Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, along with the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research and the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have received a four-year, $5.25 million grant to advance the work of DPI’s Promoting Excellence for All initiative.
Promoting Excellence for All is focused on reducing achievement gaps for student of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities, though most of the attention seems to be on students of color. The Promoting Excellence for All website has information and an e-Course that educators can use to “deepen their understanding and use of strategies proven to close the gap.”
This new grant will allow DPI to further study Wisconsin schools with promising practices for reducing gaps, and determine to what extent those practices can be replicated in other locations. Perhaps this will lead to more meaty specificity on the website, where the current strategies are general and aspirational in nature. Although Wisconsin posts some of the largest performance gaps in the country, it does not appear that DPI will be looking beyond the borders of our state for possible solutions.
Media outlets have been reporting on the grant as well as reflecting on the disgraceful size of the gaps in Wisconsin and the lack of progress in narrowing them.
It will be important to remember that some very worthy practices, such as explicit and sequential teaching of foundational reading skills, may raise the performance of the low groups of students without appreciably narrowing the gap. That is because the same instructional practices that benefit the students at the bottom also benefit the students at the top, raising all ships.