Education Trust and MDRC Publish Briefs for District and School Leaders to Address “Unfinished Learning” as a Result of the Pandemic


When the pandemic forced schools across the country to close their doors in March 2020, many district and school leaders worked quickly to plan for and address students’ “unfinished learning.” A recent study indicated that students, on average, could experience up to five to nine months of unfinished learning by the end of June 2021. But it will be sometime before we know the true amount of unfinished learning caused by schools closing their doors.

The degree of unfinished learning caused by the pandemic will differ by student, subject, and grade—affecting math more than reading, younger grades more than older, and students already lacking adequate supports more than others. Research supports two ways schools can give students the opportunities and supports they need to complete unfinished learning: targeted intensive tutoring and expanded learning time.

The Education Trust and MDRC have published two new briefs to help leaders make decisions on how to implement these strategies and where to invest resources, especially in ways that best support the country’s most underserved students. A third brief highlights research-based interventions to build and maintain strong relationships: without strong relationships and connections between students and school staff, educators cannot catch students up. Finally, when evidence exists, the briefs highlight the tradeoffs between effectiveness, affordability, and feasibility when implementing a strategy in different ways.

The three briefs are:

Targeting Intensive Tutoring

Expanded Learning Time

The Importance of Strong Relationships