Student learning gaps result in today’s most serious education challenges - retention and dropouts. They lower student achievement in school, on standardized assessments and in life. They undermine our public schools and society.
A learning gap is formed when a student fails to learn and apply what is expected at a specific point in time and at a specific level of proficiency. Gaps can be identified by comparing learning objectives against learning achievement - the "plan" versus the "actual." The specificity of the comparison determines the usefulness of the information.
Gaps are complicated to describe because there are no standards for defining detailed learning objectives; their cognitive level, relative importance, and type - cognitive or non-cognitive. And policy makers work at the macro level - aggregating gaps in demographic groups. Teachers, students and parents work at the micro level - caring more about individual students. The Institute's technology system works with objectives of all types and any grain size.
Policy makers and administrators focus on the serious problem of disproportionate learning gaps between student demographic groups. This macro view is the aggregation of individual student learning gaps. The solution for this macro problem is always at the individual student learning level - the micro level. Regardless of how you aggregate learning gaps. the solution is always to correct them at the student level. For that reason, the Institute focuses on the individual student. Only when every student's actual versus expected learning achievement become known at an operational level will there be a possibility of equal opportunity for gap closure. We believe the Institute provides that opportunity for all students.
Since objectives can be very broad (able to safely drive a car) to very narrow (able to stop safely on wet roads), gap specificity is also highly variable. And, not all objectives are of equal importance or purely academic. The Institute's tools can handle learning objectives at any grain size with corresponding gap reports. And the system allows content element to be identified by type ( e.g. core or non-core) and by category (e.g. cognitive or non-cognitive).
Learning achievement is properly measured against planned education objectives. It follows that if the objectives are broadly stated, then reports of learning achievement will be equally broad. And if the objectives are fine-grained, the reports will be fine-grained. In order to have actionable achievement reports, learning objectives should be defined as teachable and measurable - operational level content.
Advance Placement (AP) courses provide an excellent example of setting clear learning objectives at operational content levels. The Institute's tools can operate at any level of specificity. They will disaggregate broad objectives into ones that are teachable and measureable while retaining the lineage for aggregated reporting.
Understanding how gaps form and how they are prevented, detected and corrected is fundamental for school system success. The crippling effects of learning gaps is illustrated below and in our downloadable presentation, Learning Gaps and Tractor Pulls. The On-Grade Model employs active gap prevention and correction as it enables 'on-grade' teaching and learning.
The pre-K through 12 spread of gap-free, content-transfer success across all courses and grades defines on-grade teaching and learning. It is the foundation of the On-Grade Student Achievement Model.