North Central Regional Educational Laboratory

ALL STUDENTS
REACHING THE TOP

Strategies for Closing
Academic Achievement Gap

A Report of the National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic Ability

(Scroll down to Key Findings for main ideas for teachers)

Albert Bennett, Ph.D.
Beatrice L. Bridglall
Ana Mari Cauce, Ph.D.
Howard T. Everson, Ph.D.
Edmund W. Gordon, Ed.D.
Carol D. Lee, Ph.D.
Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Ph.D.
Joseph S. Renzulli, Ed.D.
Judy K. Stewart, Ph.D.
2004
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This work was originally produced in part by the North Central Regional Educational
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representation of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement
by the federal government.
Learning Point Associates was founded as the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory
(NCREL) in 1984. NCREL continues its research and development work as a wholly owned
subsidiary of Learning Point Associates.

CONTENTS
Members of the National Study Group for the
Affirmative Development of Academic Ability iv
Preface v
Acknowledgments vi
Executive Summary 1
Academic Ability and Academic Achievement Gaps 3
The Nature of the Academic Achievement Gaps 3
Affirmative Development of Academic Ability and Intellective Competence 7
High-Quality Teaching and Instruction in the Classroom 9
Nurturing Intellective Competence 9
Transfer of Knowledge: Challenges and Educational Applications 14
The Importance of Trusting Relationships in School 19
Psychosocial Processes That Hinder the Development of Academic Ability 19
Building Trust 20
Supports for Pro-Academic Behavior in the
School and Community 23
Access to Education-Relevant Capital 23
Supportive Family, Community, and Academic Environments 24
Socialization to the Attitudinal and Behavioral Demands of High
Academic Achievement 25
Academic and Social Integration 26
Exposure to Various Forms of Supplementary Education 26
Exposure to Models of Academic Excellence and Exemplars of Scholarly Practice 27
All Students at the Top: What Will It Take? 29
Conclusions 29
Recommendations 30
References 33
Appendix: Key Terms and Definitions 41
page iv
Members of the National Study Group for the
Affirmative Development of Academic Ability
Albert Bennett, Ph.D.
Harold Washington Professor of Educational
and Public Policy
Director, St. Clair Drake Center for African American
Studies, Roosevelt University
A. Wade Boykin, Ph.D.
Codirector
CRESPAR, at Howard University
Beatrice L. Bridglall
Editor and Assistant Director
Institute for Urban and Minority Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Gina Burkhardt
CEO
Learning Point Associates
Ana Mari Cauce, Ph.D.
Earl R. Carlson Professor and Chair
Department of Psychology
University of Washington
Reginald Clark, Ph.D.
President
Clark and Associates
Howard T. Everson, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Initiatives
and Chief Research Scientist
The College Board
Patricia Gandara, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Education
University of California at Davis
Edmund W. Gordon, Ed.D.
Richard March Hoe Professor of Psychology
and Education, Emeritus
Teachers College, Columbia University
John M. Musser Professor of Psychology,
Emeritus, Yale University
Chair, National Study Group for the Affirmative
Development of Academic Ability
Sabrina W.M. Laine, Ph.D.
Senior Advisor to the CEO
Learning Point Associates
Carol D. Lee, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, School of Education
and Social Policy
Northwestern University
Ray Legler, Ph.D.
Senior Program Associate
Learning Point Associates
Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
University of California at Berkeley
Ulric Neisser, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
Cornell University
Joseph S. Renzulli, Ed.D.
Director, National Research Center on the
Gifted and Talented
Raymond and Lynn Neag Professor of
Gifted Education and Talent Development
University of Connecticut
Margaret Beale Spencer, Ph.D.
Board of Overseers
Professor of Education and Psychology
University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School
of Education
Judy K. Stewart, Ph.D.
President
Taylor Education Consulting
William Trent, Ph.D.
Professor, Educational Policy Studies
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Philip Uri Treisman, Ph.D.
Professor of Mathematics
Director, Charles A. Dana Center
University of Texas at Austin
Arie van der Ploeg
Senior Program Associate
Learning Point Associates
The National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic Ability was organized in 2002 by
Learning Point Associates, the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Columbia University Teachers
College, and the College Board. During the course of one year, the National Study Group engaged 20
scholars in dialogue and writing for the purpose of producing a national report on critical interventions to
help close the academic achievement gaps among ethnic-minority groups of students. This report will be
followed by the release of an edited book by Edmund W. Gordon and Beatrice L. Bridglall, The Affirmative
Development of Academic Ability, in late 2004.

PREFACE
A comprehensive mission of public schools is to produce students who are intellectually competent
and prepared for postsecondary education and the increasingly competitive workforce.
However, differences in educational outcomes of students indicate that the impact of our current
public school system is limited. One of the most urgent concerns among education stakeholders
today is the underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans among
high-achieving students. Twenty years since the release of the report A Nation at Risk (National
Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), new efforts continue to emerge, promising to
eliminate this academic disparity and to ensure that no child is left behind. Stakeholders have
been working relentlessly to maximize educational outcomes and to respond to the unprecedented
challenge of educating increasingly multicultural, multilingual, and disadvantaged
students. Although the hard work indicates signs of progress, more work is necessary to
continue to improve student performance.
Following up on the policy recommendations of the National Task Force on Minority High
Achievement (1999), on which I served as cochair, I called for a national effort at affirmative
development (Gordon, 2001). Affirmative development asserts that the purpose of learning—and,
therefore, of teaching—is to acquire knowledge and technique to develop human intellect. In
other words, affirmative development helps build the intellectual muscle that humans need to
apply to changing situations, experiences, and contexts. These developed abilities are by no
means restricted to subject matter knowledge. In sharp contrast, the student must now use his
or her acquired knowledge and technique to adaptively and efficiently solve both common and
novel problems.
This past year, I have been tremendously fortunate to chair the National Study Group for the
Affirmative Development of Academic Ability. With the support of Learning Point Associates,
the College Board, and the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Columbia University
Teachers College, I have purposely united 20 leading scholars from multiple disciplines to help
craft a vision for affirming academic ability, nurturing intellective competence, and moving all
students—particularly minority and low-income students—to high levels of academic achievement.
To be clear, what follows is a discussion about intellective competence—not intelligence. (Refer to
the appendix for key terms and definitions that appear in this report.) The National Study Group
maintains that intellective competence is not fixed but developed and, therefore, developable.
Here, then, is our effort to marshal the chunks of knowledge needed to systematically nurture
intellective competence and eliminate the academic achievement gaps among our children.
Edmund W. Gordon, Chair
National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic Ability
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Learning Point Associates
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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic Ability was organized
with the support of three agencies: Learning Point Associates, Columbia University Teachers
College, and the College Board. As cosponsors, these agencies committed financial and human
resources to convene the National Study Group, commission several papers, and publish
this report.
Gina Burkhardt, CEO of Learning Point Associates, deserves special acknowledgment. Under
her leadership, the National Study Group first convened and defined its purpose. She recruited
Edmund W. Gordon, Ed.D., endowed chair at Yale University and Teachers College, to lead the
National Study Group. Dr. Gordon’s presence and recognition in the academic and not-for-profit
communities set the wheels in motion for the design and work of the National Study Group.
Through his efforts, 20 researchers, scientists, and education practitioners committed to engage
for one year in dialogue and substantive work on the issue of the achievement gaps. Also through
Dr. Gordon, a vital partnership was forged with Howard T. Everson, Ph.D., vice president for
academic initiatives and chief research scientist at the College Board. The College Board’s
well-known track record in the area of achievement helped galvanize the National Study Group.
In addition to the cosponsors, the National Study Group acknowledges the contributions of
National Study Group members Judy Stewart, Ph.D., independent consultant and a former policy
director with Learning Point Associates; Albert Bennett, Ph.D., professor, Roosevelt University;
and Beatrice Bridglall, editor and assistant director, Institute for Urban and Minority Education,
Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Judy Stewart first presented the idea of a National
Study Group to CEO Gina Burkhardt, who authorized her to run with the idea. Dr. Stewart has
been involved in every stage of the National Study Group’s work from its inception, partnership
development, meeting facilitation, to coediting the final report. Dr. Albert Bennett has been
instrumental in managing the partnerships and work products of the National Study Group
members. His critical insights helped keep the National Study Group on task and united. Beatrice
Bridglall served as a constant source of expertise as a facilitator, researcher, writer, and coeditor.
In addition to peer review by National Study Group members, invaluable criticism was received
by Joshua Aronson, Ph.D., New York University; Sigmund Tobias, Ph.D., Columbia University
Teachers College; Andrew Rotherham, Progressive Policy Institute; and Allan Alson, Ed.D.,
Evanston Township High School District 202.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Overcoming the continued academic underperformance of students of color requires a systemic
approach—one that combines simultaneous interventions by families, teachers and administrators,
and the larger society. The National Task Force on Minority High Achievement, a group
organized by the College Board in 1997 and cochaired by professors Edmund W. Gordon and
Eugene Corta-Robles, issued a report titled Reaching the Top (1999), which indicated that “until
many more…minority students from disadvantaged, middle class, and upper middle class circumstances
are very successful educationally, it will be virtually impossible to integrate our society’s
institutions completely, especially at the leadership levels” (p. 2). The Task Force concluded that
these problems require a national effort at the affirmative development of academic ability.
Academic ability is one expression of human intellective competence that, increasingly, is recognized
as the universal currency of technologically advanced societies. Academic ability references
capabilities such as the following:
• Literacy and numeracy.
• Mathematical and verbal reasoning.
• Skill in creating, recognizing, and resolving relationships.
• Problem solving from both abstract and concrete situations, as in deductive and
inductive reasoning.
• Sensitivity to multiple contexts and perspectives.
• Skill in accessing and managing disparate bodies and chunks of information.
• Resource recognition and utilization (help seeking).
• Self-regulation.
Academic ability appears to be the product of exposure to the demands of specialized cultural
experiences—schooling being the most common—that interact with a wide variety of human
potentials (Cole, Gay, Glick, & Sharp, 1971; Cole & Scribner, 1974; Hunt, 1966; Martinez, 2002;
Sternberg, 1994). The National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic Ability
met together throughout 2002 and 2003 to investigate this issue. This report is one product of
their work.
The National Study Group reviewed strong evidence that academic ability is a developed (and
developable) ability, one that is not simply a function of one’s biological endowment or a fixed
aptitude. Recognizing academic ability as a malleable ability, the National Study Group argues
that closing the gaps in academic achievement between groups of students from different social
divisions (class, ethnicity, gender, and language) will require the development of intellective
competence in a wide range of individuals through interventions in our homes, communities,
and schools.
Affirmative development of academic ability is nurtured and developed through (1) high-quality
teaching and instruction in the classroom, (2) trusting relationships in school, and (3) supports for
pro-academic behavior in the school and community. These pedagogical and social activities and

