidance, including this Guide to Help Students Catch Up from Education Week and this article about Why Summer Learning Programs Are Pushing More Fun Than Academics.

Whatever approaches and strategies you use, we applaud your efforts over the past year. We will continue to support you by sharing great ideas, practices, and thoughts so we can all learn from each other and work to give every student the opportunity for equitable access to learning.


Education Leaders

About the Author

About the Authors

Jerri Kemble

National Academic Advisor



Jamie Saponaro

Director of Community & Professional Learning



Learning and always growing, Jamie Saponaro is an educator with a passion for sharing topics in education that are near and dear to her heart. Her background as an instructional strategies consultant, educational coach and mentor, technology administrator, and middle school teacher have brought her to ClassLink as Director of Community and Professional Learning where she co-hosts the LinkedUp podcast and its boundary-breaking guests.