3 Tips for Addressing Learning Loss and Closing Achievement Gaps with Professional Development

Research shows that students could lose up to 12 months of learning by June 2021, bringing new challenges to administrators, teachers and support staff. The “new normal" is that "normal" no longer exists, as the needs and requirements for students and teachers are constantly evolving.

To avoid exacerbating existing education gaps, our education system must take an agile approach to teaching and learning. There is no quick fix, but rather a long-term, sustainable solution: quality professional development.

Meaningful professional development for administrators, teachers and staff members will be crucial for addressing student learning loss, focusing on assessment, remediation, and acceleration in order to narrow or close existing achievement gaps.

Here are three tips for using professional development to improve instruction, address learning loss, and close gaps. 

Tip #1: Equip teachers with strategies to personalize learning for students

To effectively combat learning loss, teachers must understand how to use technology and other resources to allow students to drive their own learning. When used correctly, technology can be a powerful tool for enhancing educators’ unique teaching styles and personalizing learning for students. 

Consider the following seven principles of personalized learning compiled by Fulton County Schools:

  • Varied strategies. Students are given more than one way or modality to learn material or access content. 
  • Just-in-time direct instruction. Direct instruction is available when it is needed, regardless of the availability of an in-person teacher. 
  • Choice and voice. Students express their learning styles and preferences as learners in the lesson. 
  • Mastery-based assessment. Students drive the curriculum, rather than the curriculum driving the students. 
  • Choice for demonstrating learning. Students have multiple ways to demonstrate mastery of standards. They can leverage both technology and traditional tools.
  • Flexible pacing. Students move through the curriculum at a pace that fits their individual abilities and allows for mastery of learning, rather than a time-bound schedule.
  • Co-planning learning. Students, parents and the community are involved in planning and setting goals, demonstration of learning, pace and mastery level.

Professional development opportunities can help teachers learn how to use the tools at their disposal to build upon these principles. By leveraging Google apps and other technology, educators can provide more meaningful learning opportunities for students.

Free Resource: Essential Guide to Time-Saving Tips & Hacks for Google Classroom

Here are three timely professional development opportunities for district leaders to consider using MobileMind:

  • Summer Enrichment: Create and facilitate professional development opportunities that communicate goals and expectations of your district’s summer enrichment programs.
  • Tutor Training Programs: Create learning paths to train tutors who work with individual and groups of students, whether it’s virtual, hybrid or face-to-face.
  • After School Programs: Implement a learning path or badge for educators and other staff members to ensure everyone is up-to-speed on the goals and structure of after school programs.

Tip #2: Create training around district and school learning loss initiatives.

According to a recent article from Education Week, districts are eying summer and beyond to recoup learning losses. 

“With the weather warming up and—cross your fingers—an increasing rate of COVID-19 vaccination nationwide, most school leaders expect the 2021-22 school year will be largely in person. Now they’re planning supports for students to make up for the harmful academic and social impacts of the last year.”

For maximum impact, professional development opportunities should be aligned to learning loss initiatives. Agile, efficient PD can help teachers and support staff prepare for this summer and the 2021-22 school year. 

To help district and school leaders provide personalized professional development to support staff, such as tutors and instructional coaches, MobileMind provides tailored micro-courses, learning paths and badges so all staff have access to exactly what they need.

View this real-world example from Brainerd Public Schools to better understand how districts can roll out professional development that supports internal initiatives and stakeholders.

Tip #3: Communicate new policies and targeted initiatives to stakeholders.

With the pandemic still impacting student growth in 2021, districts have been tasked with creating and implementing robust initiatives centered around learning remediation and acceleration. A report from the National Conference of State Legislatures covering public education’s response to the pandemic provides additional context:

“The question of assessments and accountability during the pandemic is made more urgent by student learning loss data. Spring projections suggested that students may have returned this school year with less than two-thirds their normal annual learning gains. Fall studies suggest substantial variations, but clear losses across states: most students are behind where students stood last year, particularly in math, and student performance in schools with a majority of students of color may lag other schools by at least ten percentage points. The gap between low-income students and students of color and their peers may be attributed to a higher likelihood of these students learning remotely, and more representative data in the future may show even greater learning loss and larger equity gaps.”

Communicating new policies and targeted PD initiatives to teachers and other staff members is crucial. MobileMind HQ provides an Announcements feature, which can be used to create and send communications to relevant stakeholders. Communication regarding professional development could include notifying teachers and staff of state mandated COVID-19 safety training or a requirement for tutors to complete a new learning path. Districts can also filter announcements so they are only visible to specific groups, like instructional coaches, specific schools, or PLC teams.

(Mobile)Mind the gap

Homeworkequitytechnology and achievement gaps existed before COVID-19, but are at risk of widening due to the pandemic. District leaders have an opportunity to take action and invest in quality professional development opportunities that can help teachers and other staff members close these gaps while leveraging ESSER funding. 

Free Resource: Guide to Leveraging ESSER Stimulus Funding for Long-term Success

For additional professional development strategies that address learning loss, register for our webinar taking place on June 10.