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environmental supports build a developmental “scaffolding” around and within which students
find support for growth in abilities and dispositions to:
• Perceive critically.
• Explore widely.
• Bring rational order to chaos.
• Bring knowledge and techniques to bear on the solution of problems.
• Test ideas against explicit and considered moral values and empirical data.
• Recognize and create relationships between concrete and abstract phenomena.
Intellective competence reflects the effective orchestration of affective, cognitive, and situative
mental processes in the service of sense making and problem solving. These competencies
focus not only on what we want learners to know and know how to do, but also on what we want
learners to be and become—that is, compassionate and independently critical thinking members
of humane communities. Intellective competence reflects intellective character.
This report describes one approach—one that necessitates simultaneous interventions at the
classroom, school, and community levels—in order to reach that goal. The National Study Group’s
conclusions and recommendations were guided by the following ideas and are addressed in the
body of the report in the following order:
• The nature and extent of the academic achievement gaps between majority
and minority students.
• Teaching and learning for knowledge acquisition, improved comprehension,
and understanding in the classroom.
• The psychological processes, especially trust, associated with minority academic
achievement in schools.
• The environmental supports necessary for the development of intellective competence
and character.
The charge to the National Study Group and now to the nation is guided by the belief that we
cannot overlook the essential need to focus on improving the learning opportunities and academic
achievement of minority and low-income students. Demographic shifts in our nation’s population
mandate that we attend specifically to these students’ achievement if we expect as a nation to
maintain our standard of living, our level of prosperity, and our place in the global economy.
Simply put, we need the knowledge and contributions of students of color—together with the
knowledge and contributions of all our students and all our adults—to maintain our democracy.
A systemic approach to closing achievement gaps and improving learning for all students
necessitates access to a combination of educational interventions in the classroom, school, and
community. High levels of academic ability can be obtained for all students by applying proven
pedagogical practices and adopting policies that are within our reach. •

Executive Summary
Learning Point Associates
page 2
Table 1. NAEP Scores for Grades 8 and 12:
Science, Mathematics, and Reading
GRADE 8 GRADE 12
Science 1996 2000 1996 2000
Blacks 121 122 124 123
Hispanics 129 128 130 128
Whites 159 162 159 154
Mathematics 1996 2000 1996 2000
Blacks 243 247 280 274
Hispanics 251 253 287 283
Whites 282 286 310 308
Reading 1998 2002 1998 2002
Blacks 244 245 269 267
Hispanics 243 247 275 273
White 270 272 297 292

ACADEMIC ABILITY AND ACADEMIC
ACHIEVEMENT GAPS
Educators generally are perplexed when trying to find ways to raise the achievement of black,
Hispanic, and Native American students. For example, when superintendents of large urban
school districts were surveyed recently, they listed the issue of the achievement gaps between
minority and nonminority students as one of their major concerns (Huang, Reiser, Parker, Muniec,
& Salvucci, 2003). Many of these educators spoke of their frustrations and said, repeatedly, that
they need practical advice—research that tells them what to do in their schools and classrooms to
address this challenge. The National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic
Ability believes that contemporary research in the learning sciences and on the transfer of
learning may provide the guidance that educators need to help reduce the achievement gaps.
The Nature of the Academic Achievement Gaps
Decades of data on national trends in standardized tests in reading, mathematics, and science
confirm the existence of achievement gaps for certain ethnic-minority student populations and
students living in poverty. Table 1 shows these differences in science, mathematics, and reading
scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for samples of 8th- and
12th-grade students nationally from 1996 to 2000 for science and mathematics and from 1998
to 2002 for reading. At each grade level, black and Hispanic students perform significantly lower
than white students in science, mathematics, and reading.
Sources:
The Nation’s Report Card: Science 2000 (O’Sullivan, Lauko, Grigg, Qian, & Zhang, 2003)
The Nation’s Report Card: Mathematics 2000 (Braswell, Lutkus, Grigg, Santapau, Tay-Lim, & Johnson, 2001)
The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2002 (Grigg, Daane, Jin, & Campbell, 2003)

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Trends in black and white average scores on the SAT, taken by college-bound high school juniors
and seniors, tell much the same story. Table 2 shows the average SAT verbal and mathematical
reasoning scores for black and white students over the past eight years—1996 through 2003. The
black-white SAT score gaps are seen clearly in these trend lines; the gap is about one standard
deviation (or 100 points) in the scale score metric—a significant difference by any standard.
Graphing these differences makes it clear that the gaps increase in size over time (see Figure 1).
Sources:
Digest of Education Statistics, 2000 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001)
Digest of Education Statistics, 2002 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003)
2003 College-Bound Seniors: Tables and Related Items (College Entrance Examination Board, 2003)
Figure 1. Differences in SAT Verbal and Mathematical Scores
for Black and White Students
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Table 2. Differences in SAT Verbal and Mathematical Scores
for Black and White Students
Mean SAT Verbal Scores Mean SAT Mathematical Scores
Year Black White Black White
1996 434 526 422 523
1997 434 526 423 526
1998 434 526 426 528
1999 434 527 422 528
2000 434 528 426 530
2001 433 529 426 531
2002 430 527 427 533
2003 431 529 426 534
90
92
94
96
98
100
102
104
106
108
110
2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998
YEAR
SCORE DIFFERENCES
1997 1996
Sources:
Digest of Education Statistics, 2000 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001)
Digest of Education Statistics, 2002 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003)
2003 College-Bound Seniors: Tables and Related Items (College Entrance Examination Board, 2003)
V: Wh-BI
M: Wh-BI
These achievement scores have urgent ramifications for students’ subsequent educational
attainment. Success in high school and on the SAT and ACT controls who enrolls in college.
For example, the 11-year trend in college entrance rates indicates a continuing, long-term gap
between black and white students (see Figure 2). Although black-white enrollment rates nearly
reached equality in about 1998, the gap soon reappeared and has not diminished since then.
Figure 2. 11-Year Trend in College Entrance Rates
for Black and White Students

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0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994
YEARS
PERCENTAGE OF COHORT
1993 1992
Whites
Blacks
Source: Opportunity, No. 132 (Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, 2003)

A host of other indicators of academic achievement show similar differences by race and ethnicity.
Indeed, compelling evidence has accumulated that suggests these achievement gaps appear
even before disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic children enter kindergarten (Camara
& Schmidt, 1999; Jencks & Phillips, 1998; Mickelson, 2003).
On the other hand, educational opportunities and academic achievement for some ethnicminority
groups in the United States appear to be on the rise, judging from several of the findings
outlined by the National Center for Education Statistics report Status and Trends in the Education
of Blacks (Hoffman, Llagas, & Snyder, 2003). The percentage of black children whose mothers
have obtained a high school education has increased significantly since 1974. It also appears that
more minority students have completed high school and gone on to college. Many black educators
hold teaching appointments in institutions that are not historically minority. Unfortunately, we
seem to have reached a plateau with respect to gains made in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s in student
academic achievement. The findings of Hoffman, Llagas, and Snyder (2003) include the following:
• Black children are more likely than white or Hispanic children to be enrolled in center-based
preprimary education at the ages of 3, 4, and 5.
• Most minority students attend public schools where minorities represent the majority of the
student body. Seventy-three percent of black 4th-grade students were enrolled in schools
with more than half of the students eligible to receive a free or reduced-price lunch.
• Long-term trends in NAEP scores show increased performance in reading for minority
students between 1971 and 1999. Trends in performance on NAEP mathematics and
science also show improvements over the long term.
• Although black high school graduates completed more academic courses in 1998 than in
1982, their academic credit totals remained lower than those of whites in 1998. However,
blacks’ vocational credit totals were higher than those of whites.
• In 1998, black students were less likely than white students to take advanced mathematics
courses and some advanced science courses and less likely than Hispanic students to take
advanced foreign language classes. Between 1984 and 2000, the number of black students per
1,000 12th graders taking Advanced Placement (AP) examinations increased. However, fewer
black students per 1,000 12th graders than white or Hispanic students took AP exams in 2000.
• In 1999, a lower percentage of minority and Hispanic children than white children were
in private schools.
• Nearly one fourth of all bachelor’s degrees earned by blacks in 1999 were earned at
historically black colleges and universities.
• The proportion of blacks completing college increased between 1975 and 2000; however,
blacks still remained less likely than whites to earn degrees.
According to the American Council on Education’s Minorities in Higher Education 2002–2003:
Twentieth Annual Status Report (Harvey, 2003) regarding the sciences and engineering, African-
American students earned only 12,149 bachelor’s degrees in social sciences, 4,851 degrees in
biological/life sciences, and 4,324 degrees in engineering during 2000–01. The figures are even
more alarming on the graduate level. With respect to doctoral degrees, African Americans earned
only 80 degrees in physical science, 190 degrees in life science, 299 degrees in social science,
and 82 degrees in engineering during 2000-01 (Harvey, 2003). These figures are cause for
concern in light of the fact that minority students represent approximately 11 percent of all
students enrolled in higher education (Wilds, 2000).
This reality is of particular concern not just for the gifted and talented African-American students
who do not persist and graduate in the sciences but also for the K–12 education continuum and
the nation, which increasingly privileges those skills and intellective competencies required for
meaningful participation in an advanced technological society. These intellective competencies
include the abilities to bring order to the chaos created by information overload; to reason; to
uncover relationships between phenomena; and to use comparison, context, intent, and values in
arriving at judgments. Such competencies are respected and sought after in both technologically
developed and underdeveloped societies. Indeed, the capacity to function effectively in these
domains is the essence of intellective competence, which increasingly is the universal currency
in technologically advanced societies.

