Design and Deliver Instruction

Resources and Strategies for GAP Closure

Published: 5/15/2019 8:48 AM

On this page, you will find information, resources, and strategies which have been found to be effective with students who fall within an identified subgroup or GAP area.  Specific, intentional, and useful strategies that will benefit schools, districts, and community stakeholders to assist and support learning of the following gap groups:

  • Ethnicity/Race (African American, Hispanic, Native American, Two or More Races and others)
  • English Learners (EL)
  • Students with Disabilities
  • Economically Disadvantaged Students
Achievement; Opportunity; Learning Gap

Racial and Ethnic Groups

A student who is an Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian-American, Black (African-American), Hispanic American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or 2 or more Races is identified as a student in an Ethnicity/Race gap group. It is a moral and ethical imperative for teachers to provide the highest quality instruction to every class, for every student, every day!  Teachers should design and present engaging instruction that connects with students on their own terms, with responsiveness to their cultural, home, and community experiences. “Students’ ethnicity and social class are not barriers to learning; rather, schools that do not properly respond to the needs of these students are the barriers” (Muhammad, 2012).

Continuous Improvement for GAP Closure includes strategies and resources which clearly impact all students, but especially those who fall within these gap groups. Two key influences are vital to positively impact the achievement of students in gap groups: Relationships and Culturally Responsive Instruction.

Closing the Achievement Gap

In order to increase the achievement levels of minority and low-income students, educators need to focus on what really matters: high standards, a challenging curriculum, and effective instruction. Understanding the research and accurate data, as well as experience, leads the way in closing the gap between groups of students.

The Opportunity Myth

“We’ve been telling students that doing well in school creates opportunities—that showing up, doing the work, and meeting teachers’ expectations will prepare them for their futures. Unfortunately, that’s a myth.”(TNTP, 2018) This study details findings of the four commitments that lead to high success for all students.

Dr. Wayne Lewis, Commissioner of Education for Kentucky, discusses the achievement gap closure goals in the state’s new accountability system. He expresses the urgency that educators, families, and community members must work together to make progress in achievement gap closure to ensure success for all. 

Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies

Teaching in a way that respects diversity is challenging. To be effective in multicultural classrooms, teachers must relate teaching content to the cultural backgrounds of their students. Culturally responsive teaching, a pedagogy that crosses disciplines and cultures to engage learners while respecting their cultural integrity, is essential to be effective in diverse classrooms. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) article proposes a model of culturally responsive teaching based on theories of intrinsic motivation. This model is respectful of different cultures and is capable of creating a common culture that all students can accept.  

What is Culturally Responsive Pedagogy?

Why is Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Important?

​According to the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (Richards, Brown, & Forde, 2006), culturally responsive pedagogy is where “effective teaching and learning occur in a culturally supported, learner-centered context, whereby the strengths students bring to school are identified, nurtured, and utilized to promote student achievement.” This webpage will offer resources designed to reduce novice performance by developing awareness, understanding, and application of culturally responsive pedagogy.

​According to Elizabeth B. Kozleski (n.d.) from Equity Alliance, “Culturally responsive teaching helps bridge different ways of knowing and engages students from non-dominant cultures in demonstrating their proficiencies in language use, grammar, mathematical knowledge and other tools they use to navigate their everyday lives.” Reference the article Equity Alliance Culturally Responsive Teaching Matters!


Teacher Evaluation of Practices Improve Student Achievement

The Teacher Behaviors that Improve Student Achievement is a self-checklist that can be used to determine strengths in improving student achievement and motivation and identify areas that may need to be improved upon in order to expand knowledge and skills.

Every Kid Needs A Champion!

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, gives a rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a human, personal level in this Every Kid Needs a Champion video. 

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Professors from Emory University and the University of Washington discuss culturally responsive pedagogy and the importance of incorporating this type of teaching into the classroom to empower and push students toward their learning capabilities. Introduction to Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.

Related Resources - Racial and Ethic Groups

English Learners (EL)

The term ‘English Learner’, when used with respect to an individual, means an individual:

  • who is age three through 21; 

  • who is enrolled or preparing to enroll in an elementary or secondary school; 

  • who was born in the United States or whose native language is a language other than English (who is Native American or an Alaskan Native, or a native resident of the outlying areas and who comes from an environment where a language other than English has had a significant impact on the individual’s level of English Language Proficiency or who is migratory, whose native language is a language other than English, and who comes from an environment where a language other than English is dominant);

  • whose difficulties in listening, speaking, reading or writing the English language may be sufficient to deny the individual access to the general curriculum.

“English Learners (ELs) are among the fastest growing populations of students in our nation’s public schools. This diverse sub-group of approximately 4.5 million students brings important culturally and linguistic assets to the public education system, but also faces a greater likelihood of lower graduation rates, academic achievement, and college enrollment than their non-EL peers.”- Accountability for English Learners under the ESEA Act, Jan. 2017. Visit KDE's English Learners website for additional information.

