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Successes in Closing Achievement Gaps


Reports, Briefs, and Resources



Study Backs Benefits of Oklahoma's Preschool Program
"The Effects of Universal Pre-K on Cognitive Development" (Developmental Psychology, November 2005) cites research confirming that Oklahoma's pre-kindergarten program has successfully helped kids prepare for school. (Oklahoma is one of the few states to offer preschool to every four-year-old child.) While learning gains were made by children of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, the study found the most significant improvements among Hispanic children. Researchers noted that the preschool program was staffed by well-educated, well-trained teachers who earn regular public school salaries.
Listen to NPR story by Michelle Trudeau
Read news release about the research report

Read full text of the research report (PDF, 13 pp) 

Report Offers a State-by-State Snapshot of Education Statistics
"Education: The State We're In" (Center for American Progress, August 2005) provides a comprehensive snapshot of education today in America.  It brings together publicly available data, slicing the numbers in different ways. The report includes data on seven of the most pressing issue areas in education: the achievement gap, early childhood education, the high-school-to-college pipeline, the accessibility of higher education, participation in after-school programs, standards and student performance measurements, and teachers' subject-matter qualifications. You can take an in-depth look at a particular state or see how the states compare on a particular topic.
Education: The State We're In    

Reaching Out to Diverse Families
"What Can Schools Do to Foster Family-School Connections?" (Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, September 2005) asks how can schools move beyond a limited level of family involvement and encourage all families to become more active in their children’s schools and education. A new strategy brief from the discusses strategies to help schools that want to broaden family involvement.
What Can Schools Do to Foster Family-School Connections? (Strategy brief) (PDF, 12pp)      

Characteristics of Minority Students Who Excel
"Characteristics of Minority Students Who Excel on the SAT and in the Classroom" (Educational Testing Service, January 2005) examines the characteristics of high-achieving minority students in terms of high school courses taken, participation in school activities, leadership experiences, academic success, and parental education.
Characteristics of Minority Students Who Excel on the SAT and in the Classroom  (PDF, 27pp)     

National Board Certification Linked to Higher Student Achievement
"Can Teacher Quality Be Effectively Assessed?" (Urban Institute, March 2004) shows that students of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) improved on elementary math and reading tests more than pupils whose teachers did not achieve National Board Certification. The effects of NBCTs on students who were younger or low-income were even greater.
Can Teacher Quality Be Effectively Assessed?

Many Factors Must Be Addressed To Close Achievement Gaps
Parsing the Achievement Gap: Baselines for Tracking Progress (Educational Testing Service, October 2003) offers an overview and big-picture synthesis of existing research on the achievement gap. The report lists 14 factors related to student achievement -- including six school and eight out-of-school factors. This report also argues against setting costly and punitive deadlines based on revising progress standards and testing more frequently in school, such as with the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Parsing the Achievement Gap: Baselines for Tracking Progress (PDF, 42pp)

"How Schools Matter: The Link Between Teacher Classroom Practices and Student Academic Performance" (Educational Testing Service, 2002) shows that teacher quality and classroom practice can have an effect on student achievement that is equal to or greater than that of students' socioeconomic status and other background characteristics. Among the top factors affecting student performance are a teacher's major course of study in college, diversity training, and the use of hands-on learning in the classroom.
"How Schools Matter: The Link Between Teacher Classroom Practices and Student Academic Performance"

Gaps Should Be Addressed at Multiple Levels, in Multiple Ways
"Perspectives on the Gaps: Fostering the Academic Success of Minority and Low-Income Students" (North Cental Regional Educational Laboratory, 2004) spotlights four entirely different approaches to reducing the achievement gaps. This research report reviews a study comparing gap-closing elementary schools to other schools that are not closing the gaps, a study of a literacy program in high school, a study of a support program in higher education, and a look at gap issues in a rural school district.

