The schools that deliver consistent high achievement follow a common path: they move students to similar, high standards by teaching them in varied ways . That requires steady attention to what students are understanding, with regular adjustments to make sure the key skills and knowledge connect effectively for each one.
The crucial question is how to develop classrooms that consistently reflect that approach.
The crucial answer is in teachers working together, articulating standards, designing instruction, evaluating results, and refining instruction in response to the resulting data. That collaborative approach, and the schools that operate by it, are richly described in the literature on professional learning communities or PLCs.
At their heart, PLCs are teams where teachers are actively "getting smarter off of one another." They're trading and borrowing and strengthening each other's ideas, and they're sustaining one another's energy to keep improving what they can do for their students. As a team, they're much stronger than they would be working in professional isolation.
The PLC approach isn't different from the gap-closing approach. It's the same process described from a different angle.
Earlier posts on the professional learning community approach are indexed here.