Almost 75 years ago, DuBois (1940) warned against the neglect of gifted and talented minority
students. Current attention, however, is primarily focused on the overrepresentation of minorities
on the left end of the academic achievement distribution to the neglect of those on the right
end. These problems include a persistent gap between minority and majority students in general,
a larger gap between high-achieving minority and high-achieving majority students, and the
tendency of traditional indicators of high academic achievement to overpredict the subsequent
academic achievement of many minority students. These often ignored findings were first
reported in Equality of Educational Opportunity by Coleman et al. (1966) and in the 1980s and
‘90s by Durán (1983), Ramist, Lewis, and McCamley-Jenkins (1994), and W. W. Willingham (1985).

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Affirmative Development of Academic Ability
and Intellective Competence
The National Task Force on Minority High Achievement (1999) concluded that these problems
require a national effort at the affirmative development of academic ability. Academic ability is
one expression of human intellective competence that, increasingly, is recognized as the universal
currency of societies that are technologically advanced. Academic ability references capabilities
such as the following:
• Critical literacy and numeracy.
• Mathematical and verbal reasoning.
• Skill in creating, recognizing, and resolving relationships.
• Classification of information and stimulus material.
• Problem solving from both abstract and concrete situations, as in deductive and
inductive reasoning.
• Sensitivity to multiple contexts and perspectives.
• Skill in accessing and managing disparate bodies and chunks of information.
• Resource recognition and utilization (help seeking).
• Self-regulation (including metacognitive competence and metacomponential strategies).
Such capabilities appear to be the products of exposure to the demands of specialized cultural
experiences—schooling being the most common—that interact with a wide variety of human
potentials (Cole, Gay, Glick, & Sharp, 1971; Cole & Scribner, 1974; Hunt, 1966; Martinez, 2000;
Sternberg, 1994). We therefore conclude that academic ability is a developed ability—the quality
of which is not primarily a function of one’s biological endowment or fixed aptitudes. With the
recognition of academic ability as a developed ability, the National Study Group for the
Affirmative Development of Academic Ability begins with the assumption that closing the gaps in
academic achievement between groups of students from different social divisions (class, ethnicity,
gender, and language) will require the affirmative development of such ability in a wide range
of individuals through certain interventions in our homes, communities, and schools.
Affirmative development of academic ability is based on the notion that such abilities are
nurtured and developed through (1) high-quality teaching and instruction in the classroom,
(2) trusting relationships in school, and (3) environmental supports for pro-academic behavior in
the school and community. These pedagogical and social activities and environmental supports
should reflect a type of developmental “scaffolding” around and within which students can find
support for growth in the development of abilities and dispositions to:
• Perceive critically.
• Explore widely.
• Bring rational order to chaos.
• Bring knowledge and techniques to bear on the solution of problems.
• Test ideas against explicit and considered moral values and empirical data.
• Recognize and create relationships between concrete and abstract phenomena.

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According to Gordon (2001), the mastery of academic learning is instrumental to the development
of intellective competence. In Gordon’s vision of teaching, learning, and assessment,
academic outcome standards are central. However, it is the explication of what we want learners
to know about specific disciplines and be able to do that must be considered as instrumental to
what we want learners to become. There is no question about the importance of what students
learn and are taught. Most of us would agree that teaching and learning independent of content
(subject matter) is problematic. However, just as teaching and learning without subject matter
are vacuous, teaching and learning should not be so constrained by content that the purpose
of engagement with these pedagogical endeavors is precluded.
Gordon (2001) also argues that the purpose of learning, and the teaching by which it is enabled,
is to acquire knowledge and technique to develop adaptive human intellect. Developed abilities
are not so much reflected in the specific discipline-based knowledge a student may have, but in
the student’s ability and disposition to adaptively and efficiently use knowledge, technique, and
values in mental processes to engage and solve both common and novel problems.
In summary, intellective competence is more than what advanced societies understand and
measure as “intelligence.” Intellective competence reflects the integration of academic content
with mental processes such as reasoning and critical thinking applied within an ever-changing but
highly relevant social context, which results in the mental activity that is necessary to make sense
of experiences and to solve problems. This end goal is less focused on what we want learners
to know and know how to do, and is more sharply focused on what we want learners to be and
become—compassionate and independently critical thinking members of humane communities.
From this perspective, intellective competence may be a reflection of intellective character.
The next three sections of the report describe the research base as well as educational applications
at the classroom, school, and community levels that—if appropriately integrated and
implemented—should lead to high academic achievement and the development of intellective
competence in all students. •

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HIGH-QUALITY TEACHING AND INSTRUCTION
IN THE CLASSROOM
Modern constructivist views of learning and cognition emphasize that the child is an active
learner who engages the world in trying to make sense of it. In the ideal world, the home, school,
and neighborhood serve as the child’s laboratory; there are books at home, museums in the
neighborhood, and adequate facilities in the school. The child has peers to serve as companions
in exploration and adult guidance to structure interactions that are maximally conducive to
learning. Support for learning continues and becomes more formalized in the classroom, with
school serving as an extension of the learning environment in the home and community.
Although the above description may approximate the learning environments of affluent children
in this country, it is a far cry from the settings in which too many others reside. Poor children—
who are disproportionately African American, Hispanic, and Native American—often grow up
in high-crime, inner-city neighborhoods. Parents often need to protect their children from these
neighborhoods instead of letting them explore. In these same neighborhoods, adult authority
figures often are lacking and peer interactions are as apt to result in harm as in good. (See Cauce
et al., 2003, for a recent review of this literature.)
Nurturing Intellective Competence
The constructivist perspective of learning is based on a simple proposition: Students come to
school with constructed understandings of the world—not with empty minds to be filled up
through lectures, drills, and rote learning. They have prior knowledge, albeit sometimes incomplete,
of their worlds and how things in it work. Contemporary theorists subscribe to the belief
that the knowledge with which a learner comes to school affects his or her ability to learn and
acquire new knowledge. By extension, if what teachers are attempting to teach conflicts with the
previously constructed knowledge of the student, this new knowledge will make little sense and
will be ill constructed and unavailable for future use in other settings (Anderson, 1987; Brooks
& Brooks, 1999; von Glasersfeld, 1989; Resnick, 1987; Schauble, 1990).
Obviously, this constructivist perspective has important implications for promoting long-term
retention and transfer. Much of the failure to transfer new learning to other contexts may stem
from the buzz of confusion that learners experience when previously constructed knowledge and
new knowledge (and novel contexts) conflict or are not well aligned (Everson & Renzulli, in press).
Simply making the new knowledge clearer to students, the research suggests, will not enhance
understanding or lead to adaptive forms of transfer (Cheng & Holyoak, 1985; Gentner, Ratterman,
& Forbus, 1993; Gick & Holyoak, 1983). The drill and practice—as well as other direct teaching
methods—found in many large, urban, and otherwise poorly funded schools might be working
to mitigate against transfer. This type of instruction may be particularly damaging to minority
students attending these schools.
More to the point, the achievement gaps between white and black children as early as kindergarten
suggest that, indeed, all students are constructing knowledge long before they enter
school. Some students, perhaps, have constructed understandings and acquired knowledge that
may be more feasible and relevant to the classroom; others have not. Some students apparently

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arrive at school with richer and deeper stores of prior knowledge—stories, words, and schemas
for understanding the world around them (Lee, in press). Research indicates that the body of
private understandings that many students have acquired before coming to school may be
incomplete, inaccurate, and in conflict with what the curricula demand of them (Di Sessa, 1988).
With this caveat in mind, a handful of teaching and learning strategies can provide teachers and
students respectively with a framework to refocus the learning process. These strategies include
knowledge acquisition, improved comprehension through consolidation and automaticity, deep
understanding, and learning for transfer. It is important to note that these strategies are defined
in a somewhat arbitrary manner and do not represent clear demarcations in the learning process
or distinct teaching techniques. They are merely an organizational device to ensure that our treatment
of teaching is comprehensive and that we do not gloss over aspects of learning (such as
automaticity and deep understanding) that typically get little treatment in the literature.
1. Teaching for Knowledge Acquisition
Knowledge acquisition remains a critical stage in the learning process; it is the building block for
all other processes. The more that is learned about higher-order thought processes, the clearer it
becomes that such processes do not occur independently of the information a child already possesses.
All aspects of learning build upon the knowledge base that exists. Current understanding
of pedagogical research strongly suggests that the first step in teaching for knowledge acquisition
involves taking the time to find out what knowledge children already bring to the situation (Lee,
in press).
During the acquisition stage, using conventional teaching techniques, new information is
combined with these existing theories or preconceptions. This combination determines whether
the resulting construction is accurate. Vosniadou and Brewer’s (1992) work on the child’s model of
the world illustrates this point beautifully. They found that if children have a mental model of the
world as flat (a model perfectly in tune with their experience of it), when they “learn” that it is
round, their resulting model may be that of the world as a pancake. In other words, children take
their original flat model of the world and superimpose roundness on it. This example nicely illustrates
why it is the teacher’s job to figure out what the student’s mental model is and then teach
from that as a starting point.
Inquiry-based instructional techniques do an exceptionally good job of drawing out a student’s
assumptions and using them as the building blocks for the construction of new knowledge. Such
inquiry-based approaches begin with the learner’s previous knowledge. They then actively engage
him or her to search not only for answers but also for explanations. Inquiry-based approaches also
involve the student in gathering new information, analyzing it, and—in the process—discarding
some explanations that may have appeared to make sense. A growing body of research suggests
that inquiry-based approaches lead to a broader and more robust acquisition of knowledge than
a student obtains from a more conventional, didactic teaching approach.
Most of the research on inquiry-based techniques has been conducted on learning science
and mathematics because inquiry-based approaches have been primarily used in these fields.
A similar technique, reciprocal teaching (Palincsar & Brown, 1984), has been used to improve
reading comprehension. This interactive teaching approach is based on questioning, clarification,
summarization, and prediction. Each of these elements is aimed at understanding the meaning of

