Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative

The NEA Foundation Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative is an effort to accelerate the achievement rate for students from under-achieving schools via targeted philanthropy. Over the last 12 years, seven union-district-community partnerships were selected to participate in the NEA Foundation’s $13.7 million Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative. Although each district faced different challenges and developed different solutions, one factor was consistent: successful union-district- community collaboration resulted in improved student learning, teacher satisfaction, and parent engagement.

Closing Gaps, Sustaining Change: Exploring the Impact of More Than a Decade of Collaboration


Read the full report covering the last 12 years of our Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative to discover what we’ve learned about improving learning conditions for more than 200,000 students by supporting the collaborative efforts of union, district, and community teams in seven, participating school districts. 





Three Core Components of the Initiative


We believe that developing and strengthening partnerships among local education unions, school districts, and community organizations, is a powerful force for improving student performance and a vehicle for systemic reform. This work highlights the importance of engaging not only the teachers who provide instruction, but the principals who lead buildings, the superintendent who runs the district, the families who send their children to school and the teacher union leaders who negotiate the working contract for public school employees. Together, these groups are shaping learning environments and opportunities for all students to achieve at higher levels.


Our theory of change and corresponding local interventions are based on recent research on effective schools, district redesign, external agent engagement, association capacity, curriculum and instruction, among other related areas. In brief, our work involves:

    • District and Local Union Capacity and Collaboration designed to generate a shared understanding of challenges, with frequent and ongoing communication, and an agreed-upon set of strategies to address the challenges.

    • Family and Community Partnerships designed to generate support from businesses, nonprofits, foundations, the district, civic authorities, and parents to achieve powerful results.

    • District and School Capacity and Coherence designed to increase capacity at the district or system level to ensure school-level success. Districts need to have coherence (as defined by a singular focus on teaching and learning) and alignment of curriculum, assessments, and resources to achieve systemic reform.


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