Thursday, May 3, 2012

Closing the Achievement Gap through Differentiated Instruction

It is difficult to see how differentiated instruction could be of benefit in low-performing schools or how it could help close the achievement gap. However, research done by Karin Chenoweth of the non-profit Achievement Alliance tells quite a different story. She spent two years looking at schools that are making AYP and getting great results under very difficult conditions. The high-poverty schools in her project are from all over the United States. Most perform at the same level or higher as the wealthiest schools in their area. While each of these schools has an individual success story, there are commonalities among them. Their successes come from:
  • Teaching using all of the senses, learning styles, and modalities
  • Thematic units that combine math, science, literature, history, geography, writing, and the arts
  • Integrating the arts into all aspects of the curriculum
  • Hands-on projects with differentiated products and performances
  • Pre-assessment, formative assessment, and data analysis that drives all aspects of instruction
  • Individualized instruction and work depending upon how each student learns
  • Flexible grouping based on skill levels and individual student needs
All of these are important elements of differentiated curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Looking at the successes of these schools, it would seem that differentiation is, indeed, a viable approach to closing the achievement gap.

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