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the text. Not only do students actively participate in these activities (e.g., questioning, clarification)
that are necessary for comprehension, but they watch the teacher model these behaviors.
This relatively simple teaching technique has shown some dramatic and durable improvements
in student learning (Brown & Campione, 1994; Brown, Campione, Webber, & McGilly, 1992).
Because of the essential role of knowledge acquisition in all other aspects of learning, focusing
on improving African-American and Hispanic children’s knowledge acquisition, whether it be in
terms of information or actual learning skills, is the first step in bridging the achievement gaps. As
Resnik and Hall (1998) put it, “What we know now is that just as facts alone do not constitute true
knowledge and thinking power, so thinking processes cannot proceed without something to think
about” (p. 101). Or, to put it even more simply, how much one knows affects how well one thinks.
2. Teaching for Improved Comprehension Through Consolidation
and Automaticity
After children acquire basic facts, they need to make this new information theirs, assimilating it
into their existing network of ideas. The notion of improved comprehension primarily includes
two key concepts: consolidation and automaticity. Both concepts are described in detail in this
section. The process of consolidation is essential for new information to stick, or to stay with an
individual for a prolonged period, becoming part of long-term memory. Consolidation happens
best when learning is “deep” and goes beyond the simple ability to parrot information or to
explain concepts at a surface level. It is likewise essential that basic skills become automated
before they can be built upon effectively (Cauce, in press). Automaticity is the ability to perform
a complex task without conscious awareness or effort. Through repeated practice, the task itself
becomes an automatic process.
Information-processing models of knowledge acquisition distinguish between effortful and automatic
processes. Effortful processes require the use of mental resources, including consciousness
and intentionality, in addition to effort. The consolidation of knowledge and learning for automaticity
are important because they free up energy for other activities that require mental effort.
Indeed, younger, as opposed to older, children are less likely to use even basic memory and/or
metacognitive strategies, or to benefit from such strategies when used, precisely because
they are effortful (see Bjorklund, 1995, chapter 4, p. 116). It is only when cognitive processing
becomes more efficient with age that children begin to effectively use more sophisticated
learning strategies. For example, somewhere between fourth and eighth grade there is a shift
from learning to read to reading to learn. But, this shift only occurs after—and if—reading
becomes a practiced, automated skill. Until this happens, limitations in working memory capacity
are too great to permit the interaction between syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic information
that is necessary for comprehension. It is only after reading becomes more automatic and there
is excess working memory capacity that comprehension becomes the primary task of reading.
Practice is the best strategy for developing improved comprehension. With practice, comprehending
complex processes becomes less effortful and more automatic. Practice can be formal
or not. For example, some parents may sit down very purposely with their children and go over
the day’s school lessons or listen to their child read aloud. Or, they may pay for tutors to do such
activities. Others may simply provide an opportunity for practicing some skills during routine
activities, such as bedtime reading. Some children, however, may not get any opportunities
for practice outside the classroom.

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Most children develop the underlying skills that make reading relatively automatic from the
combination of what they get at school and at home. However, a small proportion of children, who
may represent as many as 40 percent in some urban schools, benefit from having skills such as
phonemic awareness and phonic word attack taught much more systematically (Hook & Jones,
2002; Sanders, 2001). Some evidence suggests early preventive intervention of this type can help
students develop greater comprehension and fluency (Torgesen, Rashotte, & Alexander, 2001).
This research suggests that children who do not get ready support for, or opportunities to practice,
reading skills may benefit from more direct and explicit classroom support and instruction. The
importance of developing comprehension, especially for children in environments that do not
support learning, cannot be emphasized enough. What might readily appear to be deficits in
higher-order processing might more accurately be attributed to a failure to develop fluency and
comprehension of much simpler skills. Without the latter, the former may simply not be attainable.
3. Teaching for Deep Understanding
As Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989) note, teaching of abstract concepts in the absence of
authentic, naturalistic situations overlooks the fact that “understanding is developed through
continued, situated use” (p. 2). The importance of this type of learning also places emphasis on
the home environment or supplementary educational settings where learning and practice may
occur in more naturalistic settings (Gordon & Bridglall, 2002; Steinberg, 1996). The cognitive
apprenticeship approach emphasizes the role of collaborative learning and social interaction.
In this sense, it is worth noting that while most school situations emphasize individual learning,
most authentic learning situations involve collaboration, including social discourse (Resnick, 1988;
Resnick, Soaljo, Pontecorvo, & Burge, 1997).
Two key approaches have been associated with learning that emphasizes understanding:
active learning and problem-based learning (also called concept-based learning). Key to these
approaches is the recognition that learning takes place through a dialectical process of active participation,
and not just within an individual’s mind. It is this type of participation that leads to what
has been called engaged learning. Problem-based or engaged learning illustrates that to really
understand what is learned, it is essential to place learning within an appropriate and authentic
activity context. From the perspective of situated cognition, problem-based learning, and learning
communities, learning is as much an act of socialization to “habits and skills of interpretation and
meaning construction” (Resnick, 1989, p. 39) as it is a purely cognitive act.
This richer way of looking at learning and teaching is especially important for nonmainstream
children because it highlights the fact that many important skills are learned implicitly, through the
course of everyday or authentic interactions. If children already are engaged with their parents or
other adults in planting a garden at home (or building a birdhouse, or raising a gerbil), they may
not need to get this type of learning in the school context. But, to the degree that some youth
are not exposed to environments in which such learning takes place and is encouraged, they
will be at a disadvantage (Hung, 2002) unless such lessons are provided at school.
4. Teaching for Transferability
School learning is important only if one believes that what is learned in one context can be transferred
to others. Transferability is the ability to make connections to skills learned in one context
and transfer those skills to another context. Because of the importance of transferability, a great

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deal has been written about the learning conditions that enhance this process. Key points to
emphasize are the following:
• Strategies used to enhance deep understanding and automaticity also lead to transferability.
For example, one of the most important factors influencing transfer is mastery. Students who
learn specific subject material well find it easier to transfer that knowledge to other subjects
or material (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Klahr & Carver, 1988).
• Comprehension enhances transfer (Bransford & Stein, 1993). Without an understanding of
the deeper concepts and/or their connections to other information, problem-solving transfer
may fail because students cannot see beyond superficial content-relevant aspects of a
problem. In one study, Bassok and Holyoak (1989) showed that 90 percent of students who
used a distance equation to successfully solve a physics problem could not use the same
equation to answer a question about salary increases, although it was an analogous
problem. When learning is overly contextualized or occurs only in the context of solving
a very specific problem, transferability may be compromised (Cognition and Technology
Group at Vanderbilt, 1997).
• Transferability can be greatly increased when issues of transferability (e.g., the implications
of one task for another) are highlighted during instruction (Anderson, Reder, & Simon, 1996).
For example, after students have learned to solve the distance equation mentioned above,
the teacher could provide them with the additional example of salary increases to promote
further transfer of knowledge. But, even more indirect strategies for transferability have been
found to enhance it. For example, strategies similar to reciprocal teaching, which is used
to improve comprehension, also have been found to benefit transferability (Scardamalia,
Bereiter, & Steinbach, 1984). In addition, problem-based learning and lessons acquired in a
situated learning environment are more likely to lead to the transfer of knowledge to real-life
problems (Im & Hannafin, 1999). Thus, while there are unique issues involved in transferability,
teaching for knowledge acquisition, teaching for consolidation and automaticity, and
especially teaching for deep understanding also enhance the transferability of knowledge.
In most instances, instruction should involve some preparation in the form of modeling before
students begin to work on a complex new problem. Equally important is for teachers to provide
what Cazden (2001) calls “as needed” support while students are in the act of problem solving—
whether individually, working in groups, or through whole-class work. Here, both the sequence
of problem types and the manner in which students are socialized to engage with these
problems are important. Key socialization strategies include exploring, articulating, and
debating the following:
• The features of the problem to which the learner should pay attention and why.
• What each student already knows and doesn’t know about these features.
• What these features signal about concepts and problem-solving strategies that may
be relevant.
• The strengths and weaknesses of what will inevitably be multiple solution paths.
• The goodness of fit of solutions (i.e., what the solution explains or accounts for and what
it does not).
If such socialization experiences are a routine part of instruction across subject matters and
grades, students are more likely to develop several important dispositions and competencies:

