50 Ways to Close the Achievement Gap
Publication Year: 2009
Written for school leaders, this completely revised edition outlines detailed, research-based strategies for developing high-performing schools and fostering educational equity for all students.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Six Standards for High-Performing Schools
- Chapter 1: Standard One: Establish a Well-Crafted, Focused, Valid, and Clear Curriculum to Direct Teaching
- Strategy 1: Embed External Assessment Target Objectives in the Written Content Standards and Link them to State Standards
- Strategy 2: Have Clear and Precise District Curriculum Objectives—Content, Context, and Cognitive Type
- Strategy 3: Deeply Align Objectives from External Assessments
- Strategy 4: Sequence Objectives for Mastery Well before they are Tested
- Strategy 5: Provide a Feasible Number of Objectives to be Taught
- Strategy 6: Identify Specific Objectives as Benchmark Standards
- Strategy 7: Place Objectives in a Teaching Sequence
- Strategy 8: Provide Access to Written Curriculum Documents and Direct the Objectives to be Taught
- Strategy 9: Conduct Staff Development in Curriculum and its Delivery
- Chapter 2: Standard Two: Provide Assessments Aligned with the Curriculum
- Strategy 10: Develop Aligned District Pre–Post Criterion-Referenced Assessments
- Strategy 11: Have a Pool of Unsecured Test Items by Objective
- Strategy 12: Establish Secured Performance Benchmark Assessments
- Strategy 13: Conduct Assessment Training
- Strategy 14: Use Assessments Diagnostically
- Strategy 15: Teach Students to be “Test Wise”
- Strategy 16: Establish a Reasonable Testing Schedule and Environment
- Strategy 17: Disaggregate Assessment Data
- Strategy 18: Maintain Student Progress Reports
- Chapter 3: Standard Three: Align Program and Instructional Resources with the Curriculum and Provide Student Equality and Equity
- Strategy 19: Align Programs with the Curriculum to Ensure Congruity
- Strategy 20: Use Research and Data that Document Results to Drive Program Selection, and Validate the Implementation of Programs with Action Research
- Strategy 21: Evaluate Programs to Determine their Effectiveness in Strengthening Student Achievement of Curriculum Objectives
- Strategy 22: Align Textbooks and Instructional Resources with the District Curriculum Objectives and Assessments in Both Content and Context Dimensions
- Strategy 23: Use Technology in Design or Selection Procedures to Ensure Strong Connections to System Learning Expectations and Feedback
- Strategy 24: Provide Training in the Use of Instructional Resources and Their Alignment with System Curriculum Objectives—Content, Context, and Cognitive Type
- Strategy 25: Select or Modify Instructional Resources for Lessons to Ensure Full Alignment with System Objectives and Tested Learning
- Strategy 26: Place Students in Programs and Activities in an Equitable Manner and with Equal Access to the Curriculum
- Strategy 27: Implement Effective Programs and Strategies with English Language Learners
- Chapter 4: Standard Four: Use a Mastery Learning Approach and Effective Teaching Strategies
- Strategy 28: Implement a Mastery Learning Model
- Strategy 29: Align Teaching with the Curriculum
- Strategy 30: Provide Differentiated Curriculum and Instruction as Well as Differentiated Time to Learn
- Strategy 31: Provide Practice to Master the Curriculum
- Strategy 32: Use Effective Instructional Practices
- Strategy 33: Use Powerful Vocabulary Development Strategies
- Strategy 34: Establish Individual Learning Plans for Low-Achieving Students
- Chapter 5: Standard Five: Establish Curriculum Expectations, Monitoring, and Accountability
- Strategy 35: Provide for High Expectations for Achievement for Each Student
- Strategy 36: Monitor the Curriculum
- Strategy 37: Visit Classrooms and Provide Follow-Up
- Strategy 38: Use Disaggregated Data in the Decision-Making Process
- Strategy 39: Focus Staff Appraisal on Professional Growth
- Chapter 6: Standard Six: Institute Effective District and School Planning, Staff Development, and Resource Allocation, and Provide a Quality Learning Environment
- Strategy 40: Develop a District Planning Process that is Strategic in Nature and Provides Guidance for the Development of District and School Long-Range Plans
- Strategy 41: Create and Implement a Singular, Focused, Multiyear District Plan that Incorporates Change Strategies for Higher Student Achievement
- Strategy 42: Align School Plans with the District Plan
- Strategy 43: Implement Aligned Teacher Training to Reach District and School Goals
- Strategy 44: Implement Administrative Training Aligned with the Curriculum and its Assessment and District Plan Priorities
- Strategy 45: Provide Differentiated Staff Development
- Strategy 46: Link Resource Allocations to Goals, Objectives, Priorities, and Diagnosed Needs of the System
- Strategy 47: Provide Qualified and Adequate Personnel
- Strategy 48: Remove Incompetent Staff or Help them Achieve Satisfactory Functioning
- Strategy 49: Provide a Quality Learning Environment
- Strategy 50: Provide Quality Facilities
Copyright © 2009 by Curriculum Management Systems, Inc.
