Research Based Solutions PROVEN To Improve Student Achievement
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Closing the Gaps

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CONCEPT PAPER - Research-Based Solution
That Overrides The Impact of Poverty on Learning
Darling (2009)

Emerging from five years in research and development (and representing the research of thousands of educational researchers over the last two decades), we present a research-based solution to improve academic achievement and close the gap in achievement for diverse learners – kids of poverty, kids of diverse cultures, and English language learners... PROVEN TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN LEARNING!

Forty years of research supports the premise that three key processes MUST be aligned to improve academic achievement:

  1. Standards/curriculum
  2. Assessment
  3. Instruction

Our country has spent billions of dollars on the alignment of the first two components—standards/curriculum and assessment.

We ASSUMED that teachers knew which instructional strategies made the most difference in student learning of the standards.

We ASSUMED that teachers knew how to deliver those effective instructional strategies in the classroom so that all children could succeed.

We assumed wrong!

Two new studies hammer the impact of this assumption home. Wenglinsky (2002) in “The Effect of Classroom Practice on Student Achievement” notes that the most powerful predictor of student achievement was the teacher’s knowledge and skills in effective instruction. Combined with professional development on effective instruction, the teacher’s instructional practice (ES = .98) has a greater impact on student achievement than does socio-economic status – poverty (ES = .76). Laczko-Kerr and Berliner in “In Harm’s Way” (2003) identified knowledge and skills in effective instruction as a critical characteristic of a quality teacher. They determined that teachers NOT armed with effective instructional practice cost students 20% per year in academic achievement.


All three key processes to improve academic achievement are finally aligned. We know what the most effective, research based instructional strategies are—in rank order of their power to impact learning—for each grade level standard in language arts and mathematics in 49 states. How was this done to maintain the integrity of BOTH the research on the instructional strategy and the requirements for learning the state standard?

The results of the alignment of instruction to standards are stored in the Aligned Instructional Database. The power of the database information to impact on student performance resides in the alignment process.

To create it, we used a process (patent pending) that…

  1. IDENTIFIED the most effective, research-based instructional strategies (based on a review of 32,000+ research studies)
  2. ALIGNED the effective, research-based instructional strategies to the standards of 49 states based on 2 critical criteria:
    1. The type of knowledge represented in the standards (e.g., declarative, procedural, both)
    2. The type of brain processing required for learning the standard (e.g., information processing, storage/retrieval, etc.)
  3. RANKED the effective, research-based instructional strategies (based on the Effect Size data from the research).

Instructional strategies DO NOT maintain their impact on learning when inappropriately applied to state content standards. The ALIGNMENT utilizing BOTH criteria matters! The Effect Size of the strategy from the research cannot be maintained to impact learning without both criteria being addressed. For an instructional strategy to be included into the database, it needed to make at least 20 percentile points gain in achievement.

The Aligned Instructional Database is available for teachers as a Teaching Practices Guide. Teachers can explore state standards and their aligned effective, research-based instructional strategies.

For strategies (aligned to standards) in the Teaching Practices Guide, teachers will view the following information:

  1. Rank (for a specific standard)
  2. Definition and/or description
  3. What the strategy will enable students to do
  4. The role of the teacher
  5. The connections to brain research, multiple intelligences, Marzano’s Systems of Thinking, and the Instructional Framework

Teachers can examine the vocabulary of the standards as well as professional development courses to learn the research-based instructional strategies linked to a standard. 80-90% of what is tested on state standards involves the vocabulary and concepts of the standard—a powerful place to begin learning!

Teachers and administrators can also explore the Synthesis System drawn from the Aligned Instructional Database. This powerful tool allows educators to identify the strategies (and courses) that make the most difference in student performance (IN RANK ORDER) on ALL of the standards in which their students are scoring low based on theirtest scores. The Synthesis System also allows educators to identify the strategies (and courses) that make the most difference in student performance (IN RANK ORDER) for all of the standards in a STRAND, e.g., decoding in reading, statistics in mathematics, writing process.