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(1) a willingness to persist with difficult problems in the face of uncertainty; (2) a willingness and
ability to search one’s repertoire of existing knowledge to look for connections to new problems,
particularly when the connections are not obvious; and (3) a sensitivity to look closely for
recognizable patterns that help define the kind of problem one is tackling (known in the cognitive
literature as defining and constraining the problem space). These dispositions or competencies
are not developed in the short run, and especially not in erratic learning environments.
Transfer of Knowledge: Challenges and Educational Applications
Applying what is learned in school to address problems in other settings is the very essence of
the product of effective learning. Indeed, the very reason children are sent to school is so they
will acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities that will serve them later in life, when they are in
the “real world.” Distressingly, the research on the problem of transfer of learning suggests that
there is a wholesale failure of learning from instruction (Bransford & Schwartz, 1999; Haskell, 2001;
McKeough, Lupart, & Marini, 1995). This problem is even more troubling when viewed in the
larger social context of the black-white achievement gap (Mortenson, 2003).
A large (and growing) body of research evidence is available on how people learn and what
teachers can do to promote learning for transfer, and this research ought to influence classroom
practice. In this section of the report, we make the case for designing instruction based on principles
of learning derived from the learning sciences—the interdisciplinary field of research from
psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, computer science, anthropology, and education—
to enhance the critical thinking abilities of all students. We aim to transfer what nearly two
decades of research has taught us about how to improve learning, problem solving, long-term
retention, and the transfer of learning to novel situations. The research we review suggests we
are poised to capitalize on knowledge of how people think, learn, and remember; it offers instructional
design principles to improve classroom learning and promote transfer of learning for all
students. Obviously, these views are not entirely our own but derive from our reading of a number
of researchers and scholars, including Bransford and Schwartz (1999), Halpern and Hakel (2003),
and DeCorte (2003). We then describe the key findings from the literature on transfer of learning
and emphasize the cognitive perspective, which stresses students’ ability to learn during transfer.
We conclude by suggesting how these learning principles can be applied in the classroom to
improve teaching, learning, and transfer for all students.
Scientific inquiry into the question of transfer of learning has a long history, dating back more
than a century to the work of E. L. Thorndike (Thorndike & Woodworth, 1901). From the very
beginning, this line of research has suggested that transfer—that is, how well what a person
learns in one set of circumstances transfers or is adapted to other, novel situations—is both fragile
and controversial. Indeed, the only clear finding from this long history of research is that there
have been a number of failed attempts at achieving transfer, as well as a number of successes
(Barnett & Ceci, 2002; Detterman & Sternberg, 1993). In an especially clear treatment of the
research on transfer, Bransford and Schwartz (1999, p. 62) refer to the “agonies and ecstasies”
that characterize this body of research. It would not be unfair, for example, to summarize the
literature on transfer by concluding that “there is no evidence to contradict Thorndike’s general
conclusions: Transfer is rare” (Detterman, 1993, p. 15).

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Despite the pessimism, a number of researchers have pointed out recently that research is
uncovering a number of important learning perspectives and principles that appear to be capable
of enhancing transfer (DeCorte, 2003; Halpern & Hakel, 2003). In a classic study that involved
teaching subjects to throw darts while underwater, Judd (1908) demonstrated the value of
promoting understanding as part of the initial learning experience. Judd’s experiment demonstrates
the benefits of guided practice. Two groups of boys practiced throwing darts at an
underwater target. Prior to practice, the experimental group was instructed about how water
refracts light and how this principle may affect the accuracy of their performance. The control
group was not given this instruction, but simply practiced. Boys in the experimental group were
more accurate at throwing darts at new targets at varying depths.
Building on these early studies, Bransford and Stein (1993) studied how learning with understanding
affects transfer. In general, these studies show that when presented in a problem-solving
context, knowledge and information are more likely to be recalled and activated in novel
problem-solving situations. Rethinking the problem of transfer from a cognitive perspective may
yield insights into how strategic knowledge about learning, including monitoring one’s learning
across domains and contexts (Bransford & Schwartz, 1999; Brown, 1978; Tobias & Everson, 2002),
enhances performance in novel settings.
The question before us is: Do we have the strategies and principled pedagogical approaches that
reflect our best understanding of how students learn? Work done recently under the auspices of
the National Research Council (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000) suggests that indeed we do,
and the report makes a strong case for affecting students’ long-term retention and transfer by
improving how we teach. The authors write:
Modern theories of learning and transfer retain the emphasis on practice, but they specify the kinds
of practice that are important and take learner characteristics (e.g., existing knowledge and strategies)
into account (e.g., Singley & Anderson, 1989). In the discussion below, we explore key characteristics
of learning and transfer that have important implications for education:
• Initial learning is necessary for transfer, and a considerable amount is known about the kinds of
learning experiences that support transfer.
• Knowledge that is overly contextualized can reduce transfer; abstract representations of knowledge
can help promote transfer.
• Transfer is best viewed as an active, dynamic process rather than a passive end-product of a
particular set of learning experiences.
• All new learning involves transfer based on previous learning, and this fact has important implications
for the design of instruction that helps students learn. (p. 53)
Building on this work, Bransford and Schwartz (1999), DeCorte (2003), Halpern (1998), Halpern
and Hakel (2002, 2003), Sternberg, (2002), and D. T. Willingham (2002, 2003), among others,
provide specific guidance by applying the sciences of learning to the challenge of teaching for
transfer and preparing students for future learning. Through a variety of collaborative efforts,
these researchers have developed theories and extracted basic principles that, we suspect,
can be applied broadly in schools and classrooms. On the following pages, we describe a
representative set of these principles and offer examples of possible educational applications.

Key findings for teachers:

What can teachers do to ensure that: ALL STUDENTS CAN REACH THE TOP

1. Provide Opportunities for Students to Practice at Retrieval
Research tells us that a powerful way to promote long-term retention and transfer is to allow
students to practice retrieving previously taught material from long-term memory. Opportunities
to practice can occur either during review for tests or in actual testing sessions (Cull, 2000;
Dempster & Perkins, 1993; Glover, 1989; Wheeler & Roediger, 1992). Teachers are encouraged
to work with students as they retrieve information and knowledge from both short-term and longterm
memories. Doing so repeatedly, in varied contexts, strengthens students’ ability to access
these knowledge bases and solidifies their ability to recall previously learned material from longterm
memory, thus promoting transfer across contexts. Halpern and Hakel (2002, 2003) also tell
us that repeated testing helps in the recall of information. Teachers are encouraged to align classroom
discussions, homework assignments, and tests so that important information will have to
be remembered at different times throughout the academic year or course, enhancing long-term
retention. Test questions also offer an opportunity for “practice at retrieval” and deepen students’
knowledge of the material being tested. Ideally, tests should be cumulative; test items should
probe for understanding of the material. The key idea is to cue students’ prior knowledge in ways
that are relevant to the learning context.

2. Vary the Conditions of Learning
The key idea here is that when learning takes place under a variety of conditions and contexts,
conceptual understanding becomes more rounded and multiple retrieval cues are activated.
Research from the learning sciences provides insights into the benefits of providing differing types
of problems and alternative solution strategies. Though we are warned that learning may take
longer and be somewhat less enjoyable to students, research suggests that students and teachers
will see significant gains in long-term retention and transfer.

3. Maximize Time for Learning
Another factor to seriously consider in supporting minority-student learning is making sure that
students have the time needed to learn. Research has demonstrated that when time to learn is
allowed to vary, the best predictor of mastery learning is a student’s prior knowledge. On the
other hand, when time available for learning is held constant, a student’s intelligence is the best
predictor of mastery (Anderson & Block, 1977; Bloom, 1971). Regardless of what one thinks about
the construct of intelligence or its validity, it is clear that when time to learn is held constant, as is
typically the case in the present educational system, it leads to the outcome that ability is a better
predictor than learning per se. Learning can be viewed as a result of opportunity to learn and
perseverance. But, while the perseverance is up to the student, the teacher controls the opportunity
to learn. Ideally, a learner-centered environment would allow opportunities to be better
matched to the student’s, rather than the teacher’s, needs.

4. Represent Knowledge Using Alternate Forms
Learning is more powerful when students are prompted to take information presented in one
format and “represent” it in an alternative way. Cognitive research tells us that we process
information in multiple ways—visually and through auditory-verbal channels. Students’ learning
and recall can be improved by integrating information from both the verbal and visual-spatial
forms of representation. Teachers are encouraged, therefore, to use both modes of representation
in all their learning tasks, explicitly and consciously incorporating multiple forms of representation
into their instructional designs.

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5. Build on Students’ Prior Knowledge and Experience
Research comparing experts to novices reveals that experts have a larger knowledge base,
compared to novices, and can compile information into more meaningful chunks, which further
facilitates learning. For example, relative to novices, chess experts have a better memory for
positions of chess pieces on a game board (Chi, Feltovich, & Glaser, 1981). When chess pieces
are placed randomly on the board, however, this advantage disappears, suggesting that chess
experts do not have superior general memory; rather, they are able to draw upon their knowledge
of common chess positions when useful for remembering and developing game strategies.
As noted earlier, students arrive in the classroom with sets of assumptions and beliefs that serve
as a mental framework for learning. As they construct knowledge, students build on their prior
knowledge to infuse meaning into newly learned material. In this way, prior knowledge influences
how students interpret new information and decide what aspects of this information are relevant
and irrelevant.

6. Emphasize Knowledge and Skill Development
Teachers, teaching assistants, and tutors need to make explicit those concepts and processes that
students need to know, understand, and internalize in order to achieve mastery. This approach is
especially important if students have not had previous intensive exposure to mathematics and the
sciences, for example. The research literature is replete with findings that support the idea that
peer study groups create opportunities for academic and social support, which appear to contribute
to higher academic achievement (Treisman, 1992). Peer study groups can serve more than
the purpose of helping students master the concepts in their fields; they also enable students to
regard themselves as part of an academic community. In addition, peer study groups promote conversations
in which participants have to articulate their own ideas and listen to the ideas of others.
Peer study group interactions also ensure that students make their work and thinking public;
students are thus exposed to different perspectives and the knowledge fund of their peers. The
peer study group setting exposes students to peers who also struggle with various ideas and
subject content. The result is that students learn quickly that excelling in a subject does not mean
being able to solve problems quickly and easily but rather working very hard and persevering.