All rights reserved. When forms and sample documents are included, their use is authorized only by educators, local school sites, and/or noncommercial or nonprofit entities that have purchased the book. Except for that usage, no part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
50 ways to close the achievement gap/Carolyn J. Downey … [et al.]. — 3rd ed.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4129-5897-4 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-4129-5898-1 (pbk.)
1. Academic achievement. 2. School improvement programs. I. Downey, Carolyn J. II. Title: Fifty ways to close the achievement gap.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
08 09 10 11 12 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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Preface[Page viii]Creating High Performing Schools: It isn't Just about the Curriculum!
There is no mystery to developing high-performing schools. The major problem is how educators, schooling critics, and many within the public think about them. The term low-performing schools typically conjures up images of poor teaching; lazy or unmotivated faculty; incompetent administrators; overcrowded classrooms; outdated textbooks; or tragically stupid, hostile, or unmotivated students. A low-performing school is considered “bad,” and the traditional remedies run the gamut from doing more work (“better” planning, staff development, class size reduction, technology, curriculum change, some new off-the-shelf remedy) to doing something different (extending the school day, parent tutors, community involvement, uniforms, block scheduling, peer collaboration) to doing away with them (academic bankruptcy, probation, intervention, takeover, privatization, vouchers, etc.).
None of these approaches address the true nature of the problem. Instead of jumping to a solution designed to solve the problem of low student performance (low-performing schools), the strategies recommended in these pages begin at the end and work back. The end is how low-performing schools are identified through an evaluation instrument of some sort—usually by one or more tests. Thus, the solution to the problem begins by separating out the evaluation instrument and trying to determine the following:
- How the instruments in use define learning and teaching, both implicitly and explicitly
- How the assessment selects exactly which learnings will be measured
- How measured learnings and sublearnings can be tracked back to specific materials provided to teachers to teach (normally called a curriculum)
- Which learnings and sublearnings that are included in the curriculum are also included on the test, and which of those learnings are not on the test [Page ix]
- Which learnings and sublearnings not included in the curriculum are on the test, at least to the point of test mastery (developing a supplementary curriculum)
In short, it is the test or assessment instrument that defines what performances are to be expected. It is the testing norms that define acceptable levels of performance. These are not established by the curriculum. Curriculum standards are independent of test specifications. In many cases, the curriculum framework is so nebulous that a test actually represents a further delineation of the curriculum instead of a congruent measurement of it. That is why working from an inadequate curriculum framework will not improve test scores unless one is unusually lucky.
The educator who understands the problem must begin by understanding that a low-performing school has been identified by a test of student learning and that assessment is but a sample of all the learning going on in any school. Understanding the nature of sampling, knowing what and where school learning will be sampled, and ensuring that tested learning will be adequately taught to students represents the means to remove a school from the category of low-performing, and that's all it means. It doesn't necessarily mean that the school suddenly becomes “good.” All it means is that the performance that the test is sampling looks better within the boundaries of the test. There are a lot of good schools whose test scores are low.
In short, performance is always defined by the instrument measuring and defining it, not by the curriculum that included it or the teacher who taught it. The test is the final arbiter of performance. And we all know that tests aren't perfect. That is why it is even more critical to know something about the dynamics of raising student test scores by starting with the test instead of ending with its administration.
The bottom line is pretty simple: Don't surprise the kids! Tests that surprise children translate into a measurement of that which they were not taught and did not learn. A second corollary is don't surprise the teachers! Chances are that if teachers are surprised, students will also be surprised. We advocate in this publication the doctrine of no surprises for teachers and children.
