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Improving Teacher Quality - 2008: Addressing the Achievement Gap in Elementary Schools

In November 2007, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell convened a summit to address the growing achievement gaps in California public schools, declaring a year of focused policy and program initiatives to reduce achievement inequalities among (primarily) racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic subgroups of students within the K-12 system. Recent studies had shown these inequalities to be growing again after decades of progress in reducing them.

In the spring of 2008 the Commission responded to the Superintendent's call-to-arms with an initiative aimed at reducing achievement gaps in high-need elementary schools. Proposers were asked to approach these gaps in a whole-school context, working with every teacher in each school receiving the intervention as well as administration and other school staff. The decision to require a whole-school structure was based on published research showing that the school (rather than classroom or district) level is likely to be the most effective context for such interventions. The selection of the elementary grade level, while partly based on gaps in the grade levels currently served by ITQ grants, was also guided by the understanding that the achievement gap typically emerges in the intermediate (3-5) grades.

Another mandated component of the Achievement Gap Initiative, not required in prevous years is a formal teacher leadership structure. The experience of professional development providers in California, both within and outside the ITQ program, has shown that on-site teacher leadership has unequaled power to disseminate and ensure implementation of reformed educational practices. In the whole-school context the development of teacher leadership is expected to be the major vehicle for sustainability of changes within each school after the three years of program funding.

In all, six grants were awarded to partnerships between local education agencies and public and private universities. Because of the eminently measurable nature of the achievement gap, the research component of these grants will emphasize quantifiable relationships between instructional change and improved achievement.

  • 08-501 - Bell Gardens Science Project
  • 08-502 - Making Algebra Accessible Project (MAAP)
  • 08-510 - Science and Academic Literacy
  • 08-516 - Algebraic Learning for Elementary Grades: Results, Independence, Achievement! (ALEGRIA)
  • 08-528 - Teacher Efficacy Affects Math and Science Success! (TEAMSS!)
  • 08-534 - Advancing Collaboration for Equity in Science (ACES)