Response: State Approaches to Addressing Achievement Gaps


REL Midwest received a request for information on state initiatives to address achievement gaps. Following an established REL Midwest research protocol, we conducted a search for descriptive and policy-oriented briefs and articles on achievement gaps. For the search, we identified resources that addressed the gaps that persist for racial/ethnic minorities, English language learners (ELLs), students with disabilities (SWDs), students from families with low socioeconomic status, and young female and male students. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) flexibility waiver request allows state education agencies, if approved, to implement three principles for “improving student academic achievement and increasing the quality of instruction” (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). Principle 2 of the ESEA flexibility waiver details how states will restructure “state- developed differentiated recognition, accountability, and support” systems. As a result, each state’s flexibility waiver request was identified as a potential resource for the requestor. Each state detailed how its improved accountability systems would measure student achievement, paying particular attention to “subgroups” of students that may perform below the state’s standards. In addition, the states’ waivers requested the ability to identify and reward high-performing schools, in most cases Title I schools, succeeding in closing the achievement gap. The Reference Desk request is organized first by ESEA flexibility waiver requests from states in the REL Midwest and Central regions, followed by additional theories of action from states in both regions. The explicit initiatives identified are state-level approaches to addressing achievement gaps. The sources we searched included federally funded organizations, additional research institutions, several educational research databases, and a general Internet search using Google and other search engines. We also searched for appropriate organizations that may act as resources on this issue. We have not done an evaluation of these organizations or the resources themselves but offer this list for informational purposes only. 

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