7. Infuse Lessons With Strategies for Learning
For students, learning new concepts and developing understanding is often difficult and uncomfortable.
Students’ views of the world are challenged, and long-held beliefs are questioned in the
teaching and learning process. Students and teachers often complain that some subjects, such
as mathematics and science, are just too difficult for them to learn. All of us want learning to be
easy. Thus, when students are faced with some school subjects, they become discouraged by the
difficulty they encounter during the learning process. Halpern and Hakel (2003) remind teachers
that optimizing learning depends on what we want students to learn and what students already
know about that subject. Teachers can help students by discussing ways of learning, infusing their
lessons with strategies for learning to learn, and surfacing students’ own beliefs about learning.

8. Provide Systematic Feedback
Not surprisingly, and as discussed earlier, students come to school with preconceived ideas about
the subjects they are taught in the classroom. Even if these notions are wrong, belief in them can
solidify based on ordinary, everyday experiences, especially when objective, corrective feedback
is not provided. This lack of feedback has serious implications for learning and performance.
For instance, students may come to believe incorrectly in causation by attributing an effect to
a salient possible causal agent without considering plausible alternative causes, engaging in
spurious causal reasoning. Similarly, students often may rely on self-created devices to judge or
interpret events and outcomes. These mental shortcuts may not always lead to correct solutions
or to the resolution of complex problems. We also know that students, typically, have poor
metacognition—that is, they are poor judges of what they know and do not know (Tobias &
Everson, 2002). These misguided notions and feelings of confidence about what they know
may also develop in the course of learning. Learners may be fooled into believing that they
are learning by the apparent ease of their performance; in contrast, optimal learning is usually
derived from moderately difficult learning situations. Teachers can become more aware of
students’ common misconceptions and lead discussions in class that address such misconceptions.
They also can provide systematic feedback on homework assignments, tests, and projects
throughout the course of instruction to combat the persistence of erroneous thinking.

9. Use Dynamic Classroom Assessment
Research is emerging, largely from a psychometric perspective, indicating that some standardized
test items and tasks are more difficult for black students than for white students, even when the
two groups are equal with respect to their ability levels and have been taught by the same
teachers in the very same classes. From a cognitive perspective, it has been suggested that the
test items may have features or characteristics that are more or less salient with respect to classroom
learning, and that these saliency characteristics differ for black and white students. These
test items—which often are considered the final transfer task, particularly in high-stakes testing
situations—have been viewed as presenting “sequestered problem solving” (Bransford &
Schwartz, 1999, p. 68). In such situations, students rarely have the opportunity to seek help from
other resources, such as other students, teachers, or texts. They rarely have the opportunity to
engage in trial-and-error forms of learning, get feedback, or even revise their work.
By shifting to a perspective that looks at transfer in terms of preparing students for future
learning, as DeCorte (2003) and Bransford and Schwartz (1999) suggest, we are then free to look
at assessments as opportunities to gauge students’ abilities to learn in knowledge-rich environments.
The key idea is that assessments serve as opportunities to measure students’ abilities
to learn new information and relate this new learning to previous experiences. According to
Bransford and Schwartz, “Assessments can be improved by moving from static, one-shot
measures of ‘test taking’ to environments that provide opportunities for new learning” (p. 88).
These dynamic forms of assessment hold promise for promoting transfer and reducing the
achievement gaps. For example, teachers who direct their instruction to forms of “teaching to
the test” often find that their students have difficulty engaging in metacognitive knowledge monitoring.
By treating the testing situation as external to the learning environment, as a hurdle to be
leaped, or as a one-shot maximal performance event, they are depriving students of the opportunity
to assess their own learning, to monitor and regulate their learning strategies, and to
capitalize on corrective feedback and engage in new learning. By incorporating dynamic forms
of assessment in the classroom, teachers have a tool that will allow them to better measure how
prior learning and experience have prepared their students for future learning—knowledge that
in itself promotes transfer of learning. •

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THE IMPORTANCE OF TRUSTING
RELATIONSHIPS IN SCHOOL
The social-psychological literature points to a clear message that feelings of trust in the institution,
and in those who are seen to represent the interests of those institutions (e.g., teachers,
professors, administrators), are a fundamental building block in the affirmative development
of high minority achievement (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Mendoza-Denton & Aronson, in press;
Steele & Aronson, 1995, 2000). Yet successful minority students are increasingly likely, as they
move up the achievement ladder, to encounter contexts and situations in which their group
has been historically excluded and underrepresented.
Psychosocial Processes That Hinder the Development
of Academic Ability
The past decade in particular has witnessed an explosion of research on the experience of being
stigmatized, attributable in large part to research on two separate but related phenomena: One
is attributional ambiguity (Crocker & Major, 1989), and the other is stereotype threat (Steele &
Aronson, 1995, 2000). Attributional ambiguity involves the challenge that a student of color may
face when receiving feedback about his or her performance and the difficulty of determining
when feedback (particularly critical feedback) is accurate or is actually reflective of racial bias
on the part of the one giving the feedback. Stereotype threat is the awareness that others
may judge one’s performance in terms of one’s racial background, rather than in terms of one’s
individual background.
These general findings have been replicated with a variety of methodologies and seem to
indicate a robust phenomenon. What implications does this have for affirmative development?
As one begins to think about this issue, a particular conundrum begins to take shape for the
high-achieving minority student. On the one hand, an important aspect of academic achievement
comes from the integration of academic success into the self-concept (Steele, 1992). Similarly,
people want to achieve mastery and have at least some control over their outcomes (Bandura,
1986). Thus, when faced with negative feedback or obstacles along the way that all highachieving
students are bound to face, minority students in particular may be faced with a
catch-22 with attributional ambiguity at its heart. If one receives negative feedback, should one
discount it because it may be more reflective of external bias than of one’s own internal ability?
Or does it in fact reflect one’s own internal ability? Moreover, if one chooses to see it as reflective
of one’s own ability, is one ignoring or being foolishly blind to systematic biases that can affect
one’s evaluations? Such a state of uncertainty can be distracting and intrusive, and may moreover
lead to confusion when thinking about effective coping strategies for addressing the negative
feedback itself. The point here is that high-achieving minority students in particular have reason
to be attracted to both explanations for negative feedback when it is received, and as such,
may have a more difficult time resolving the state of attributional ambiguity.
Stereotype threat becomes a relevant psychological process when people find themselves in
contexts where a stereotype about their group is applicable. As such, Hispanic and African-
American students may be particularly vulnerable to stereotypes in the domain of academics,
because the stereotype surrounding these students concerns a generalized suspicion about their

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intelligence. Importantly, the effects of stereotypes can occur without the stereotyped individual
himself or herself believing the stereotype—one simply has to have the knowledge of the stereotype
and the awareness that others may view him or her through that stereotype. To the degree
that schooling in general and standardized testing in particular place particular emphasis on diagnosis
of ability as a gateway for tracking, or college admissions, or other future opportunities, the
implications of feeling stereotyped in relation to minority student achievement are profound.
The effects of stereotyping are potentially more pronounced the higher one comes to reaching
the top. As the College Board’s National Task Force on Minority High Achievement (1999) notes,
“The negative impacts of these beliefs do not seem to be confined to the most disadvantaged
underrepresented minority students; they can undermine the achievement of high SES [socioeconomic
status] students as well” (p. 16). Indeed, when combined with the possibility that the state
of attributional ambiguity may be more pronounced, and more difficult to dispel, for students
who succeed at succeeding, a picture of the psychological weight of being a high-achieving
minority student in this country comes increasingly into focus.
Direct or vicarious experiences of exclusion, discrimination, and prejudice can lead people to
anxiously anticipate that they will be similarly treated in new contexts where the possibility of such
treatment exists. Minority students in particular are likely to experience doubts about their acceptance
in educational institutions, and such concerns are likely to be accentuated in academic
environments and institutions that high-achieving minority students strive for.
Longitudinally, students who entered the university with concerns about how welcome they would
be experienced less diverse friendships and felt less trust and obligation toward the university at
the end of their first year in college than students who entered with fewer concerns. As sophomores
and juniors, they also reported decreased attendance at academic review sessions, as
well as increased anxiety about approaching professors and teacher assistants with academic
problems. Unsurprisingly, prejudice apprehension was predictive of students’ change in gradepoint
average over the first five semesters of college, such that students who experienced
prejudice apprehension were particularly likely to experience a decrease in their grades over time
(Mendoza-Denton, Purdie, Downey, & Davis, 2002). “Since students have only a limited amount of
time and emotional energy, those able to concentrate on their academic tasks, without constant
concern about their place on the campus and their relationships to others, are most likely to do
well academically,” note Bowen and Bok (1998, p. 82).

Building Trust
If affirmative development is based on the notion that academic abilities are nurtured and developed
through pedagogical, social, and interpersonal supports, the research cited throughout this
report suggests that beyond the opening of doors and beyond the achievement of numerical
diversity, educators—and the institutions that they represent—must work together towards the
achievement of relational diversity (Fine, Weis, & Powell, 1997). By relational diversity, we mean
a type of diversity in which institutions are not merely filling numerical quotas but instead are
actively working to secure the trust and confidence of those students to whom they have opened
their doors. As the summarized research implies, such trust and confidence is a critical component
of minority students’ achievement on several levels.