Teacher Proficiency—We know which teaching practices make the most difference in learning of state content standards. How will we know if teachers are proficient with the research-based instructional strategies?

Teachers can participate in an online evaluation—Strategy Assessment System—that assesses the proficiency level of teachers on effective, research-based instructional strategies. Assessments are scenario-based, decision sets that measure the teacher’s knowledge and skills with specific strategies…focusing on the critical attributes of that strategy that produce the impact on learning. The Strategy Assessment System also measures the ability to modify instruction for diverse learners, based on the research of Dr. Belinda Williams. Results are reported confidentially to teachers utilizing a rubric indicating the proficiency level (Novice, Basic, Proficient, Expert) on each instructional strategy assessed. Reports can be aggregated for school, district, region, and state level to provide decision-makers with the level of proficiency on instruction that has the power to impact learning of state standards for all children, including diverse learners (e.g., students of poverty, culturally diverse, English language learners).

Professional Development—Teachers need an opportunity to learn the research-based instructional strategies with which they have yet to demonstrate proficiency. Teachers can access an online course in the Online Professional Development System, where they can acquire the knowledge and skills to deliver effective, research-based instruction in the classroom. Courses are performance-based, accredited, instructor-led, collaborative, and interactive.

EMBEDDED into each course on instruction are the MODIFICATIONS NEEDED TO CLOSE THE GAP IN ACHIEVEMENT FOR DIVERSE LEARNERS (e.g., students of poverty, culturally diverse, English language learners). The modifications utilize the Urban Learner Framework by Dr. Belinda Williams, representing the most current research on how to close the gap in achievement. Teachers learn how an effective, instructional strategy needs to be modified for diverse learners (e.g., students of color, English Language Learners, students living in poverty)

Teachers use virtual tools to communicate, collaborate, and demonstrate learning that provides an experience as close to face-to-face learning as is possible for learning communities of teachers engaged in improving student performance through research-based instruction.

Parent Activities—How can we engage parents in helping their children succeed? Parents want to help, but they are not always sure how to help. Teachers can provide parent activities, aligned to State Standards in Language Arts and Mathematics, for children in grades K – 8 so that parents can support classroom instruction from home. The parent activities are available in English and in Spanish to be as inclusive as possible. Parent involvement in their child’s learning makes a significant difference in learning!!!

What We KNOW

  • We KNOW the effective, instructional strategies that make the most difference in academic achievement of state standards.
  • We KNOW how to modify those instructional strategies to close the gap in achievement for diverse learners (e.g., students of poverty, cultural diversity, language diversity)
  • We KNOW that teachers armed with knowledge and skill on effective, instructional strategies can override the impact of poverty on learning.
  • We KNOW that teachers who are NOT armed with knowledge and skill on effective instructional strategies cost kids 20% per year in achievement.
  • We KNOW how to assess the proficiency level of teachers on effective research-based instruction to guide us in deciding where to focus professional development.
  • We KNOW we can provide professional development on research-based instruction that will impact student performance.
  • We KNOW we can engage parents in meaningful activities in support of classroom instruction of state standards.

What We DO

We need to CLOSE THE GAP BETWEEN WHAT WE KNOW AND WHAT WE DO…in classrooms, schools, districts, regional offices, state agencies, and colleges and universities.

Teachers will use effective, research-based instructional strategies (aligned to standards) in the classroom AND modify them for diverse learners IF…. they know what the effective strategies are and how to deliver them in the classroom.

Building the capacity in our teachers to improve academic achievement through effective instruction is the most powerful investment we can make in education. Learning Bridges’ Online Professional Development is PROVEN to make a difference in teacher knowledge and skills, in teachers’ pedagogy IN THE CLASSROOM, and schools using the Learning Bridges System have gains in achievement, above and beyond what would be expected, compared to comparison school data. (McREL, 2008).

If we can create a safe journey for teachers as they transition to a new way of teaching and learning, we can impact on the academic achievement for ALL students...with enough power to override the impact of poverty.