The State of Unfinished Learning

Jun 15, 2021

The pandemic caused one of the largest disruptions to education in recent history, and that disruption will impact students differently. We know that unfinished learning affected some students more significantly — those who are already attending struggling schools (disproportionately made up of students of color), those who are English learners, and those in the early grade levels, pre-K to 2nd grade.

Where do we stand

Students lost critical in-person instruction time during the spring of 2020 into the fall. Some returned to a completely virtual learning environment and others received hybrid instruction. Because high-quality assessments were paused or postponed, the data over the past year is insufficient to get an accurate picture. 

Measuring will matter deeply, and will tell us how wide the gaps are and how we can help students. This, along with identifying and implementing best practices will set our students on a path toward more equitable outcomes.

We know that one of the most successful strategies so far has been learning acceleration. Teachers who started the year with grade-level concepts and filled in learning gaps as necessary were more effective than those who focused on remediation–or mastering concepts from the prior year. Yet, students of color and those from low-income backgrounds were more likely to receive remediation.

What’s the solution?

Perhaps the largest resource to accomplish this daunting task comes in the form of federal grant dollars. Congress has distributed $130 billion to states ($11.2 billion to Texas alone) in order to “respond to the pandemic and to address student learning loss as a result of COVID-19.”

Funds have been released and local Houston-area school districts must plan for their use. Good Reason Houston has created the following guiding principles for the use of ESSER dollars.

Good Reason Houston believes districts’ investment of ESSER Funds should:

  • Improve whole-child student outcomes
  • Close widening equity gaps in student achievement through evidence-based best practices
  • Test bold ideas that could address persistent challenges to student learning
  • Be financially sustainable and future-proofed
  • Be allocated through a rigorous and transparent provider vetting model


Our team of educational experts has weighed in on key strategies to recommend to school leaders as they develop their plans. 

Key Recommendations:

Focus on acceleration, not remediation

Get smarter on evidence-based and data-driven teaching and learning

Boost enrollment and transitions to school, especially for the littlest learners

Engage families and the community to support transitions to school and accelerated learning

Build out a pipeline of game-changing educators

We are committed to beating the drum of equity, excellence and accountability. We encourage you to join us as we continue the conversation in our local communities and demand equitable support for our most vulnerable students.