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When high-achieving minority students succeed, many times they will be faced with situations
and environments where their group membership becomes particularly salient. As research on
prejudice apprehension shows, concerns about one’s belonging can directly impact one’s achievement
by leading people to not take advantage of the various resources that the institution may
offer. Although this self-protective strategy minimizes the possibility of rejection and future
prejudice, it also reduces the number of resources and support systems one can count on
when faced with the difficulties that all students face.
We have argued that minority students may experience the psychological impact of being a
member of a stigmatized group more acutely as they become more academically successful. The
reasons for this are twofold: First, such success implies developing an academic identity, which for
minority students is a threatened identity. Second, as minority students become more successful,
the likelihood increases that educational opportunities and institutions will continue being overrepresented
by majority group members—thereby increasing suspicions about one’s belonging
and acceptance. •

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SUPPORTS FOR PRO-ACADEMIC BEHAVIOR
IN THE SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY
In our collective experience, most education-related policy stems from deficits-based approaches.
We purposely have taken a developmental and strengths-based approach to the conceptualization
of intellective competence. A number of key environmental supports are critical to the
development of intellective competence:
• Access to education-relevant capital.
• Supportive family, community, and academic environments.
• Socialization to the attitudinal and behavioral demands of high academic achievement.
• Academic and social integration.
• Exposure to various forms of supplementary education.
• Exposure to models of academic excellence and exemplars of scholarly practice.
Access to Education-Relevant Capital
For students of color, the problems of inequality of access to many of the environmental supports
that undergird pro-academic behavior in schools and communities are critical factors. What is the
nature of the education-relevant capital that high-achieving students more often have access to
through their families and communities? According to Bourdieu (1986), Coleman et al. (1966),
Gordon (1999), and Miller (1995), there are several types of capital, as illustrated in Table 3.
Obviously, wealth is more than money. It is the accessibility and control of resources. If we are
correct in assuming that the effectiveness of schools and other institutions that serve students are
in part a function of the availability of such wealth-derived capital for investment in human development,
we may have in this relationship a catalyst for pedagogical, political, and social intervention.

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Table 3. Education-Relevant Capital
Type of Capital Definition
CULTURAL Collected knowledge, techniques, and beliefs of a people.
FINANCIAL Income; wealth; family, community, and societal economic resources
available for education.
HEALTH Physical developmental integrity, health, nutritional condition.
HUMAN Social competence, tacit knowledge, and other education-derived
abilities as personal or family assets.
INSTITUTIONAL Quality of and access to educational and socializing institutions.
PEDAGOGICAL Supports for appropriate educational treatment in family, school,
and community.
PERSONAL Disposition, attitudes, aspirations, efficacy, sense of power.
POLITY Societal membership, social concern, public commitment,
political economy.
SOCIAL Social network relationships, social norms, cultural styles and values.
Supportive Family, Community, and Academic Environments
Family Environments
In 1966, Coleman et al. concluded that differences in the family backgrounds of students,
as opposed to school characteristics, accounted for the greatest amount of variance in their
academic achievement. This finding was later found to be less so for low-income and ethnicminority
children than for the general population (Gordon, 1999), but typically, family background
and income stand as strong predictors of achievement in school (Gordon, 1999; Jaynes &
Williams, 1989; Sexton, 1961). In related works, Mercer (1973) and Wolf (1966, 1995) posited that
the presence of family environmental supports for academic development may explain this association
between family status and student achievement. They made the now obvious point that
books, positive models, help with homework, and a place to study in the home are associated
with school achievement.

Community Environments
Because learning is influenced in fundamental ways by its context, promoting student achievement
via the community requires the development of norms for the classroom, schools, and the
community that both support and inform core learning values. In some schools, the norms may
require that students build their own information base; other norms may encourage academic risk
taking and provide opportunities for students to make mistakes, obtain feedback, and revise their
thinking. School norms also must support students’ comfort in revealing their preconceptions
about a subject, their questions, and their progress toward understanding new conceptual constructs
related to the subject. Teachers need to design classroom activities and promote students’
intellectual camaraderie and attitudes toward learning that build a sense of community and
responsibility for each other. These activities may take the form of students solving problems
together by building on each other’s knowledge, asking questions to clarify explanations, and
suggesting differing solutions (Brown & Campione, 1994). In this way, cooperation and argumentation
in problem solving enhance cognitive development (Evans, 1989; Goldman, 1994;
Habermas, 1990; Kuhn, 1991; Moshman, 1995a, 1995b; Newstead & Evans, 1995; Salmon &
Zeitz, 1995; Youniss & Damon, 1992) and are factors in enabling student achievement.
Lave and Wegner (1991) found that a community-centered approach also supports teachers in
establishing a community of learners among themselves. Such a community fosters comfort with
questioning (not just with knowing the answer) and is a model for creating new ideas that build on
the contributions of individual members. Community membership also can promote in teachers a
sense of ownership of new ideas that they can transfer to their classroom. Ultimately, teachers need
to develop new ways to link classroom learning to other aspects of students’ lives. This strategy
can be operationalized in requiring that students actively participate in community service.
For example, in some education programs, all students are encouraged or required to take part in
a community service activity. This strategy can help to make concrete the value of “giving back”
to the larger community and deliberately encouraging students to focus on outreach activities
and service to the broader community. Community service could include volunteer work with
at-risk youth, tutoring, organizing environmental projects, collecting food for homeless shelters,
or participating in campus outreach activities to middle schools. Community service roles give
students the status and responsibility of representing their school in the community. Although
the program staff is responsibile for enabling community activity, the community itself grows
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from the human relations and interactions among all the participants: students, former students,
graduate students, teachers, program staff, and university leadership. The community is at its
most vital when students take an active role in shaping their own environment (Hrabowski, 2002).

Academic Environments
In environments that are learner centered, teachers pay close attention to the knowledge, skills,
and attitudes that students bring into the classroom. This strategy focuses on distilling students’
preconceptions about various subjects while simultaneously promoting a better understanding
of students. Teachers need to become aware of the following concepts:
• Cultural differences can affect students’ comfort level in working collaboratively instead of
individually. These differences also are reflected in the background knowledge that students
bring to a new learning situation (Moll, Tapia, & Whitmore, 1993).
• Students’ conceptions of what it means to be intelligent can affect their performance.
Students who think that intelligence is a fixed entity are more likely to be performance
oriented as opposed to learning oriented; they want to look good rather than risk making
mistakes while learning. These students are especially likely to give up when tasks become
difficult. In contrast, students who think that intelligence is malleable are more willing to
struggle with challenging tasks and are more comfortable with risk (Dweck, 1989; Dweck
& Legget, 1988).
Teachers in learner-centered classrooms are attentive to each student’s individual progress and
develop appropriate tasks that facilitate a more sophisticated understanding of the material. For
instance, teachers can present students with challenging material that they can manage; that is,
the difficulties are demanding enough to maintain engagement but not so difficult as to lead to
discouragement. This approach demonstrates the teacher’s understanding of his or her students’
knowledge, skill levels, and interests (Duckworth, 1987). The underlying principle is Vygotskian
(Vygotsky, 1978) in that most of the learning is within the learner’s zone of proximal development
at the growing edge of mastery.
Socialization to the Attitudinal and Behavioral Demands
of High Academic Achievement
Although the challenges may be greater for minority students to excel academically (given issues
related to race, gender, and culture bias), continuous monitoring and advising of students should
emphasize the skills, values, and habits that students need to acquire and practice in their
academic lives. Students should be socialized to (1) understand the importance of reading,
knowing where to seek answers, solving problems, and asking questions; (2) accept their ethical
and moral responsibility not only to work hard but also to work to be among the best; and (3) set
high standards, follow through, be dependable, and understand how to work well with others.
Similarly, given the universal importance of advanced technologies and complex communication
skills, students need to learn how to use these technologies, and how to speak and write with
clarity and confidence in the standard vernaculars. Students need to be reminded that these
skills and abilities are necessary in the classroom and eventually in their professional lives. On yet
another level, students should be coached on the importance of interacting, working, and coexisting
effectively with diverse people and remaining open to new experiences without threat to
their own identities. Academic socialization is thus directed at shaping the attitudes, dispositions,
and habits of mind toward pro-academic intellective pursuits.

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Academic and Social Integration
Research and contemporary practice show that the academic and social integration of students
leads to higher grade-point averages, persistence, and retention (Maton, Hrabowski, & Schmitt,
2000; Treisman, 1992). This strategy can be operationalized in the social domain through steadfast
commitment from district and school leadership, teachers, and students with respect to
celebrating diversity; promotion of help seeking from a variety of sources; peer supportiveness;
high academic goals; and meaningful community service. In the academic domain, consistent
emphasis on solid preparation and conceptual mastery of difficult concepts; involvement in faculty
research; and special faculty attention to the needs of underrepresented students collectively
encourage and reinforce students’ participation. These acts of inclusion are intended to ensure
that all students develop academic and social competencies, have a sense of membership in the
learning enterprise, and are capable of discharging the responsibilities of such membership in
academic and social environments.

