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Curriculum Acceleration: Planning the Next 5 Years

Students and teachers have had a rough time over the last year or so. Home learning has not been an equal substitute for the school learning environment, and, of course, not all students have had equal access to the proper technology. 

Now that schools are re-opening and welcoming back their students, teachers will have to make up for lost time. This presents a challenge to educators and administrators, a challenge that might involve accelerating the curriculum. But the last thing we need is another challenge and that's why we want to help.

Here are some tips on how you can plan your curriculum acceleration for the next five years.

What Is Curriculum Acceleration?

The term 'curriculum acceleration' can refer to various strategies used to help students learn on grade level. In the aftermath of COVID-19, we will assume that all students have fallen behind to a greater or lesser degree. We are not, then, talking about remedial teaching for struggling students but, rather, a strategy to ensure that all students get back to where they should be. 

There are two ways that a school can do this:

  1. The school can introduce subjects earlier than it normally would. For example, starting biology in seventh grade instead of ninth.
  2. Concentrate on content that is appropriate to the grade. Teachers will not go over the content that previous grades have covered. Unless, of course, it is necessary to review old content to understand new information.

This second strategy is the one that schools usually use. We will, then, concentrate on this.

A Five-Year Plan

Catching up will be a long process. It is not unfeasible that it might take as long as five years. I would not leave the design of the strategy to just one person. This is an ambitious undertaking that is best designed by a team.

Set Your Goals

What do you hope to achieve? Are the goals realistic? Educators and administrators will need to take into account that some students may have had traumatic experiences. This may well affect their ability to learn.

A well-designed curriculum acceleration plan should be flexible, as educators may discover that their students need a little more time on certain subjects. 

The best strategy in curriculum acceleration is to use your available time efficiently. It certainly does not mean that your school becomes a Dickensian crammer, however.

Develop A Strategy

The school needs to come up with a well-thought-out strategy. A school is a community in which various groups are stakeholders. Students, educators, administrators, ancillary staff, and parents are all involved. All of these players should know exactly what is going on.

Assuming that the strategy basically consists in implementing option two (as mentioned above), the school will need to consider if it needs to make changes to the timetable. For example, the school may choose to extend the learning time available for core subjects.

Are the materials that are available adequate to the task? The school might need to invest in new materials and equipment. 

The new plan should not be too ambitious and leave enough time to review material that students find difficult.

Implement The Plan

Once you and your team have planned out how to accelerate the curriculum, you need to set it in motion as quickly as possible. Again, everyone involved must know why your school is making these changes.

Monitor Your Plan

Robert Burns wrote that "the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Undoubtedly, you will find that your strategy is not perfect. Some students may find that they are under too much pressure. On the flip side, teachers might feel that the administration is asking them to take on too much. Many aspects of a strategy look fine on paper but don't work so well in practice. 

Everyone involved in the accelerated curriculum strategy should be encouraged to come forward with any observations that they might have. You can't expect to get this right the first time. 

The only point of accelerating the curriculum is to help the students to get back on track. If you find that some students have trouble with the workload, you will have to adjust your plan.

Keep formal meetings to discuss progress regularly. Every semester is probably about right.


You should actively encourage feedback from everyone involved. Another way to check that everything is working well is to test the new subject matter. These tests can be quick and informal. The reason for them is so that the educator can gather information and check what needs further work. You mustn't make students feel more intimidated than they may already feel. Have them understand why the tests are necessary.


Don't be afraid to change your approach. If you find that many students are having problems, you might need to spend more time than you had planned on a certain topic. 

Maintain The Learning Environment

A school is a place that offers much more than academic education. It is a fundamental part of a child's life that should offer a secure, comfortable environment. Children learn social skills, cooperation, and respect for others. For a child, school should be fun.

You should not lose these essential aspects of school to an accelerated curriculum program. Every step you take in your new plan should have measures to keep these social benefits intact.

Helping The Teacher

A school focuses on the student. However, the teachers are the medium through which a child learns. As an administrator, it is important to give teachers all the help they need and listen carefully to their opinions. If something isn't working, despite a teacher's best efforts, don't make them struggle through the school year with it.

Smoothing The Way

Various things can help your program succeed:

  • Having up-to-date materials and equipment. Federal funding is available.
  • Peer Tutoring. Stronger students can help those who are finding topics more difficult.
  • Everyone should feel free to raise problems and make suggestions.


Curriculum acceleration is a double-edged compromise in a situation that no one could have foreseen. However, a good plan and a cooperative environment will go a long way towards making the plan work well.


Written by Stephen Tomkinson

Education World Contributor

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