Addressing achievement gaps, differences in academic results between student groups, is usually the impetus for launching initiatives aimed at improving student performance and results. However, identifying appropriate methods and strategies to narrow and eliminate such gaps requires a fundamental shift in our existing paradigm that inadvertently identifies achievement gaps as indicators of student deficiency. Reframing achievement gaps as opportunities for supporting and developing student learning and success would lead us to addressing “support gaps” rather than achievement gaps. Essentially by analyzing support gaps, we can determine necessary effort and more effective resources necessary for supporting teaching and learning for English Learners.
Addressing support gaps for English Learners should include resources and feedback that emphasize three priorities. These priorities include the following:
Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS): Promote activities that activate critical thinking, discussion, and demonstration of learning. Consider language proficiency and high level thinking as two separate objectives that impact academic achievement.
Collaboration: Prioritize collaborative problem solving where students identify and solve real world challenges. Collaboration on relevant issues can further develop social and cognitive skills for English Language Learners.
Personalized Learning: Consider language and academic proficiency to tailor learning and engagement activities and outcomes. Doing so can optimize lesson planning, increase engagement, and impact learning and achievement.
Addressing the achievement gap for English Learners requires us to think about how we approach ELL instruction and begin to consider practice that is personalized and accelerates student thinking and engagement in collaborative work. More importantly, making instruction simple, connected, and effective can make the difference in the academic success of our English Learners.