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Effective Strategies to Close the Gap Early Elementary Students in Literacy

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 2302 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Effective Strategies to Close the Gap in Early Elementary Students in Literacy


There is a lot or research and talk on how to close the gap. However, during the 70’s and through the 80’s the achievement gap was closing.  In fact, the achievement gap between minority students and whites’ students was cut in half.  Unfortunately, it seems to come to a stop around 1988, and the gap seems to start to widen again.  It has continued to widen since then.  It is up to teachers and administrators to come up with effective strategies to cut this gap again.  In this Literature Review, it will discuss the strategies to cut it for the future.


Key terms: Socioeconomic, Achievement Gap, Instructional strategies, Effective strategies,



 The purpose of this Literature Review is to bring light to a problem that has plague our schools year after year.  There is a gap between at-risk students and their peers.  Specifically, Socioeconomic Status (SES) students from poverty schools. Unfortunately, minorities’ students are two times likely to be academically behind than their peers. Effective strategies can be used to close the achievement gap. The classroom needs to have more comprehensive interventions to tackle achievement gaps. This literature review will describe the tested research-based strategies that will hopefully close this gap.   Through this review, I will discuss the academic performance gap that is shown early on in lower elementary. 

Literature Review

Significant research was done on instructional strategies to help close the achievement gap.  Topics included teacher factors, after school assistance, and early childhood education. 

Early Childhood Education

Year after year, there is a lot of discussion on how we should make quality preschool available for all students.  When students have a quality preschool experience, it has shown that students have a better chance of doing well in the classroom.  Magnuson & Waldfogel (2005) observed Black, White, and Hispanic children had differing experiences in early childhood programs.  They wanted to discover connections between their experiences in early childhood program and racial and ethnic gaps in school readiness. Students who can attend a daycare or preschool programs enter school more ready to learn, but unfortunately, the quality of care is differ by race and ethnicity. Magnuson & Waldfogel (2005) found that Black children are more likely to attend preschool than white children but may experience lower-quality care. In addition, Hispanic children are much less likely than white children to attend preschool.

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Even though Black children do go to a preschool program, they tend to differ from their white counterparts. If we can make sure all students get a quality early childhood, this may help stop the education gap in education.  Magnuson & Waldfogel (2005) believes making preschool enrollment universal for three- and four- year-old children in poverty and increasing the quality of care could close to 20 percent of the black- white school readiness gap and up to 36 percent of the Hispanic-white gap.


It is known that having effective early education is important for academic achievement and positive life outcomes, especially students in low socioeconomic backgrounds. One of strategies is to focus on neuroscience, specifically on self-regulation.  Self- regulation is when learners become successful because they control their learning environment. They exert this control by directing and regulating their own actions toward their learning goals. Blair & Raver (2014) hypothesized that educational practices designed to support the development of self-regulation will lead not only to higher academic achievement but will also be associated with beneficial change in measures of children’s attention, executive functions, and stress response physiology.  A tool to accomplish this strategy is called “Tools of Mind.”  Tools of Mind gives teaching professionals tools to help each student to become a successful learning.  The program is helping teachers to develop cognitive, social and emotional skills.  The program builds on insight of Lev Vygotsky (1930). Tools of the Mind (1993) is a pedagogical approach that included the use of specific tactics to support of memory and learning, and the organization of “shared cooperative activity” designed to promote social-emotional as well as cognitive development.   Teachers can use the tools to focus on student academic progress and social competencies.

Blair & Raver (2014) believes it can enhance children’s engagement in learning and establishing beneficial academic trajectories in the early grades.  They did a study that focused on students who were in Kindergarten and having them use the approach of self-regulation into literacy, mathematics, and science.  The study chose to use a cluster randomized controlled trial involving 29 schools, 79 classrooms, and 759 children.  The results demonstrated improvement in reading, vocabulary, and mathematics at the end of kindergarten.  This helps prepare these students for first grade.  They found that several effects that were specific to high-poverty schools, aspects of self-regulation in early elementary education hold promise for closing the achievement gap.

Strong Background Knowledge

Maximizing the learning outcomes of students requires lessons from teachers with strong domain knowledge (Haycock, 2001). When teachers do not have strong backgrounds in the subject’s students’ learning motivation may diminish, which would likely impede students from fully demonstrating their abilities. Teacher expectations and teaching methods are also established as important factors that affect students’ self-effect (Haycock, 2001). It is important that there is balanced discipline might contribute to lagging achievement among students of color.

(Gregory et. At., 2010) It is important that teachers know what they are teaching and how to teach content to their students, especially in lower elementary.  Teachers need to have strong knowledge of what they are teaching, so students can learn and grow and understand the material they are learning.  If students have a highly effective teacher, this will help in closing the gap. Based on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, they indicated that pedagogical content knowledge is the basis for effective teaching.



