Learning Acceleration, Academic Renewal, and Student Enrichment

Accelerate CT logoThe adaptive approach to teaching and learning implemented during the pandemic highlights promising, innovative practices. Many should be integrated into our approach to teaching, while can continue; however, some may no longer be as beneficial. What remains is the student-centered approach to reimagining classrooms where all learners are actively involved in their education can develop valuable workforce and life the skills and knowledge.

  • WHAT: CSDE Acceleration Cycle for Academics

    School systems can change the trajectory of the school experience.

    Diagnosing and addressing unfinished learning in the context of grade-level work will require teachers to observe what students know and can do. School systems can implement the CSDE Acceleration Cycle, which provides an illustration of best assessment practices to support educator’s ability to determine the most appropriate entry point of learning. This process, when used can assist in developing an intentional learning plan that does not only focus on the areas of concern, but highlights areas of strength and opportunity for intentional acceleration o

    The CSDE Acceleration Cycle recommends:

    1. Diagnosing students’ unfinished learning of prerequisite knowledge to prioritize tier 1 power strategies.
    2. Planning to prioritize lesson sequence that embeds prerequisite content knowledge with grade level learning targets. Partner with students to design a learning plan a provide voice and choice. 
    3. Monitor and adapt the scope and sequence/pacing of learning by content area and grade level. Differentiate or personalize learning plan.
    4. Utilize formative assessment processes and multiple means of demonstrating learning to monitor student progress assess strategies that are working or not.
    5. Provide feedback to set learning goals and adjust learning sequence. Innovative assessment practices can be identified. 
    6. Evaluate mastery and adjust learning plans based on student progress while maintaining a high level of rigor.

    The CSDE Acceleration Cycle contains five steps for continuous improvement in academics, family and community connections, social-emotional well-being, professional learning, and summer learning enrichment. The five steps are Prioritize, Plan and Partner, Monitor and Adapt, Feedback to Engage, and Evaluate to Sustain.

    It is an important reminder that the Social Emotional Learning Intellectual Habits can contribute to the ability for students to access academic content and achieve academically.  Understanding how behavior, emotions, and other factors impact academics is critical to best determine the strategy for intervention. It may mean that students need explicit supports in social skills while also receiving academic support. 


  • Plays for Teaching Learning and Assessment to Accelerate Learning

    Plays for Teaching, Learning and Assessment to Accelerate Learning

    The CSDE has identified existing assets or strengths that can be used to support local planning and implementation. The table below provide examples for school systems for using the asset within a specific context for teaching, learning and assessment Practices to Accelerate Learning.

    Asset or Resource

    Highly Effective Practice


    As a school principal at a K-8 school: I organized horizontal and vertical teams consisting of teachers, school counselors, English language specialists, special education personnel, and curriculum coaches to meet virtually on a weekly basis during the summer months to review school level data and identify student-centered goals for the year ahead. We use EdSight to examine student-growth data and set personal goals for students. We also use the Early Indicator Tool to capture a snapshot that extends beyond state-wide assessment results. These include student historical level data (e.g., student attendance, mobility, discipline, and retention). This information informs the scope of programs that address social/emotional health, family outreach, and early interventions.

    Sensible Assessment Practices Webinar Series

    As a teacher or instructional coach: I viewed the Sensible Assessment Webinars, which provide short topic-specific videos, PDFs, and resources, and used the ideas provided in my planning.

    Connecticut Interim Assessments

    Connecticut Priority Standards for Essential Learning

    Tools for Teachers

    Smarter Balanced Sample Items

    As an eighth-grade mathematics teacher:

    Prior to beginning an 8th Grade unit, I analyze students’ understanding of prerequisite skills and knowledge by utilizing a 7th grade interim assessment (either through standard interim administration or through warm-up exercises). In this way, I can identify skills and concepts to build students’ grade level understanding and embed the skills in the 8th grade instruction.

    The Connecticut Priority Standards helps me focus on specific standards from Grades 7 and 8 identified by our curriculum director for emphasis at the start of the school year. I also use resources from Tools for Teachers to locate sample lessons and activities that reinforce skills aligned to these priority standards.

    If I want to access any math or ELA items currently used in the IABs to use just one or two items as a teaching tool during a remote lesson or in class, I can access the Interim Assessment Item Portal in Tools for Teachers. I choose a few items, using the sort option for content area, grade level, and standard download the items and metadata to a PDF. I use these items as during group work, or as a Do Now activity.