Exposure to Various Forms of Supplementary Education
Gordon (Gordon, Meroe, & Bridglall, in press) defines supplementary education as the formal and
informal learning and developmental enrichment opportunities provided for students outside of
school and beyond the regular school day or year. Some of these activities may occur inside the
school building but are beyond those included in the formal curriculum of the school. After-school
care is, perhaps, the most widespread form of supplementary education, but supplements to
schooling also include the special efforts that parents exert in support of the intellective and
personal development of their children. These efforts may range from provisions for good health
and nutrition to extensive travel and deliberate exposure to life in multiple cultures.
Many activities, considered routine in the settings in which they occur, are nonetheless thought to
be implicitly and deliberately engaged in to ensure adequate intellective and academic development
of young people. These routines include reading to and with one’s children; dinner table
talk and inclusion in other family discussions of important issues; exposure to adult models of
behaviors supportive of academic learning; active use of the library, museums, and community
and religious centers as sources of information; help seeking from appropriate sources; and
investments in reference and other education materials. In related but different domains are
efforts directed at influencing children’s choices of friends and peers, guiding and controlling use
of their spare time, guiding and limiting their time spent watching television, and encouraging
their participation in high-performance learning communities (Clark, 2002).
Parents of high-achieving students understand and emphasize academic achievement by supplementing
their children’s education with travel, dance lessons, scouting, tutoring, summer camp,
and other activities. Indeed, informed parents, scholars, and educators have known for some time
now that schools alone cannot enable or ensure high academic achievement (Coleman, 1966;
Gordon, 2001; Wilkerson, 1985). James Comer (1997) asserts this position more forcefully in
Waiting for a Miracle: Why Our Schools Cannot Solve Our Problems—And How We Can.
Colloquial knowledge among many parents “in the know” reflects awareness that a number
of experiences and activities occurring outside of school appear to enable schooling to work.
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Exposure to Models of Academic Excellence and Exemplars
of Scholarly Practice
We advocate the pairing of students with mentors who are professional role models in students’
areas of interest. Mentors can be recruited from a variety of settings, including universities,
private laboratories, government facilities, and corporations. Pairings or assignments of students
and mentors should ideally be long term but can be targeted to the developmental phase or
stage of the student. Mentors can consult with students on educational and career issues, as
well as topics ranging from class scheduling, internship experiences, school placements, career
choices, and personal concerns. Lectures, business meetings, laboratory visits, and social encounters
with mentors can express mentor and mentoree relationships formally. The mentoring
relationship also can be expressed informally through social outings, letter writing, and recreational
activities. These facets of mentoring can facilitate educational and professional growth
across the learning continuum. •

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ALL STUDENTS AT THE TOP: WHAT WILL IT TAKE?
The state of education for minority students is clearly multidimensional and complex. Arguably,
the most critical problem in education faced by minority students is the gap in academic achievement
known to exist between minority and nonminority students. This problem is manifested
at all achievement and socioeconomic levels.
To remedy this situation, the National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic
Ability proposes that the education community embark upon a deliberate effort to develop
academic abilities in a broad range of students who have a history of being resource deprived
and who, as a consequence, are underrepresented in the pool of academically high-achieving
students. The deliberate or affirmative development of academic ability should include more
equitable access to a variety of capitals and educational interventions.
The authors of this report and the National Study Group members chose the title of the report
carefully to reflect our goal of enabling all students to reach the top, both academically and in
their personal endeavors. Due to the urgency of the problem, there is a critical need for the
education establishment to work together with the social and political institutions in this country
to lead what we consider to be a charge to the nation. In describing this charge, we have
attempted to marshal what we know from multiple research domains to address the achievement
gaps. We recognize that our knowledge as researchers tends to be discrete and disconnected.
What is most needed, then, is a bundling and systemic application of our best research, strategies,
and practices to close the achievement gaps and to enhance learning opportunities for
all students simultaneously in the home, classroom, school, and community.

Conclusions
Throughout this report, we have emphasized a developmental approach to teaching and
learning—the affirmative development of academic ability—which we believe will lead not only
to higher academic achievement for all students and closing the academic achievement gaps
between diverse student groups, but also to the development of intellective competence in
segments of the population with whom schools have typically not been successful. We have
suggested that access to education-relevant forms of capital, combined with research-based
educational interventions, may be necessary in closing the achievement gaps that exist between
black, Hispanic, Native American, and low-income children and their European-American, Asian-
American, and more economically advantaged peers. The conclusions and recommendations that
follow provide a first step toward engaging education practitioners, policymakers, parents, and
community members in leading the charge to ensure that all students receive the kinds of instruction
and support necessary to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act and to achieve
high academic standards by the year 2014.
To move all students to the top by 2014, the National Study Group concludes that efforts at
the affirmative development of academic ability should be guided by the following educational
experiences in homes, classrooms, schools, and communities for all students:

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• In local communities, attention should be given to socializing young people to the specific
behavioral and dispositional requirements of high levels of academic work and to the
explication of examples of what such efforts and products look like.
• Because academic success is associated with community and family environments that
strongly support academic development, families and communities should be strengthened
in their capacity to provide a wide variety of supplemental education supports for the
academic and personal development of children.
• Schools and other educative institutions should give greater attention to the promotion of
feelings of trust in our schools, trust in the people who staff these institutions, and trust in
the processes by which teaching and learning transactions are managed.
• Schools can reinforce the belief that high levels of academic ability should be recognized as
a universal civil right—a right that should not be compromised by fear of being stereotyped
based on one’s identity or the social division to which one is assigned.
• Attention should be given in schools and classrooms to reconciling the possible tensions
between the several purposes of education—intellect development, skills development, and
moral development (Wallace, 1966)—and the political agendas of diverse learners, to the
end that academic learning can be seen as compatible with the purposes that inform those
who must do the learning.
• Increased opportunities should be created for continuous exposure to high-performance
learning environments in which children successfully experience high expectations and joyful
but rigorous challenges that are at the growing edges of their zones of proximal development—
the areas just beyond each student’s learning comfort zone.
• Teaching and learning in the classroom should reflect a balanced focus between the content
and processes that are expected to be mastered and the metacognitive understandings and
strategies that are essential to making sense of one’s experiences.
• For students, time and effort must be devoted to learning tasks that are relevant to the
knowledge and skills to be mastered.
Recommendations
The National Study Group agrees that what we know about the development of high levels of
academic ability can be reflected in pedagogical practices and polices that are within our reach.
Yet determining the most appropriate and timely avenues to implement research-based proposals
to improve education necessitates actively seeking opportunities to leverage existing national,
state, and local policies and programs. In order to ensure that all students have access to educational
experiences that are guided by the above conclusions, the National Study Group offers
the following practical and immediately actionable recommendations at the national, state,
and local levels.
National Level
• Colleges, universities, and policymakers should influence teacher preparation programs to
refocus their curricula to strengthen teacher knowledge of subject matter and to reflect the
research from the learning sciences. This task will ensure that classroom teachers will be able
to introduce rigorous content and learning experiences leading to intellective competence

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in all students. The current reauthorization of the Higher Education Act offers a timely
avenue for influencing teacher preparation programs.
• As members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education officials seek ways to
enhance the No Child Left Behind Act, they should encourage states to broaden assessment
programs to include the following: curriculum-embedded assessments, more frequent
assessment probes, and dynamic measures of student learning behavior and outcomes—all
of which are thought to lead to the type of school and classroom environments that support
the affirmative development of academic ability.
State Level
• In collaboration with foundations and institutions of higher education, state education
agencies should refocus the preparation of school leaders on the development of
high-performance learning environments. In such environments, high expectations are
widespread, and teachers are held accountable for content-rich instruction delivered
in a context that is culturally relevant and free from prejudicial behavior for all students.
• Building on existing federal and state funding streams that provide enrichment opportunities
for students such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center grants and the provisions
for supplemental education services in the No Child Left Behind Act, state officials in
Departments of Education and Departments of Health and Human Services should work
together to refine the criteria that qualify providers of these services to design programs
that set high expectations for all students.
Local Level
• In the continuing professional development of teachers and administrators, special attention
should be given to better enabling staff to meet the instructional requirements of an increasingly
diverse student body. Such instructional requirements should build on what we know
from research about the conditions necessary for the successful transfer of knowledge.
• Teachers and school-level administrators need to reinforce daily with students, their families,
and the community the belief that all students can learn to high standards and achieve
intellective competence.
• Teachers who believe that affirmative development of academic ability is the key to
achieving intellective competence—and structure their instruction accordingly—should
receive incentives to nurture other teachers to follow a similar approach. At the very least,
teachers who do not believe that academic ability is developable in all students should
receive assistance with finding a more suitable teaching or work assignment. Clearly,
students in the most high-need situations require teachers who believe in their ability to
learn but who also can deliver the rigorous content and experience that undergird the
development of intellective competence.
The charge to the National Study Group and now to the nation is guided by the belief that we
cannot overlook the essential need to focus on improving the learning opportunities and academic
achievement of minority and low-income students. Demographic shifts in our nation’s population
mandate that we attend specifically to these students’ achievement if we expect as a nation to
maintain our standard of living, our level of prosperity, and our place in the global economy.
Simply put, we need the knowledge and contributions of students of color—together with the
knowledge and contributions of all our students and all our adults—to maintain our democracy. •

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APPENDIX:
KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
achievement gap. The statistical phenomenon of predictable lower performance on standardized
tests by African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and low-income students as compared to
their white, Asian, and more economically advantaged peers.
affirmative development of academic ability. The deliberate effort to equip students with
strategies that build knowledge and develop techniques to solve both common and novel
problems in pursuit of high academic achievement.
attributional ambiguity. The challenge that a student of color may face when receiving feedback
about his or her performance and the difficulty of determining when feedback (particularly
critical feedback) is accurate or is actually reflective of racial bias on the part of the one
giving the feedback.
automaticity. The ability to perform a complex task without conscious awareness or effort.
Through repeated practice, the task itself becomes an automatic process.
intellective competence. Systematic ways of reasoning, of inferring patterns from one’s environments,
and using them to maintain practices and to invent new ones; highly adaptive, rich habits
of thinking; engagement in meaningful problem solving. Academic intellective competence is a
highly specialized set of abilities that are a direct result of particular kinds of experiences over
long periods of time in Western schooling.
stereotype threat. The awareness that others may judge one’s performance in terms of one’s
racial background, rather than in terms of one’s individual background.
supplementary education. The formal and informal learning and developmental enrichment
opportunities provided for students outside of school and beyond the regular school day or year.
Examples of supplementary education include reading with and to one’s child on a daily basis,
family trips to the museum or other learning environments, and community-based after-school
tutoring programs, to name a few (Bridglall & Gordon, 2002).
transfer. How well what a person learns in one set of circumstances is adapted to other,
novel situations.

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