Using technology is an effective strategy that will reach each student.  Specifically using a hand-held tablet technology.  This technology is an interactive intervention learner-centered software that is aimed at supporting the development of early math skills.  

Outhwaite, Guiliford, & Pitchford (2017) found there was immediate and sustain gains in mathematics compared to math performance before, immediately after, and 5 months after the intervention.  In the study, it focuses on 133 students from the age of 4-7.  Class teachers were instructed to implement the math intervention for a specified period.  In the study, the findings indicated that the tablet technology can provide a form of individualized effective support for early math development.  Finally, the study shows apps that incorporate repetitive and interactive features are beneficial to low-achievers and could help close the gap in early math skills in preschool.

Increased Instructional Time

Researchers have summarized the strategies (Brown et al., 2011) and characteristics of schools (Leithwood, 2010), which demonstrated the effects of narrowing achievement gaps.  Leithwood’s research gave an example of state of Kentucky which provided extra funds annually to low-SES schools to extend instructions, such as providing after-school assistance in academic subjects. The city of San Diego also did the same as Kentucky.  San Diego doubled instructional time, and schools saw improvement in their test scores.


Mindfulness is an intervention designed to help student’s focus on self-affirming values and lessening their psychological threat related to being negatively stereotyped was effective in reducing the racial achievement gap.  Similar methods were able to reduce gender achievement gap in a college-level introductory physics class. (Miyake et al. 2010)

Justification / Feasibility

Big gaps with children who are low-SES are the ones who are struggling.  Children from low-SES families enter high school with average literacy skills five years behind students of high-income (Reardon et. al., 2013). According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2014), individuals within the top family income quartile are eight times more likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree by age 24 as compared to individuals from the lowest family income quartile. Schools and the community are not doing enough to stop the gap occurring every day.

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Children from lower SES households are about twice as likely then high-SES households to display learning-related behavior problems. Many schools are seeing an increase in these behaviors and are not sure what to do.  A mother’s SES is also related to her child’s inattention, disinterest, and lack of cooperation in school (Morgan et al., 2009). If teachers can start early with these instructional strategies it can start to close the gap. 


Achievement gap is complex; solutions must be address with all school staff.  Effective instructive strategies are the answer to help reduce the achievement gap in low SES students specifically minorities students.  Research identified varying factors that can help reduce achievement gaps.  Teachers need to have strong background knowledge in order to help students.  If teachers don’t have the strong background knowledge, teachers can further lengthen achievement gap for SES students.  Schools should have afterschool programs to help SES students to gain the knowledge they are behind.  Students will have opportunity to learn in a safe environment on the knowledge they are behind in.  Teachers should also use mindfulness, to help students.  Mindfulness will give students the courage and esteem to help them achieve their goals.


  • Aikens, N. L., & Barbarin, O. (2008). Socioeconomic differences in reading trajectories: The contribution of family, neighborhood, and school contexts. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 235-251. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.100.2.235.
  • Blair, C., & Raver, C.C. (2014). Closing the achievement gap through modification of neurocognitive and Neurocognitive Function: Results from a cluster randomized controlled trial of an innovative approach to the education of children in kindergarten. Plos One, 9(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112393
  • Blustein, D. (2013). The psychology of working: A new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. Abingdon-on-Thames, England: Routledge.
  • Diemer, M. A., & Blustein, D. L. (2007). Vocational hope and vocational identity; Urban adolescents’ career development. Journal of Career Assessment, 15, 98-118. doi:10.1177/1069072706294528
  • Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M. M., & Maczuga, S. (2009). Risk factors for learning-related behavior problems at 24 months of age: Population-based estimates. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 401-413.
  • doi:10.1007/s10802-008-9279-8
  • Outhwaite, L., Guiliford, A., & Pitchford, N. (2017). Closing the gap: Efficacy of a tablet intervention to support the development of early mathematical skills in UK primary school children. Computers & Education,108, 43-58.
  • Reardon, S. F., Valentino, R. A., Kalogrides, D., Shores, K. A., & Greenberg, E. H. (2013). Patterns and trends in racial academic achievement gaps among states, 1999-2011. Retrieved from https://cepa.stanford.edu/content/patterns-and-trends-racial-academic-achievement-gaps-among-states-1999-2011.www.gale.com
  • Sung, Y., Tseng, T., Chang, T., & Chiou, J. (2014). Evaluating the effects of programs for reducing achievement gaps: A case study in Taiwan. Asia Pacific Education Review, 15(1), 99-113.  http://dx.doi.org.nmu.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s12564-013-9304-7




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