    When I want to post an item for students to work on outside of the classroom, I use the Smarter Balanced Sample Item Bank and these can be posted! I choose items based on the needs of my students. I can post these to Google docs as an assignment when my class is remote, or I can send the item home with a student as homework.

    Formative Assessment Practices

    POP UP Pd on Formative Assessment Practices.

    Formative Assessment in Remote Learning: A Driver for Improving instruction of Diverse Learners (Video)


    As a classroom teacher or instructional coach: I regularly employformative assessment practices, not for grading, but rather to find students’ levels of understanding during instruction, and to determine how they are progressing. I use various strategies that benefit all students, especially at-risk learners or English learners, such as color-coded index cards to show understanding of a topic or exit tickets to determine if students still have unanswered questions about a topic taught.

    For the student, this process allows them to be actively engaged in their learning and assures that each student has access to the resources and educational rigor they need at the right moment in their education, across race, gender, ethnicity, language, or disability.

    CAST: Technical Assistance for Accessibility

    CSDE Accessibility and Special Populations, Guidelines and Documentation

    CAST Universal Design for Learning Guidelines

    As a district we have determined our technology needs overall, incorporating the needs of special populations based upon team review of student profiles. CAST’s National Center on Accessible Educational Materials for Learning (AEM Center) and the Center on inclusive Technology and Educational Systems (CITES) has provided systematic methods for building capacity, increasing our knowledge base, while supporting effective inclusive implementation.

    To ensure equitable access to instruction and assessment from the initial unit planning Universal Design for Learning Guidelines are a foundational resource. Additionally, to provide familiarity, staff training and student practice we confirm and clarify what is allowed on various assessments CSDE Accessibility resources to guide our implementation

    Guidelines for Implementing Mastery-Based Learning (ct.gov)

    Sensible Assessment Practices for 2020-21 and Beyond

    As a Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher of eleventh grade students:

    I know that equity is central to education. In order to provide multiple pathways for learning and increase local accountability for the implementation of equitable learning for all students, I will create increased flexibility and voice/choice for students to design and individualize learning in alignment with state content standards and frameworks.

    As the teacher receiving these 11th grade students, I will incorporate a cycle of assessments FOR learning (formative/interim/summative) into my instruction to meet students where they are and not base my instruction on seat-time considerations that drive a culture of promoting students based on arbitrary time structures.

    Assessment Viewing Application

    As a middle school math intervention teacher:

    I use the Assessment Viewing Application (AVA) to review items to determine which IABs align to my lessons so I can incorporate them at the right time. I use these blocks as a formative assessment administering them as a pre and/or post-test exercise aligned to specific math intervention skills. I sometimes use items out-of-grade level to maximize opportunities to reinforce these skills based on the level of my learner.

    I can also use AVA to access sample math items from those blocks I chose not to incorporate. I share these items during my lesson to model problem-solving techniques with my learners.

    DRC Insight Portal

    CSDE Performance Matters Forum

    English Learner Tool Kit

    As EL Coordinator for my K-5 Elementary School: I meet regularly with my classroom teachers to support the instruction of English learners. I used the DRC Insight Portal to access specific reports from LAS Links to identify the individual strengths and areas of focus for each English Learner. We then developed a learning plan with personal student goals for the coming year and share it with those working with the student.

    Connecticut Alternate Science Assessments (CTAS): Performance Tasks (Grades 5, 8, and 11)

    We are co-teachers from a private special education program:

    Though we embed a variety of skills aligned to the CT Core Standards for math and English language arts in our modified lessons, the inclusion of science is not as robust. We plan to spend the summer reviewing the CTAS Performance Tasks and identify ways to embed the NGSS-aligned essence statements in our daily curriculum across all grade bands. This provides a natural extension of many of our academic themes and integrates science content aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.

    I am teaching 4th Graders in an approved private special education program:

    I plan to use the CTAS tools as instructional support for a small group of students in non-tested grades. Materials can be shared by integrating technology tools e.g. smartboards and communication devices to maximize student inclusion.

    Mathematics Evidence-Based Practice Guide

    As a 5th Grade mathematics teacher of a heterogeneous class:

    I will use peer-assisted, mixed-ability instruction to promote equal expectations for all students of grade-level content and accelerate learning instead of grouping students by ability within the class.

