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30045661 - Volume 19 Number 1 Fall 2007 pp 90115 Closing...

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90 Volume 19 Number 1 Fall 2007 pp. 90–115 m Closing the Achievement Gap Through Evidence- Based Inquiry at Multiple Levels of the Education System Helen S. Timperley & Judy M. Parr University of Auckland Many nations within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have student achieve- ment profiles that are essentially socioeconomically and ethnically stratified (OECD, 2001). Increasingly, attempts to change these profiles have focused on reforming schools and reeducating the teachers within them because teachers exercise the greatest sys- tems influence on student achievement (Alton-Lee, 2003; Nye, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004; Rowan, Correnti, & Millar, 2002). Many of these efforts, however, have met with relatively small and typically unreliable achievement gains, whether teach- ers are given prescriptions with which to work (Borman, 2005; Datnow et al., 2003) or the time and resources to develop their own solutions (Lipman, 1997; Saxe, Gearhart, & Nasir, 2001). In this paper, we describe a project that impacted student outcomes substantively, particularly for students who scored in the bottom 20% of achievement tests, through an approach underpinned by
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Copyright © 2007 Prufrock Press, P.O. Box 8813, Waco, TX 76714 summary Timperley, H. S., & Parr, J. M. (2007). Closing the achievement gap through evidence- based inquiry at multiple levels of the education system. Journal of Advanced Academics, 19, 90–115. A national literacy professional development project reduced the achievement gap for students experiencing difficulties in reading or writ- ing in 91 of New Zealand’s schools. It was based on two premises: coherence within and between the multiple levels of the schooling and educational administration systems, and a focus on evidence-informed inquiry into effectiveness at each level of the system. Over the 2 years of the project’s operation, these two premises interacted in ways that led to ongoing problem identification. Examples include how students understood their learning, how teachers and school leaders taught these students, how professional development facilitators changed their approaches, and how the project leaders and policy makers devel- oped new systems for learning. Solutions were actively and collabora- tively sought at all levels. Research data included assessment of student literacy in reading or writing; participant observations of the project leadership operations; interviews with principals, literacy leaders, and teachers; scenario responses; and interviews with facilitators. An analy- sis of facilitator practice early in the project illustrates how project lead- ership responded to the problems identified. Ongoing learning resulted from the interaction between facilitator feedback to teachers and their reflective responses to the observations of that feedback. Important to the success of this program is the continued feedback, not only to teach- ers implementing change, but also to the facilitators and policy makers instrumental in the training of the teachers. This feedback, coupled with reflective practice, at all levels of the educational system provided the means for teachers to improve the success of all students in their class- rooms.
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