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COVID-19 Academic Recovery

Planning & Funding
Learning Acceleration


The lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and forced school closures has resulted in plummeting state test score averages across the country. More than 50 million K12 students were affected by forced closures and remote learning environments. Even students who spent the least amount of time learning remotely during the 2020-21 school year (just a month or less) missed the equivalent of seven to 10 weeks of math learning, says Thomas Kane of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.

Small improvements that did occur during the 2021-22 school year in math and reading scores were in elementary grades, but the pandemic-era declines in middle school achievement were unchanged. NWEA researchers predict the average elementary student will take three years, at minimum, to return to their pre-pandemic academic trajectory, and older students will take “far longer.” That's a crisis that requires schools to employ strategies that accelerate academic recovery as opposed to the traditional approach of focusing on remediation.

Educators across the country are diligently trying to make up for lost time by incorporating individualized learning plans, investing in instructional coaching, re-evaluating and transforming summer school and after-school programs, investing in professional development, and taking a data-driven approach to improving academic performance.

If your state testing scores aren’t moving in the direction you want or need them to, here are some tools and resources to consider.

1. Remediation vs. Learning Acceleration

Learning loss recovery isn’t a new concept. In fact, some teachers spend as much as four to six weeks re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer months.

In reality, some students just didn’t grasp new concepts at all during remote learning, begging the question - was it learning loss as much as it was loss of the opportunity to learn that educators must swiftly address? Most teachers simply weren’t able to engage students remotely like they were in an in-person classroom setting. Many schools and teachers struggled to adopt online-based solutions for instruction and some schools still have not made the shift from remediation to learning acceleration.

Even the effects the pandemic had on the economy made parents less equipped to provide educational support. Many struggled with economic uncertainty or the demands of working from home. Data from online learning platforms showed a drop in coursework completed and survey evidence suggests that children spent considerably less time studying during remote learning as compared to being in an in-person classroom setting.

The COVID-19 pandemic challenged schools across the United States to quickly adapt to online teaching and learning. Three primary methods for online instruction evolved. Synchronous, asynchronous, and a hybrid approach that incorporated a blend of synchronous and asynchronous instruction. While the impact of synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid remote learning is still widely debated, most educators agree that synchronous instruction allowed teachers to engage students (in “live” virtual classrooms) in rich discussions, whereas schools that utilized only asynchronous instruction saw widely varying results in online engagement, completion of assigned work and overall understanding of course materials.

Regardless of the instructional methods used during remote learning, even schools that were able to return rather quickly to in-person learning continued to battle high-rate absenteeism and quarantining requirements that took students out of the classroom for several days at a time. Additionally, test-score gaps between students in low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools grew by approximately 20% in math and 15% in reading, widening the opportunity gap even further.

As educators prepare to start the 2022-23 school year, summer learning loss coupled with the need for accelerated learning opportunities that allow students to engage with grade-level content while providing “just-in-time” supports, have many schools in crisis mode. Some schools haven’t yet felt the urgency to address academic recovery post-pandemic and the window for federal funding support for academic recovery is quickly closing.

Lower state test scores were expected by nearly all professionals in education during the 2021-22 school year, but with the promise that the upcoming school year will likely resemble the kind of normalcy we experienced during pre-pandemic classroom learning, educators will be expected to have the tools and resources that will enable students to complete grade-level coursework, and ultimately increase standardized testing scores.

Fortunately, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is the single largest investment ever made in public education. Nationally, $190 billion in federal emergency aid is provided to states through the ESSER funds in support of public elementary and secondary education.

Developing an academic recovery plan can transition schools from a reactive to a proactive approach to mitigating COVID learning loss and federal funding will ease the burden of implementing high-quality instructional materials, targeted professional development for instruction, and selecting strategic partners who specialize in these kinds of supports.

