34410355 - 502 Volume 19 Number 3 Spring 2008 pp. 502530 t...

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Unformatted text preview: 502 Volume 19 Number 3 Spring 2008 pp. 502530 t Closing the Achievement Gap With Curriculum Enrichment and Differentiation: One Schools Story Margaret Beecher West Hartford Public Schools Sheelah M. Sweeny University of Connecticut The focus on the achievement gap has intensified since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed in 2001. In particu- lar, achievement gaps among culturally, linguistically, ethnically, and economically diverse groups pose great concern to educa- tors and policymakers. Another outgrowth of NCLB involves the adoption of high-stakes testing to measure achievement and evaluate school effectiveness (Cronin, Kingsbury, McCall, & Bowe, 2005; NCLB, 2001). The educational literature is replete with recommendations for improving student achievement and closing the achievement gap; however, research suggests that the gap remains. Since the standards and accountability movement gained momentum in the 1990s, school report cards, school Copyright 2008 Prufrock Press, P.O. Box 8813, Waco, TX 76714 summary Beecher, M., & Sweeny, S. M. (2008). Closing the achievement gap with curriculum enrich- ment and differentiation: One schools story. Journal of Advanced Academics, 19, 502530. This article summarizes a unique approach to reducing the achievement gap that strategically blended differentiated curriculum with schoolwide enrichment teaching and learning. The theories of enrichment and instructional differentiation were translated into practice in an elemen- tary school that had previously embraced a remedial paradigm. This enrichment approach resulted in improved student achievement and the reduction of the achievement gap between rich and poor and among different ethnic groups. The school improvement process began with a thorough analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of all dimensions of the school, and resulted in the creation of a school mission, strategic plan with broad instructional goals, specific learning objectives, and detailed action plans. Enrichment and differentiation were chosen as the methods to improve the learning environment based on evidence that engagement in learning is enhanced when students interests and choices are considered, and the need to provide learning experiences that were responsive to the learning characteristics of a diverse stu- dent population. Specific components of the strategic plan were imple- mented simultaneously while others were introduced over a series of years. Teachers rewrote the curriculum for reading, writing, mathemat- ics, and social studies to include enrichment experiences and differen- tiated instruction. This enriched learning environment extended to an afterschool program inspired by Enrichment Clusters. Staff development was essential to the success of each new initiative, and a significant amount of time was devoted to teacher training. Teachers were pro- vided with training, modeling, coaching, and planning time to integrate the new ideas and skills into their lessons. 504...
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This note was uploaded on 10/07/2009 for the course EDP 300 taught by Professor West during the Spring '09 term at West Chester.

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34410355 - 502 Volume 19 Number 3 Spring 2008 pp. 502530 t...

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