This blog discusses how district leaders, math coaches and teachers should consider research and data behind equitable practices and how it affects student performance in ways that impact the closure of the achievement gap.
Leaders nationwide are pursuing methods for closing the achievement gap. There have been noticeable disparities in the achievement between students of color and their peers due to the Covid slide, educational policies and more. As a result, researchers have begun looking to find ways to increase academic achievement and student performance overall.
One study came from the highly acclaimed education researcher, Jo Boaler, who investigated a low performing school in the U.S. named Railside School. Railside was able to overcome various barriers towards academic achievement and become a model school for closing the achievement gap. Researchers found that the work of students and teachers at Railside School was equitable partly because students achieved more equitable outcomes on tests, but also because students learned to act in more equitable ways in their classrooms. Students learned to appreciate the contributions of students from different cultural groups, genders, and attainment levels, a behavior termed relational equity.
Further, when dealing with how various approaches can impact academic achievement, Jo Boaler found that equitable practices were established when teachers encouraged multidimensional classrooms, valued the perspectives of different students, and encouraged students to be responsible for each other.
Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap
Students come to school with differing and, in some cases, inequitable experiences related to their access to resources, support, and possibilities for academic growth. For those who are disadvantaged, low achievement has a wide-reaching effect including higher dropout rates, incarceration, poor health, substance abuse, poverty, and more.
“These students could have had very different lives had their experiences in school, at home, and in their communities provided them the tools they needed to be successful academically and personally.” - Connie Kamm, Equity and Opportunity: Closing the Achievement Gap, 2016
Areas of Focus for Closing the Achievement Gap
According to Kamm, it was noted that some areas of focus for closing the achievement gap included:
Focus on Inequitable Policies
Sometimes, it takes courage from great leaders to speak out against policies and practices that exist that hurt learners. If there is a certain practice or pattern of behavior in your work environment that could be a potential danger to the performance of all learners, become proactive in finding ways to dismantle these practices and establish new cultural and academic norms that will best suit the needs of your learners.
Allocation of Funds to Help Students in Poverty
“Systemic practices that impede providing all students with enriched educational experiences often involve the inequitable distribution of resources. Low performing schools not only tend to serve large numbers of poor and minority students but also struggle to attract and retain high quality teachers.” - Connie Kamm, Equity and Opportunity: Closing the Achievement Gap, 2016
Revisiting Institutional Disparities
It has become more apparent that various practices within education have a direct impact on the academic achievement of all students. However, some of these practices have hindered students of color more than their peers. As a result, the achievement gap has grown over the years, and now leaders are dealing with insurmountable obstacles to help all learners meet academic gains and perform at the same level.
“Schools that have closed the achievement gap have put in place policies and practices that focus on addressing the following human capital needs: Teachers who work to close the achievement gap are well-prepared to address students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. Teachers are supported in their efforts to revise and improve their instructional practices to yield high achieving student performance.” - Connie Kamm, Equity and Opportunity: Closing the Achievement Gap, 2016
Equitable Practices that will Enhance Student Achievement
To support students even further when implementing practices that will improve overall academic performance, here are some ways that teachers can implement equitable practices for student achievement:
Use classroom systems that promote equity and fairness.
Kagan, CHAMPS, and popsicle sticks work! When students understand their teacher’s rules and procedures, they can begin to establish a sense of normality. Along with routines that provide safety, students are looking to see that there is a fair chance for learning and academic success in every classroom.
Allow students to lead activities.
Sometimes the best thing an educator can do is to facilitate and allow students to keep track of the pace of learning within the classroom. Having students create groups as well as calling on classmates to work out problems on the whiteboard can really produce traceable results to student gains and achievement. When students have a voice within instruction, it builds their self-esteem and teaches them leadership skills. They can then take these skills and help their peers to become stronger academic scholars.
Encourage students to advocate for others.
When in classroom setting, it is easy for students to get established into a way of work that can cause some learners to become “wallflowers.” In order to avoid having an imbalance of opportunities to participate in assignments or projects, encourage students to advocate for their peers. For example, if one student is used to writing down the answers for the group, have that student pass their leadership role to their peer. This will help build leadership and academic growth within learners, creating room for students to evolve into independent and confident thinkers.
Remember, you as the teacher are the most impactful influence on academic success for your students. So, start today and choose to implement equitable practices in your classroom so that all students can grow academically, and the achievement gap can continue to close. The true indication of academic success starts when a teacher helps every learner make gains, in particular the learners that need help the most. Make it a personal goal today; implement these strategies so you can achieve an environment that is safe and equitable for all learners!
Join Dr. India White on April 26th for a special webinar on equitable policies: