Acceleration vs. Remediation – What’s the Difference?

As educators prepare to welcome back students (either virtually or in-person), there is a lingering worry in the air. Will students struggle to learn after missing so much in-person instruction? How will teachers be able to help those students who have fallen behind?

For many teachers, the idea of using remediation as a means to help students catch up with their peers seems like the only option. However, with so many students falling behind, a different question is posed: Is remediation really what students need? Some education specialists don’t think so, and they have another recommendation: Acceleration.

What’s the difference between acceleration and remediation? And is one better than the other for your students? Today, we’ll break down the two concepts so you can decide for yourself the best way to help your students be successful this year and beyond.

What is Remediation?

Remediation is commonly used for students who haven’t mastered all of the concepts of their current grade by the end of the school year. Those struggling students are made to go back and master all of the year’s concepts before they can progress to the next grade level.

While it may sound like a good way to help ensure students are ready for the next grade, remediation can negatively impact students more than most people realize. Often, students lose interest in repeating course material they’ve already worked on, and it’s sometimes a waste of time repeating lessons that they already understand when they could be focusing on moving forward with their education.

In some cases, remediation can limit student success, causing students to fall behind their peers — which can be isolating, demoralizing and frustrating, causing students to resist learning anything new at all.

What is Acceleration?

Unlike remediation, which focuses on previously taught material, acceleration teaches only the concepts that students need to succeed at the current grade level. By introducing new material, educators can fill in the learning gaps without making students feel like they are somehow failing or falling further behind.

The concept of acceleration isn’t new, but it’s not common in every classroom. Typically, small gifted classes use the concept of acceleration to teach students critical skills that will be useful for the upcoming grade level. This focused, specialized teaching helps keep students engaged and motivated, even when the materials they cover are more challenging.

By focusing on key skills that build on each other, educators can lay a stronger foundation for struggling students without the boredom, frustration, and shame of remedial classes. Keeping students engaged and building confidence through acceleration can help more students succeed in closing their learning gaps through agile teaching strategies that play to students’ strengths while keeping up their pace with their peers.

Comparing Remediation with Acceleration

Imagine you are asked to bake and decorate a cake. You are given strict specifications on how to make the cake, including which ingredients to use and how to combine them to get the best (correct) results. You are also given instructions on how to decorate the cake to match the one created by the instructor exactly.

You bake your cake, and it turns out beautifully. However, you can’t seem to get the hang of the frosting technique, and your decorations are wrong. Would it make sense for your instructor to throw out your entire cake and have you start over from scratch, or would you be better off simply removing the frosting and doing that part again?

This oversimplified analogy illustrates how remediation and acceleration compare. Students have gained some skills, and though there may be gaps in their skill sets, it isn’t necessary to re-master all of the previous grade’s skills to move on. Instead, focusing on the elements they do know and using that to their advantage while picking up the pieces they missed along the way can help them move forward with their education. 

Changing Mindsets

Both remediation and acceleration teach previously learned concepts, but the real difference is the mindset needed with each strategy. Remediation focuses on only previously learned concepts, while acceleration allows instructors to spend more time on current grade-level concepts as necessary to help students succeed.

Remediation feels like going backward, but acceleration means ‘forward motion,’ and this concept can make a massive difference to students and teachers alike. Students move forward in learning without losing momentum by avoiding the frustration of covering considerable amounts of unrelated concepts they may already be fluent in.

Of course, acceleration isn’t just good for post-pandemic planning. It’s a valuable concept that is easy for more educators and schools to embrace. By focusing on key concepts needed to help students succeed this year, you won’t overwhelm or burn them out by repeating unnecessary lessons. But you will set them up for future success and help them retain their love of learning.

De Alba Math Center Makes The Transition Easier on You and Your Students

Coming back to school after so long away can prove challenging, but at De Alba Math Center, we are here to help take off some of the unnecessary burden. We have worksheets and foldables that you can use to teach STAAR-approved mathematics lessons, letting you focus on the anxiety and ever-changing policies coming your way. 

The best part? Our materials are all able to be integrated into Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom. Even if you find yourself teaching students in a hybrid format going forward, none of your students will miss out on course material with our consumables and digital solutions. 

Check out our math essentials today, and let us take out some of the anxiety that comes with returning to school this year. 


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