Tests of accountability are not primarily diagnostic. They are designed to establish, or result in the establishment of, a foundation for legal and often-punitive actions on the part of state agencies and authorities against administrators, teachers, students, and certain school communities. These communities are often those most in need of help: children of the poor and of color. The well-documented correlation among socioeconomic status, gender, and race has run through the testing literature for at least 3 decades, and that's no accident. Avoiding serious interrogation of the tests at the end of the sequence simply perpetuates the status quo. In fact, for schools serving the poor, there is no way off the bottom of an imposed bell curve without paying strict attention to the parameters, content, and testing protocols embodied on the instrument that identifies low-performing schools.
[Page x]This book is about how to unmask the variables and practices that account for low-performing schools and turn them into high-performing schools. It is about how to put an end to the self-fulfilling and false prophecies that poverty or certain gender and race automatically translate into low test performance. It is about opportunity. It is about equity. It is about fairness. It begins with knowing where to start. Whatever defines performance and the norms regarding low, middle, and high performance, it isn't just the curriculum!
A book is always a node in a much larger network of people and ideas. This one is no exception. Indeed, 50 Ways began as a conversation around schools in great need of change. Carolyn J. Downey, one of the senior authors, remarked that there were at least “50 ways” to bring about that change. That led to creating some kind of framework in which to position the “50 ways” and to more forms of staff development around them.
This book is an extension of many of the precepts and standards in the curriculum management audit that was unveiled by Fenwick W. English in 1979 in Columbus, Ohio. From the audit came the Downey “walk-through” model, deep alignment methods, curriculum-driven budgeting, and many more derivations, including “50 ways.”
We acknowledge the work of many, many colleagues and collaborators over the past 20 years who have contributed to the rich tapestry that is woven throughout this book: Roger Anton, Joe Bazenas, Judy Birmingham, Virginia Boris, Bruce Burpee, Curtis Cain, Laura Canciamilla, Mary Cannie, Charles Chernosky, Elizabeth Clark, Randall Clegg, Laverne Daniels, Patricia Dickson, Robert Douglas, Beverly Freedman, Penny Gray, Audrey Hains, Jan Jacob, Gene Johnson, Holly Jean Kemp, Daniel King, Penny Kowal, David Lutkemeir, Olive McArdle-Kulas, Jackie Mitchell, Margret Montgomery, John Murdoch, Beverly Nichols, Carlos Pagan, Ricki Price-Baugh, Eve Profitt, Cole Pugh, Joanne Rice, Carolyn Ross, John Rouse, James Scott, Josephine Scott, Sue Shidaker, Keven Singer, William Streshly, Rosanne Stripling, Eustace Thompson, Nancy Timmons, Joy Torgerson, Susan Townsend, Jeff Tuneberg, Susan Van Hoozer, John Van Pelt, and Patricia Williams. A special thanks to Holly Kaptain for her suggestions and commentary.
Finally, we want to pay tribute to two of our original senior cadre who tragically passed on during the culmination of so much of what is contained in these pages: Larry E. Frase and Raymond G. (Jerry) Melton. We miss you guys more than we can express. We are sustained by the many wonderful memories of hard work and good times together all over the world.
To our readers, we transmit our work and ideas to your minds and hands in the cause of improved public education in America and the world. This book is [Page xii]testimony to the wisdom of the practitioners who toil daily in the vineyards of our schools and classrooms and who have created a kind of gritty common sense and “can-do” outlook that permeates their work and this book. For this gift we are extremely grateful, and we hope that you will find our ideas and advice worthy of your continued dedication and professionalism.San Diego, CA,Chapel Hill, NC,Johnston, IA,Chapel Hill, NC,
About the Authors
It is important to realize that no one strategy is going to make a difference to your schools: Only the integration of the standards and the strategies over time will bring progress. This is illustrated as follows:Summary Figure 1 Six Standards and 50 Strategies
We encourage you to assess your system, whether as a district or a school, on the ideas presented in this book. You can conduct a gap analysis as to where you are and where you could be regarding the 50 strategies. Directly following this page is a comprehensive list of all six standards and their components.
We believe it is surely time for all schools to be high-performing institutions, no matter whose measures are used. Once this occurs, we can extend our curriculum further to include even more meaningful learnings so that students will not only function but also thrive in the twenty-first century.
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