Teacher Professional Development for At-Risk Preschoolers: Closing the Achievement Gap by Closing the Instruction Gap

From Section:
Professional Development
Jan. 26, 2010
Winter 2010

Source: Action in Teacher Education, v. 31 no. 4, (Winter 2010) p. 41-53.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current paper describes a professional development model that has evolved from work with grants based on Early Reading First.
The model grew out of action research, during which the authors reflected on their practice to determine why children served by one grant were not making anticipated gains.

The Griffith-Kimmel Optimal Learning Sector Model for Acceleration
The authors present a model which its goal is for all teachers and students to be within the optimal learning sector (OLS), which occurs at the intersection of progress monitoring and professional development. Within the OLS, teachers' knowledge and skills increase, and children's learning accelerates.
Through interaction with teachers, literacy coaches are a catalyst to enable teachers to plan instruction arising from ERF content classes and informed by progress-monitoring data.

In this model, each of the three components—appropriate environment, research-based curriculum, and instruction informed by professional development—is necessary for optimal learning to occur.

The model reflects duration in both span of time (in this project, 3 years) and depth of time spent in professional development activities supporting pedagogical change (Desimone, 2009).


At the University of Oklahoma, the authors have implemented three ERF grants at different sites. These ERF classrooms have included private child care, Head Start, and public school classrooms.
In this article, the authors report data from our first ERF grant, in which children were attending prekindergarten classes in seven public elementary schools and private child care centers. Levels of teacher preparation varied—from teachers with college degrees and licensure from the state department of education, to those with high school diplomas and no form of certification.

Data collection and analysis
In this article, the authors use the terms project evaluation and progress monitoring.
The authors used progress-monitoring assessments (phonological awareness skill of rhyming, alphabet knowledge, and print concepts) to assess students on a regular basis.


Year 1 results. Before implementing the Griffith-Kimmel model, the authors found no significant difference in scores on the three evaluation measures in the intervention and comparison sites, despite ongoing professional development in the form of regular classes for teachers and follow-up mentoring.
Note that children in both the intervention classroom and the comparison classroom made gains in their letter recognition skill; however, the authors did not see an acceleration of the progress of the children in the ERF intervention classrooms.

Year 3 results. Subsequent to the implementation of the Griffith-Kimmel professional development model, children in the ERF intervention classrooms scored significantly higher on each of the three measures than did the children in the comparison classrooms—alphabet knowledge, print concepts, and phonological awareness rhyming.

The authors argue that in Year 3 all the components were in place and they achieved the results that they had initially hoped to see.

Desimone, L. M. (2009). Improving impact studies of teachers' professional development: Toward better conceptualizations and measures. Educational Researcher, 3 (3), 181–199.

Updated: Oct. 28, 2019
Achievement gap | Emergent literacy | Preschool children | Professional development | Reading difficulties | Socially disadvantaged populations