What Does It Take to Accelerate the Learning of Every Child?

Early Insights from a CCEE School-Improvement Pilot
What Does It Take to Accelerate the Learning of Every Child?
Benjamin W. Cottingham
Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University
Heather J. Hough
Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University
Jeannie Myung
Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University


Student achievement in California has not rebounded after the precipitous declines of the COVID-19 pandemic, with English language arts (ELA) and math scores remaining well below prepandemic levels. Student attendance has declined dramatically, and trauma and time away from school have led to mental health challenges, delays in social development, and behavioral issues among students. All too often, teachers work in isolation to create lesson plans and deliver instruction, with little instructional support, limited opportunities for collaboration, and unclear expectations. Under these conditions, even basic instruction is not easy, much less accelerating learning.

It is in this context that the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) has launched the Intensive Assistance Model (IAM) pilot school-improvement project, which is designed to build new approaches for teacher collaboration and student support. The IAM pilot’s goal is to support schools in implementing the Professional Learning Community (PLC) at Work model, which uses an intensive support and coaching process to empower teachers as instructional leaders through developing processes, structures, and culture that support collaborative planning, data analysis, and targeted interventions. Teachers work in grade-level teams to define essential standards, create assessments, and tailor instruction based on student data.

The PLC at Work model has led to measurable impacts in student achievement. This pilot has shown promise for creating schools that can quickly diagnose and collectively respond to students’ needs. Five of the eight participating schools shared evidence of improved academic outcomes after the first year of implementation, along with increases in teacher satisfaction, but to sustain and expand these positive gains, substantial school district support and leadership are required.

Realizing the model’s potential requires the active engagement of district offices to align resources, remove barriers, and support effective teaching and learning systems. Barriers include lack of collaboration time, insufficient school-site staff, incoherence between district- and school-based work, and the cost of intensive coaching. These can be overcome with a focus on strengthening and aligning systems at the school, district, county, and state levels to center student learning and educator support.

The PLC at Work model is tightly aligned with the tenets of continuous improvement and local control that undergird California’s current policy approach and can be successfully employed alongside any curriculum or materials, across various contexts. Critically, this model puts teachers in the driver’s seat, empowering them to make instructional decisions as a collaborative team. Early returns suggest the model has great potential to improve teaching and learning throughout California’s schools.

Suggested citationCottingham, B. W., Hough, H. J., & Myung, J. (2023, December). What does it take to accelerate the learning of every child? Early insights from a CCEE school-improvement pilot [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.