Educational Leadership: What Does the Research Say About Vocabulary? 

Researchers and educators say that in order to close the vocabulary gap with English Language Learners, it is imperative to provide explicit vocabulary instruction and intentionally implement strategies which support learning new words through repeated practice and feedback. Also, allowing them to use new words in authentic and engaging contexts is critical.

Colorín Colorado

Colorín Colorado is the premier national website serving educators and families of English Language Learners (ELLs) in Grades PreK-12. Colorín Colorado has been providing free research-based information, activities, and advice to parents, schools, and communities around the country for more than a decade.

Reading Comprehension Strategies for English Language Learners

In this article, Lydia Breiseth, focuses on strategies that teachers already use in mainstream classrooms that can be modified with ELs’ language and academic prerequisites to build their comprehension skills.

5 Key Strategies for ELL Instruction 

Response to Intervention in Reading for English Language Learners

This article briefly highlights the knowledge base on reading and RTI for ELs, and provides preliminary support for the use of practices related to RTI with this population.

The book, Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners, by Hill, J & Flynn, K., provides educators with - Marzano’s “Nine Instructional Strategies for Effective Teaching and Learning” and how to modify these strategies for ELLs in mainstream classrooms. It also provides models for parent and community involvement with activities and resources. Hill, J. & Flynn, K. (2006). Classroom instruction that works with English language learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Students with Disabilities

A “child with a disability” means a child evaluated in accordance with 707 KAR 1:300, as meeting the criteria listed in the definitions in this section for autism, deaf, blindness, developmental delay, emotional behavior disability, hearing impairment, mental disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, or visual impairment which has an adverse effect on the child’s educational performance and who, as a result, needs special education and related services.

Every student, regardless of their ability or disability, can learn. The use of research-based practices and interventions, which are designed to teach students with disabilities, can help teachers and students with improving the academic and social skills they need to succeed in school and beyond. This section provides teachers with a wealth of resources to help with effective planning for meaningful instruction for students with disabilities in the classroom. Visit KDE's Exceptional Children website for additional information.

Guidance Document for IEP Development, July 2018, KDE

This handbook was developed by the Division of Learning Services, Diverse Learners Branch in partnership with staff from the Kentucky Education Cooperatives to provide examples of Special Education Services; for example, Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) and Supplementary Aids and Services (SAS) that may be considered to support the student’s goals, benchmarks, and short-term objectives within his/her IEP.

Teaching Students to be Metacognitive

Metacognitive Knowledge/Regulation

Economically Disadvantaged Students

The Continuous Improvement for Gap Closure initiative supports research-based strategies and resources which impact all students, but especially students who fall within the grouping of “economically disadvantaged.” There is no “one-size-fits-all” strategy for this subgroup, but there are key factors that must be present in order to have a significant impact on this population of students. Please see below to check out specific strategies/resources which can be beneficial for economically disadvantaged students.

Poverty, the Brain, and Vocabulary: What the Research Says About Vocabulary and Students in Poverty

“One of the key indicators of students’ success in school, on standardized tests, and indeed, in life, is their vocabulary. The reason for this is simply that the knowledge anyone has about a topic is based on the vocabulary of that information (Marzano & Pickering, 2005).” This article breaks down what research says about the brain, poverty, and the power behind effective vocabulary instruction.

Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind: 7 Factors Which Correlate with Student Engagement and Socioeconomic Status

In this article, Eric Jensen provides insight and research behind why so many teachers have difficulty working with and graduating students who live in poverty. Jensen uncovers seven factors which correlate with student engagement and that are strongly tied to socioeconomic status. He discusses the importance of understanding the effect sizes of interventions and strategies and how each of these connects to student success in the classroom. The seven factors discussed include: health and nutrition; effort and energy; mind set; cognitive capacity; relationships; and stress level.

Family Resource and Youth Service Centers (FRYSC)

The Kentucky Family Resource and Youth Service Centers were established as a component of the historic Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) of 1990. The primary goal of FRYSC centers is to remove nonacademic barriers to learning as a means to enhance student academic success. Each center offers a unique blend of programs and services determined by the needs of the population being served, available resources, locations, and other local characteristics.

The Poverty in the Classroom YouTube video depicts the reality of poverty and student learning.

 "Hungry Kids: The Solvable Crisis"

In the article, “Hungry Kids: The Solvable Crisis”, Christy Felling shares the effect that hunger has on economically disadvantaged students and its impact on learning. Felling suggests ways educators can play an essential role within healthy food programs that have been found to be successful for our economically disadvantaged students.


Susan Greer
Office of Continuous Improvement and Support
300 Sower Blvd., 5th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-5130
Fax (502) 564-8149

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