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Closing the achievement gap between African, Native, and Hispanic American and their European and Asian American counterparts has been a concern for decades. Recently, the persistence of this issue has become more pressing due to several factors. First, high stakes accountability testing places demands on students to demonstrate mastery of material across disciplines in order to successfully complete high school. Second, some states have already reported an increase dropout rate when students feel that they cannot pass the tests or will be retained in their grade level (Clark, et al., 2000). Third, the society’s economic structure in the new millennium presents fewer options for poorly educated workers than perhaps at any time in our history. Fourth, the impact of citizens ill equipped to contribute to society through the work force tends to lay heavy costs in terms of future welfare aide or even incarceration. California, for example projects the number of prisons they need to build by using the states fourth grade reading scores (Cushman, 1998). Finally, a democracy demands an educated populace.
The primary focus of this study looks at how motivation and instructional strategies may reduce the achievement gap for middle and high school students. However, though improving teaching strategies and student teacher relationships is vital, it is clear from the literature that improving classroom dynamics alone is no silver bullet. Therefore, this review provides an overview of the achievement gap literature on four primary levels of influence: 1) society, 2) schools and their communities, 3) family, 4) the classroom. Motivation is an integral facet of instructional strategies that have been shown to have a positive impact on student learning. Therefore, motivational techniques are interwoven with the classroom section. A review of basic motivational theory is presented in the final section of this review.
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VCU MERC Publications