2. Five Key Elements of an Academic Recovery Plan

Five key elements will play a critical role in the success of an academic recovery plan. They are: 

  1. Strategic Planning: Strategic planning should include evaluating your organizational design, analyzing student learning data, goal-setting, and reviewing the efficacy of your current assessment process.
  2. Curriculum and Materials: Curriculum should be standards-aligned and include detailed lesson plans that allow teachers to spend more time intellectually preparing and analyzing data to meet the needs of students for both whole-class and small group instruction. Curriculum should prompt curiosity in students and create opportunities for rich and meaningful discussions in the classroom.
  3. Professional Development: Professional development opportunities should allow teachers and leaders to be part of professional learning communities that aren’t just isolated to teachers and leaders within your school or district. It is critical that teachers and leaders have the opportunity to share ideas and collaborate with others.  The most effective professional development opportunities include the ability for teachers and leaders to cross-collaborate with other schools or districts to prevent doing it “the way we’ve always done it” and to truly create opportunities that identify best practices in instruction, instructional leadership, and teaching methods proven to accelerate academic recovery.
  4. Instructional Coaching: The best instructional coaches understand the importance of not only collaborating with teachers in the classroom but also sharing the responsibility of driving tangible results. Instructional coaching should support the learning and growth of instructional methods, but also directly impact student achievement. Instructional coaching should be happening often to ensure continuity of instructional methods and implementation of the curriculum. Instructional coaching is an intentional focus separate from teacher evaluation.
  5. Summer & After-school Programming: Five- to six-week summer learning programs with small class sizes and individualized instruction can have a significant impact in bringing a student back to grade level before the new school year starts. Teachers and leaders need effective tools to mitigate learning loss and should leverage data to improve academic performance during the summer months.

A well-organized, intentional academic recovery plan can provide your school with a clear, intentional direction and provide teachers with the support they need to accelerate academic recovery.

3. Funding Resources

Unprecedented state and federal aid funding sources are available to aid in the academic recovery of students. These resources provide educational leaders the opportunity to make significant investments in evidence-based programs. While initially, schools across the country invested in mitigating the risk of Coronavirus outbreaks, technology for remote learning, and equipment for the safe return to schools, several funding sources have yet to be used, and in some cases, time is running out to allocate these funds. Here’s a brief overview of funding resources schools can use to combat learning loss. 

Existing Funding Sources

Title I, Part A

Title I, Part A, of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools. Districts or schools accepting Title I funds are required to provide all children with fair, equitable, and significant educational opportunities to obtain a high-quality education and meet grade level state academic standards and assessments.

Title I funds can be used to provide additional academic support and learning opportunities to help children meet state standards in core academic subjects. These funds can support extra instruction in reading and mathematics, after-school programs, and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.

Title II, Part A

Title II, Part A can be used to provide support for new teachers and professional development for teachers and principals that increase student achievement consistent with state standards, improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers, principals, and other school leaders, increase the number of teachers, principals, and other school leaders who are effective in improving student academic achievement in schools, and provide low-income and minority students greater access to effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders. Title II, Part A provides flexibility to use Title II, Part A funds creatively to address challenges including quality instruction and instructional leadership.

COVID-related Funding Sources

The $190 billion in federal emergency aid equivalates to approximately $3,700 per student. Here is a summary of each ESSER fund, the amount of funding provided, and the period of availability.

LG-CovidAcademicRecovery-Chart2 copy-01

2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES)

The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) (also known as ESSER I) provides two funding sources schools can use to address learning loss, support for afterschool and summer learning programs, and using evidence-based approaches to address learning loss. These funds are only available for appropriation until September 30, 2022. Schools can use the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to purchase instructional materials. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) is based on each state’s share of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and can be used to support planning for long-term school closures and remove learning. States, districts, and schools have significant flexibility in how they spend these funds to address learning loss and prepare schools for reopening. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided $13.2 billion dollars of funding.

Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA)

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, was signed into law on December 27, 2020, and provided an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) Fund. ESSER II Fund awards to SEAs are in the same proportion as each State received funds under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, in fiscal year 2020. 

American Rescue Plan Act (ARP)

Also known as ARP ESSER or ESSER III, The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act was signed into law on March 11, 2021 and provides additional federal funds to states and districts, including $122 billion for K–12 education under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. These funds are available through September 30, 2024. ARP ESSER funds may be used to address the many impacts of COVID-19 on pre-K through 12 education, including addressing learning loss, funding summer, after-school, and other extended learning and enrichment programs.

This US Department of Education Fact Sheet offers additional information about the ARP Act of 2021 and ARP ESSER Funds, and compares the funding provided by the ESSER Fund under the 2020 CARES Act, the ESSER II Fund under the 2021 CRRSA Act, and the ARP ESSER Fund.

