5 Tips to Help Support Students’ Academic Growth

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During a traditional school year, educators work with students, teachers, and families to identify the best way(s) to support students’ academic growth throughout the school year. They also hope to mitigate the summer slide, “the degree to which students lose academic ground during the summer.”1

During COVID, it has become even more important to identify these methods to foster academic growth.

NWEA, a research-based not-for-profit organization that creates academic assessments, looked at how the summer slide can project a new type of slide: the COVID-19 slide. NWEA suggests that students will return with roughly 70% of the learning gains in reading and less than 50% of the learning gains in mathematics relative to a traditional school year, which may be equivalent to nearly a full year behind.1

At Possip, we have been hearing a trend that identifies family desires for academic support. 

  • “It would be great to have an ongoing list of tutors for the children that are struggling.”

  • “She is not giving feedback on wrong answers and my child feels like he is having to teach himself on YouTube videos.”
  • “Is there still a day where virtual students have to do their work and not attend class? Also, one teacher assigning 3 tests on a Friday in combination with 2 Spanish assignments is not appreciated.”
  • “My son has no math textbook or other online resources to consult if he doesn’t understand the material as taught by his teacher during (virtual) class time.”
  • “It would be nice if [teachers] could assign Khan Academy assignments related to [their] teachings every week, so each student can get extra help for each lesson.”
  • “All students are not the same. Each student has special learning needs. Especially students that have below or well above two standard deviations from normal… but basically his principal has said the district will not honor a change in status from in school to virtual”

Here are some tips on how to help support students’ academic growth:

Publish Tutoring Information

Schools can share tutoring information and make a one-on-one or small group academic support plan that is sustainable for teachers and helpful for students. If you are interested in diving deeper into what it could look like to create a tutoring program at your school, check out this blog from Possip to learn more about that process. 

If you already have a tutoring program at your school, publish the schedule in a variety of ways. This can be on social media, your website, newsletters, through Possip, etc. You can also clearly communicate the specific topics or objectives listed for tutoring sessions. This way students and families know what will be discussed and help inform if they should attend. This not only helps families, but also helps teachers understand what types of things can be covered during tutoring and can serve as clarity for their planning purposes. Additionally, it will increase the intentionality behind tutoring and allow students who really have that knowledge gap to get support. 

Tutoring doesn’t have to just be teacher-led, either! Encourage upper-grade students to create study groups to find a sense of community and a source of peer support!

Provide Frequent Student Feedback

Give students feedback regularly (daily if possible) using tangible checkpoints like high-quality homework, exams, and independent practice classwork. If you’re in person, try aggressive monitoring and send homework with feedback on it so families can see. Teachers can also create recordings to send home that go over questions/problems that can be posted after assignments are received. This is a great resource that students can use to understand why their answer was wrong and how to get the correct answer.

Coordinate Due Dates

Coordinate timing of assignment due dates to support student success. Consider a hub of information where teachers can see what is being assigned in other classes. Encourage students to reach out to teachers if they’re feeling overwhelmed. Teach them to advocate for themselves and discuss possible solutions such as deadline extensions. Schools can even plan study hall time that would allow students a dedicated space to begin their work and get support as needed. 

Provide Supplemental Resources

Provide helpful resources such as Khan Academy, IXL, BrainPOP, NearPod, and MobyMax. These resources are not only helpful for students, but also helpful for families to use at home to reinforce learnings and have meaningful conversations about what is being taught at school.

Ask Students

Ask students what would help with their academic growth! Teaching students to self monitor their understanding and advocate for what they need is an important life skill. Teachers and schools can go straight to the source and check-in on what would best support each student. Schools can give out student surveys in class and see what they need. They can even send out a Possip text that uses a bonus question to gather this data. Students hold a lot of the answers to our big questions as educators. Make sure to utilize their thoughts and insights to meet their own needs.

1 Kuhfeld, Dr. Megan, and Dr. Beth Tarasawa. “The COVID-19 Slide: What Summer Learning Loss Can Tell Us about the Potential Impact of School Closures on Student Academic Achievement .” NWEA, Apr. 2020, www.nwea.org/content/uploads/2020/05/Collaborative-Brief_Covid19-Slide-APR20.pdf.

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