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Strategies for Closing the Achievement Gaps

Steps You Can Take in Your School or District

After you examine the data for your school or district, you can begin to identify the best strategies for you to use for closing the gaps. As you discuss these strategies, keep in mind (a) which strategies are already in place; (b) what resources are needed to implement new strategies; and (c) what new actions are needed. Below are strategies you may consider using.

Enhanced Cultural Competence

  • Consider students' diversity to be an asset
  • Increase faculty's cultural competence
  • Be sensitive to students' home cultures
  • Understand and capitalize on students' culture, abilities, resilience, and effort

Comprehensive Support for Students

  • Screen children early for medical/social services
  • Work with medical, social services, and community agencies
  • Identify students who need additional instructional support
  • Support students via mentors, tutoring, peer support networks, and role models

Outreach to Students' Families

  • Make sure the main office is family friendly
  • Engage/reach out to students' families
  • Establish family centers at schools and other community locations
  • Hire staff from the community who speak families' home languages
  • Provide transportation to and from school events
  • Conduct adult education and parenting courses at local schools

Extended Learning Opportunities

  • Institute full day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten
  • Extend learning to before- and after-school programs as well as summer programs

Classrooms that Support Learning

  • Use varied, effective strategies to instruct diverse learners
  • Use test and other information on students' performance in instructional planning 
  • Target literacy and math instruction, if needed
  • Safeguard instructional time
  • Use research and data to improve practice

Supportive Schools

  • Make closing gaps a schoolwide responsibility
  • Set high expectations and provide rigorous, deep curricula
  • Focus on academics
  • Provide safe, orderly learning environments for students and educators
  • Use test data and other research on students' performance to inform instruction
  • Identify strategies and programs to increase achievement
  • Develop effective schoolwide leadership teams
  • Provide ongoing professional development for school-based leaders on effective strategies for closing the achievement gaps

Strong District Support

  • Make closing achievement gaps a district priority
  • Develop an effective leadership team
  • Provide additional resources and support for students experiencing achievement gaps
  • Engage teachers in strengthening curriculum and student assessments
  • Decrease class sizes
  • Provide schools with timely test and other assessment information
  • Involve teachers in the design of ongoing professional development
  • Disseminate the latest research on effective strategies to schools

Access to Qualified Staff

  • Improve teacher education programs
  • Recruit, develop, and retain qualified teachers and paraeducators
  • Attract high quality staff to work with students with the greatest needs
  • Compensate teachers who take on extra responsibilities
  • Provide time for faculty to meet and plan
  • Provide continuous, data-driven professional development
  • Prepare teacher leaders to be knowledgeable and effective on school reform
  • Help teachers work effectively with families and communities

Adequate Resources and Funding

  • Seek adequate and equitable funding
  • Target resources on closing the gaps
  • Expand school capacity via additional resources
  • Engage businesses, universities, foundations in schools' work
  • Seek federal, state, or private funding in collaboration with partners to leverage NEA programs
  • Schools that close achievement gaps focus on improving learning for all students, maintain a "no excuses" attitude, use research and data to improve practice, involve everyone in improvement processes, persist through difficulties and setbacks, and celebrate accomplishments.

Excerpted from Closing Achievement Gaps: An Association Guide (NEA), pages 18 and 19.