4. The Cost of Academic Recovery

States, districts, and schools may use the previously mentioned funds to develop and implement programs to address lost instructional time and the social, emotional, and other academic needs of students, including programs that:

  1. Use high-quality diagnostic and formative assessments to inform and personalize instruction
  2. Implement high-quality and effective tutoring
  3. Integrate and prioritize the social, emotional, and academic needs of all students
  4. Provide students with tailored learning acceleration opportunities
  5. Support the successful transitions of students from pre-school to elementary school, elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to postsecondary education and the workforce
  6. Use high-quality out-of-school time (OST) learning experiences to support students’ social, emotional, and academic needs offers a calculator that uses the length of time your school/district operated remotely or in a hybrid model, the mix of student characteristics and prior performance levels and recent research to estimate the average number of weeks of learning loss in math and reading as well as the cost to remedy learning loss and estimated federal relief funds available to your school(s).

5. About Lavinia Group

While schools are often heavily reliant on the use of school funds to invest in professional development, curriculum, and summer/after-school programming, federal and state funding support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has made available financial resources that allow schools to mitigate learning loss without a significant impact on the general fund balance.

Lavinia Group provides professional development, coaching, curriculum, and summer programming for K-8 teachers and school leaders by using a student-centered, research-based, and data driven approaches to literacy, math, and social studies instruction. Lavinia Group provides four core services to  charter schools and districts- consulting, virtual institutes, curriculum, and our RISE summer school program

Every Lavinia Group instructional consultant has achieved extraordinary results for children in urban schools, doing so as superintendents, principals, network leaders, and lab-site teachers. As a result, we are uniquely equipped to drive systems and instructional management, as well as to roll up our sleeves in classrooms and provide targeted direct-to-teacher coaching.

The following chart indicates various funding sources available to schools for Lavinia Group services.


Our Core Beliefs

Since 2015, we’ve partnered with teachers and leaders across the nation to produce transformative results. Our results stem from five core beliefs:

Lavinia_IconsIntellectual Preparation. We must support leaders and teachers to be confident, passionate, and precise in their own ability to analyze texts and understand content. In preparing to teach students the art of reading, writing, math, or social studies it’s intellectual preparation that matters most.

Lavinia_Icons_Science of Reading

Science of Reading. In an educational landscape that suffers from over-complexity, we clear the clutter and help teachers and leaders make sense of and practically implement research-based Science of Reading methods, including keeping meaning front and center.

Lavinia_Icons_worldclassliteratureWorld-Class Literature. In order for students to fall in love with reading, they must have the best literature at their fingertips, and ample time to unpack, analyze, and discuss complex grade-level texts.

Lavinia_Icons_problemsolvingPurposeful Problem Solving. If we want to prepare students to solve the problems of tomorrow, then we must prepare them to be problem solvers today. To do this, students need purposeful problems that go beyond simple calculations or the replication of a teacher model, and they need opportunities to reason independently, with partners, and as a class to make meaning from each of these tasks.

Lavinia_Icons2_0002_Layer-10School-Based Training. The training/execution gap emerges when ideas presented during professional development are not realized in practice. We preempt this by working with leaders and teachers where the rubber hits the road: in schools and in classrooms. Through our Rapid Improvement Cycle, which includes robust intellectual preparation, practice, and feedback we propel adult learning within our partner schools.

Tangible Results

Schools rely heavily on instructional leaders in-house to improve state testing scores and we realize one of the first questions school leaders have when considering a new curriculum, instructional coaching, or professional development is “will it work?”

Lavinia Group has partnered with schools in more than 24 states to mitigate learning loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and we’ve closely monitored and tracked progress. Above all else, we believe accountability is the most important aspect of a partnership with the schools we work with. Here are a few examples of the impact a holistic approach to mitigating learning loss has resulted in:

  • On the 2022 Indiana State Exams, students at Victory College Prep, a Lavinia Group partner, grew by 16 percentage points in ELA test scores year-over-year.
  • On the 2022 Minnesota State Exams, Harvest Best Academy, a public charter school in Minneapolis, grew by 18 percentage points in ELA year-over-year.
  • Over a 5-year period from 2015-2019, Lavinia Group partners doubled in growth on New York State ELA exams as compared to New York City.

Learning loss recovery is possible and we’re here to help.

Explore Your Options

Schedule an appointment with a member of our team today to discuss academic recovery solutions for your students.