    I understand that providing a balanced approach of conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application in mathematics is the foundation to high quality instruction.

    CSDE Evidence Based Practice Guide for Reading




    As a 2nd Grade teacher:

    To support literacy learning at home, I will weekly communicate (e.g., letters, calls, e-mails) with families in their home language to assist them in engaging their children. I will provide resources for families (e.g., books, online text, and educational aps) and assist families in turning everyday experiences into literacy learning opportunities.

    As a district/building leader:

    I will look at the various funding sources (e.g., Titles, ESSER I and II funds to provide increased family supports, like school to home kits to support early literacy and family engagement. Leverage family engagement centers.

    CSDE Evidence Based Practice Guide for Reading

    CT Core Standards: English Language Arts

    Sensible Assessment Practices for 2020-21 and Beyond

    As a 1st Grade teacher:

    I recognize that there will be a need for enhanced oral communication activities between my students. In the fall, I will analyze spring assessment data and do additional assessment of students’ oral proficiencies (to see, for example if they have they mastered speaking in complete sentences and if they are ready to move on to compound sentences). Then, I will emphasize oral language activities across the contents to assist students in producing and expanding on complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences.

    Connecticut Online Professional Learning Modules

    As a classroom teacher:

    I recognize that it is imperative that I maintain rigorous instruction despite the disruption of learning that has occurred. In order to accomplish this, I will engage with these online learning modules to understand the progression of the standards so that I attend to grade level content and learn what skill and concepts may need to be addressed through just-in-time support.

    Connecticut Priority Standards for Essential Learning Outcomes



    As a classroom teacher:

    I can use high quality materials to diagnose students’ foundation skills. I can create intentional learning opportunities that include a focus and embedded assessment practices on current grade-level standards; this approach promises to accelerate student learning and assist schools avoid the loss of valuable time identifying what unfinished learning is present.

    As a building leader:

    I can provide guidance to my staff about their approach to diagnosing unfinished knowledge using the district approved assessment tools. I can use instructional coaches with grade level teams to examine curricula pacing is aligned with CSDE Priority Standards with appropriate instructional strategies that support students and teachers setting learning goals.

    I can provide time during the summer for teachers to collaborate in reviewing the curricula and resources to identify prerequisite skills in core content areas for all learners, including English learners and students with high needs.

    CSDE Evidence Based Practice Guide for Reading

    CT Core Standards: English Language Arts

    Sensible Assessment Practices for 2020-21 and Beyond

    As a 1st Grade teacher:

    I recognize that there will be a need for enhanced oral communication activities between my students. In the fall, I will analyze spring assessment data and do additional assessment of students’ oral proficiencies (to see, for example if they have they mastered speaking in complete sentences and if they are ready to move on to compound sentences). Then, I will emphasize oral language activities across the contents to assist students in producing and expanding on complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences.

    CSDE English Language Proficiency Evidence-Based Practice Guide

    As a district leader, when considering summer school experiences or extended learning experience with community partners:

    I will provide students with summer school experiences that are additive and focused on developing ongoing academic progress and engagement, not solely in place to mitigate unfinished teaching and learning.

    Summer school supports the extension of learning for students at all levels and includes experiential, meaningful real-world activities. Structured learning opportunities that are linked to standards are essential, and these activities should be interactive, hands on, learner directed and related to the real world, while remaining grounded in academic learning goals. This can be accomplished by connecting with community-based partners, such as public libraries, community non-profits, health services, etc. Capitalize on current structures and existing programs (i.e. New Haven Reads program). Student participation is impacted by issues of access and convenience, as well as by the adequacy and attractiveness of the services and features provided in the program. Minimize the barriers to participation, especially for the students most in need of program services and who will be most likely to benefit from them.

    Who identifies these entities? Who cultivates the relationships? Family liaisons, outreach coordinators, guidance counselors, wraparound service providers, district climate and attendance coordinators. The school administrator must be informed and engaged in this process as well as the district administration in order to oversee and guide allocation of resources/funding and determining whether activities are permissible.

    Who develops programming/model? SEA provides guidance, district/schools engage with local community organizations to structure programs aligned to local needs.

    Who can connect/negotiate/establish funding sources for the projects? District level administration, SEA guidance would likely be necessary.