Focus Skills are skills and standards that are prerequisites for future learning

App of the Week


In June of 2020, Renaissance launched Focus Skills to support educators during the pandemic. Identified as key skills within Renaissance’s learning progressions—the path students take from a novice to expert level of understanding, according to the standards of each state—Focus Skills are also prerequisites for future learning.

In the fall of 2021, Renaissance updated Focus Skills based on changes to standards over the past year and debuted Trip Steps, which identify math skills students tend to stumble over. The combination of these two resources is designed to help educators increase the impact of their instructional time following the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Trip Steps go deeper into Focus Skills by identifying the math skills that are also the most difficult for students to learn at grade level. Put simply, if learning is a staircase, some steps are bigger than others. Trip Steps that are also Focus Skills are not only difficult for students to master, but critical for future academic success. As educators work to help students finish learning skills that were interrupted due to COVID, understanding both which skills are essential for future progress and where students tend to stumble will be critical.


Formats/platforms used:

Focus Skills and Trip Steps are available on any internet-connected device.


Primary URL:


Problem solved:

Focus Skills help teachers identify the reading and math skills and standards that are absolutely essential to future academic success so they can focus on the material that will benefit students most. Trip Steps identify which math skills are hardest relative to other skills in each grade so teachers can anticipate where their students may need extra help.


Grade/age range:

Focus Skills are available for grades pre-K–12.


Core or supplemental?

Focus Skills cover the core subjects of literacy and math, while Trip Steps are currently focused on math only. Trip Steps for reading will be released early this year.



Focus Skills and Trip Steps are mapped to the Common Core State Standards and individual state standards for English language arts and mathematics.


Lesson time needed:

Focus Skills and Trip Steps are designed to be used by teachers to plan lessons and activities. Using them does not require lesson time and will actually save teachers time in planning.


Pricing model:

Focus Skills and Trip Steps are available to educators at no cost.


Additional services needed:

There are no additional requirements.


What makes Focus Skills unique? 

Focus Skills and Trip Steps are designed to help teachers accelerate learning by identifying the skills that are prerequisites for grade-level content.



Focus Skills are freely available on the Renaissance website, where educators can see the number of skills by grade level and by domain. They can then easily review and print skills for each grade level.


Here’s what users are saying:

“We’re giving teachers online tools like Focus Skills to guide their efforts to help students progress as quickly as possible. I’m a firm believer in teaching all the standards, but in these extraordinary circumstances, we need to first address those standards that are the building blocks to later progress. Our interventionists are using the Focus Skills in grades below or a few grades below to ensure that students are working on the most specific skills to bridge achievement gaps. Our grade-level classroom teachers are looking at the Focus Skills for on-level skills they teach to make sure that they have evidence of mastery of those. We see ALL of these as ‘building blocks’ for our students.”

-- Janice Pavelonis, superintendent at Carbondale Elementary School District 95


“By looking at the Focus Skills that are also Trip Steps, we can ensure that teachers are spending the most time on skills that are absolutely necessary for future learning and difficult for students to understand. Or, in a year like this one, in which students have many gaps in their learning, we can help teachers identify the skills from the previous year that are most critical for students’ current grade, as well as which ones they are most likely to need a little refresher on—whether they missed the skill because of the pandemic or not.”

-- Dave Gibbons, Ed.D., curriculum director at Schuyler Community Schools:

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