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Focus Area Resources

Kids in front of computers.Achievement Gap

Culturally Responsive School Environments

Positive Behavior Supports

Using Multi-Tiered System of Support

Access to, and Achieving in, the Least Restrictive Environment


Area of Focus One: Closing the Achievement Gap

Examine ways to improve student achievement at all levels and to create an integrated, seamless system of student learning from preschool through the twelfth grade. A local educational agency (LEA) could examine the results of the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and the California School Climate Survey (CSCS) to guide efforts in closing the achievement gap (CTAG) to improve the teaching and learning environments of all schools. Please note, these surveys do not cover the knowledge and methods used to analyze LEA practices and reveal information about significant disproportionality, nor do they explore what is necessary to address the three Program Self-assessment tools. Examination and analysis of the CHKS and the CSCS is not equivalent to completion of a program self-assessment process.

CTAG resources that support the work of policymakers, educators, and interested community members are available on the WestEd CHKS Web page at This Web page is the electronic hub for helpful information, research, and success stories about efforts to close the achievement gap in California.

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Area of Focus Two: Culturally Responsive School Environments

Become aware of cultural differences, adapted programs, interventions (as appropriate), and the effects of monitoring intervention for particular groups of students that have been historically marginalized. Culturally responsive school environments are those that have a comprehensive, culturally relevant, and responsive strategy for educators that help them teach any student effectively. There are at least four LEA/school organizational categories in which culturally responsive principles can be applied: (1) Data analysis and monitoring; (2) Policies, practices, and procedures of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS); (3) Curriculum and instruction; and (4) Student and family engagement. For supporting information on MTSS, please visit the California Department of Education (CDE) MTSS: Common Core State Standards
professional learning module at

Culturally responsive resources can be found at the Region IX Equity Assistance Center (EAC) at WestEd, one of ten Equity Assistance Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education to provide technical assistance and training in civil rights, equity, and school reform. Information on these topics is available at the EAC WestEd Web page at

Additional resources are available through The Equity Alliance at Arizona State University Web page at The Equity Alliance provides information and support to state and local school systems on high-quality and effective opportunities for all students to learn, and reducing disparities in academic achievement.

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Area of Focus Three: Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports

Integrate positive behavior interventions and support (PBIS) systems with the academic support systems within the LEA and school sites. According to the Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Schoolwide PBIS (SWPBS) can be understood as:

. . . a decision-making framework that guides selection, integration, and implementation of the best evidence-based academic and behavioral practices for improving important academic and behavior outcomes for all students. In general, SWPBS emphasizes four integrated elements: (a) data for decision making, (b) measurable outcomes supported and evaluated by data, (c) practices with evidence that these outcomes are achievable, and (d) systems that efficiently and effectively support implementation of these practices.

Jeffrey Sprague, under contract with the California Department of Education (CDE), created The Positive Behavioral Supports for Safe, Healthy, and Effective Schools. Core messages articulate critical research findings and essential components of effective application and are available on the California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT) Web page at

The Technical Assistance Center on PBIS was established by the U.S. Department of Education to give schools capacity-building information and technical assistance to identify, adapt, and sustain effective schoolwide disciplinary practices. Valuable tools and materials are at the PBIS Web site at

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Area of Focus Four: Using a Multi-Tiered System of Supports

California supports the utilization of an MTSS when describing a framework for LEAs and schools to instruct students in the California Common Core State Standards. MTSS describes a data-driven, solution-based model for delivering integrated behavioral and academic instruction and intervention with varying intensity (tiers) based on student need. It assumes that the general education classroom (Tier One of MTSS) delivers universally designed and culturally responsive instruction for maximum student achievement and success.

In order to ensure all students are successful in achieving in their grade level standards, establishing an MTSS LEA-wide is helpful in order to meet the needs of all students in their least restrictive environment (LRE). MTSS is not another term for Response to Intervention (RtI) or Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2). MTSS describes an evidence-based model for LEAs to ensure that high-quality, universally designed, and differentiated instruction is occurring in every classroom. This is validated through data-driven instructional adjustments and differentiation, which drive teachers’ daily instructional decisions. For students who require additional supports, MTSS puts policies and procedures in place to ensure these individual needs are met.

MTSS conceptualizes the approach to designing LEA systems that: (1) efficiently and collaboratively focus resources to provide all students with high-quality core instruction, and (2) respond to any student’s need for differentiated instruction and/or targeted academic or behavioral interventions and supports. This approach is grounded in effective, evidence-based, core instructional practices where every student is able to access the curriculum and standards, regardless of their learning style or ability. Additional resources are available through

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Area of Focus Five: Access to, and Achieving in, the Least Restrictive Environment

Research supports that improved academic outcomes occur for all students to a greater extent when they are given the opportunity to learn with age appropriate peers in classrooms with high-quality, universally designed, data-driven, and culturally responsive instruction, with appropriate supports and accommodations. Improving access to, and instruction in, the general education classroom that engages and supports all learners is the foundation of this area of focus.

The area of focus five addresses research-validated activities that focus on practices found to improve learning for all students. They are based on the California LRE Core Messages, which include:

  • Educational Infrastructure: Educating all students in the LRE requires adequate and accessible physical environments and structures that support instruction covering the wide range of students’ physical, academic, and behavioral needs. Also necessary is alignment of LEA and school initiatives, policies, and procedures relative to educational placement and continuum, facility planning, staff resource allocation, scheduling, and staff accountability for student achievement. Numerous tools are available to assist in the analysis of LEA policies, procedures, and practices and their relationship to educational infrastructure.
  •  Instructional Capacity: Educators require the appropriate tools, knowledge, skills, and support necessary to provide quality, differentiated instruction in order to address the wide array of student learning needs in their classroom. Access to the core curriculum for all students begins with teachers and instructional leaders who receive high-quality, evidence-based professional development and on-going support and training for continued professional improvement.
  • School Culture, Climate, and Leadership: Research has validated a positive correlation between school culture and climate, and student engagement. Positive school cultures and climates have also been directly linked to higher academic achievement. A positive school climate with strong leadership and vision is academically, behaviorally, and culturally responsive. It requires administrators and teachers to continually strive to create and maintain inclusive learning environments where students are engaged, achieve, and feel safe.
  • Family and Community Engagement: Numerous models for school, family, and community partnerships have been validated as key components in school and student success in recent years, providing further proof that engagement matters. Students thrive in environments where family and school goals are aligned and where communities take an active role in their local schools. The recent changes in California’s education system, including Local Control Funding Formula and the California Common Core State Standards, provide great opportunity to engage families and community members in new and authentic ways leading to deeper involvement. California’s Family Engagement Framework is one tool to address alignment of family and community participation across programs.

Critical research findings and essential components of effective inclusive practices are available on the CalSTAT Web page at Additional resources on LRE and inclusive practices may be found on the Santa Clara County Office of Education Supporting Inclusive Practices Project Web page at

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