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New data highlights the connection between ambitious learning recovery goals and closing unfinished learning gaps in reading and math.

“Ambitious growth” is needed to accelerate learning recovery


New data highlights connection between implementing ambitious goals and closing unfinished learning gaps in reading and math

Key points:

  • Students who follow ambitious yet attainable pathways to grade-level proficiency that go beyond typical learning trajectory can recover learning
  • Learning loss is still profoundly felt even as schools move back to a “post-pandemic normal”
  • See related article: Finding the learning loss data needed to drive learning recovery

A new report from Curriculum Associates demonstrates what happens when educators set ambitious targets for students–and what happens when they meet them. The report comes at a time when students continue to struggle academically in the wake of the pandemic and as efforts turn to learning recovery.

Findings from Pathways to Success: How Stretch Growth Goals Support Learning Recovery are based on data from more than 2.4 million students who completed the i-Ready Diagnostic for Reading and more than 3 million students who completed the i-Ready Diagnostic for Mathematics in Grades K–7 in 2021–2022 and in Grades 1–8 in 2022–2023. The report evaluates trends in growth patterns and grade-level placements for students who may require the most support to get to grade-level or develop essential prerequisite skills for later grades.

“So much of the news we’re seeing regarding student growth since the COVID-19 pandemic has showcased the historic lows in student learning,” said Rob Waldron, CEO of Curriculum Associates. “While these findings are concerning, students are able to accelerate their learning and begin to catch up when high expectations and personalized supports—like Stretch Growth—are utilized by schools. It’s not too late for us to help our students recover from learning loss and turn around the national narrative—but we cannot wait any longer.”

Curriculum Associates has pioneered the concept of Stretch Growth to create individualized student learning targets intended to provide ambitious yet attainable pathways to grade-level proficiency that go beyond the typical learning trajectory.

“By implementing Stretch Growth goals and setting high expectations, we have found that students are able to close learning gaps, particularly in the earlier grades,” said Kristen Huff, vice president of assessment and research at Curriculum Associates. “We found more success in students reaching grade level and staying at grade level when learning gaps were addressed early on. However, that’s not to say introducing Stretch Growth goals to older students won’t yield results. Even the practice of working toward Stretch Growth goals, when not fully achieving them, can inspire students to be ambitious and motivated in their learning.”

Key findings:

  • For students who began Year 1 two or more grade levels below their chronological grade, there were at least three times the percentage reaching grade-level placement after two years of Stretch Growth compared to Typical Growth.
  • For Grade 2 students who began Year 1 two or more grade levels behind in Reading, we saw only 31 percent place on grade level at the end of Grade 3 after Typical Growth, and a full 25 percent of those students remained two or more grade levels behind.  But for these same students, meeting Stretch Growth led to 89 percent achieving grade level.
  • For Grade 4 students who began two or more grade levels behind in Mathematics, a smaller percentage of students reached grade level at the end of Grade 5 when meeting Typical Growth targets (15%) compared to students who met Stretch Growth targets (75%). 
  • Students who met Stretch Growth for even one year, rather than two years consecutively, still demonstrated higher proportions (1.5 times) of reaching grade level than those who only met Typical Growth. 
  • Stretch Growth proved particularly impactful in elementary years (i.e., Grades K–5), with at least 70 percent of students reaching grade level in Mathematics after meeting their Stretch Growth targets for two years. 
  • In Grades 6–8, though there was a smaller proportion of students reaching grade level in Mathematics after meeting their Stretch Growth targets for two years, compared to elementary students, we still see nearly 50 percent or more reach grade level. 
  • Up to 22 percent of elementary school students reached grade-level placement after two years of Typical Growth in Mathematics.
  • After two years of Typical Growth, only a small percentage (i.e., six percent or less) of middle-grade mathematics students achieved grade-level placement.

“The time is ripe to implement meaningful, evidence-based, and scalable interventions to accelerate student learning,” said Emily McCann, senior vice president of educator community at Curriculum Associates. “We have an opportunity to revolutionize long-term learning across the nation by embedding Stretch Growth and setting high expectations as a practice to address learning gaps. Supporting teachers with the right data-driven tools to create individualized learning pathways for all students is the key to accelerated student learning.”

Pathways to Success: How Stretch Growth Goals Support Learning Recovery is one of a series of reports from Curriculum Associates on Stretch Growth impact and implementation. It precedes the forthcoming Curriculum Associates reports for Reading and Mathematics from the 2022–2023 school year.

Related: Progress toward academic recovery stalled in 2022-23

This press release originally appeared online.

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