As our nation strives to have all students graduate from high school ready for college and other postsecondary learning opportunities, we have to confront the reality that we are far from achieving this goal. The problem is most severe with
economically disadvantaged students. For example, in states where all eleventh graders take the ACT® college readiness assessment, only 45% of low-income students in 2012 met the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English, 30% in reading,
21% in mathematics, and 13% in science. For many students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, learning gaps
appear in early childhood.2 Large numbers of disadvantaged students enter kindergarten behind in early reading and mathematics skills, oral language development, vocabulary, and general knowledge. This situation poses a challenge for
intervention models that presume that 15% or so of students need short-term additional help, 5% or so need long-term intervention, and the regular academic program will take care of the rest. In cases where the great majority of students are
academically behind and need major assistance, the regular academic program must be upgraded to deliver a richer curriculum to all students. Such a curriculum is highly beneficial for all students, but is especially critical for disadvantaged students, who often arrive from home with limited knowledge and vocabulary. School districts must develop a system of practices that enable such a curriculum to be taught effectively.