Each study takes a different perspective to addressing acheivement gaps and each adds to our understanding of the the causes and solutions. The underlying theme here is that our approaches to eliminating the gaps must occur at multiple levels and account for particular contextual factors. Since there appear to be many causes to the gaps, multiple solutions at multiple levels most likely are required.
Perspectives on the Gaps: Fostering the Academic Success of Minority and Low-Income Students

Achievement Gaps Show Up Early
An Uneven Start: Indicators of Inequality in School Readiness (Educational Testing Service, 2002) found that children start kindergarten with different levels of reading and mathematics skills that are often related to gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic level, and age.
An Uneven Start: Indicators of Inequality in School Readiness (PDF, 77pp)

Web Site Stresses Link Between Class Size and Achievement
Reduce Class Size Now, headed by retired public school teachers and former NEA presidents Helen Pate-Bain and Helen Wise, examines the relationship between smaller classes and student achievement.
Reduce Class Size Now (Web site)

FairTest Web Site Offers Resources on Testing
The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) works to end abuses, misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to make certain that evaluation of students and workers is fair, open, and educationally sound. The Web site includes a wide range of resources on K-12 and university testing for teachers, administrators, students, parents, and researchers.
FairTest (Web site)

International Comparisons of Math, Science Achievement
The Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), formerly known as the Third International Math and Science Study, is the most rigorous and comprehensive study of math and science teaching and learning in the United States and approximately 70 other countries. The TIMSS Web site  features highlights and trends from the latest study, including rankings by country of students' math and science achievement.
TIMSS (Web site)

What Makes a Good School?
"What Makes a Good School: A Guide for Parents Seeking Excellence in Education" (Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, & Student Testing, Undated) uses sound research findings to identify the qualities of a successful school. Good schools, the authors say, have strong and professional administrators and teachers; a broad curriculum available to all students; a philosophy that says all children can learn, coupled with high expectations for all students; a school climate conducive to learning; an ongoing assessment system that supports good instruction; and a high level of parent and community involvement and support.
What Makes a Good School: A Guide for Parents Seeking Excellence in Education (PDF, 11pp)

Setting High Expectations Important for States Too
The Expectations Gap: A 50-State Review of High School Graduation Requirements (Achieve, Inc., 2004) provides one explanation for why so few of the nation's high school students gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workforce: "No state requires its graduates to take the courses that reflect the real-world demands of work and postsecondary education." The report is from Achieve, Inc., a bipartisan, non-profit organization that helps states raise academic standards, improve assessments and strengthen accountability.
The Expectations Gap: A 50-State Review of High School Graduation Requirements  (PDF, 27pp)

Some Racial and Ethnic Groups Are Overrepresented in Special Ed
When students from some racial and ethnic groups aren't achieving, they're more likely to be placed in special education classrooms.
"Disproportionate Representation of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Special Education: Measuring the Problem" (National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems, 2004) looks at the challenges in determining why this happens and how to reduce inappropriate referrals to special education.
Disproportionate Representation of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Special Education: Measuring the Problem (PDF, 12pp)

Study Finds Recess and Play Important in Early Grades
 "The Role of Recess in Children's Cognitive Performance and School Adjustment" (Educational Researcher, January 2005) concludes that recess is important in the primary school curriculum. Researchers found that unstructured breaks from demanding cognitive tasks seem to facilitate school learning, as well as more general social competence and adjustment to school. The bottom line? Recess and play are an important part of learning and education -- and may ultimately enhance student achievement. 
The Role of Recess in Children's Cognitive Performance and School Adjustment  (PDF, 7pp)

NEA Partners on Student Achievement

  • National Alliance of Black School Educators
    A large network of Black educators with the primary mission to improve the educational accomplishments of Black youth by developing and using instructional and motivational methods that increase levels of inspiration, attendance, and overall achievement.
  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
    The oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States. The group works for the political, educational, social, and economic equality of African Americans and other minority groups.
  • ASPIRA
    ASPIRA programs develop the intellectual and leadership potential of Hispanic youth so they can do well in school, improve their lives, and give back to their communities.
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
    LULAC works to improve the economic, political, and health conditions of Hispanics. LULAC monitors legislation and provides policymakers with the Hispanic perspective on relevant social issues.