Klea Scharberg

Success Breeds Success

"A passionate teacher teaches as though his or her life depends on the student's outcome."
—Grant Union High School teacher

In what ways does a teacher's commitment to his or her students translate to student success? How can teachers adjust their approach to teaching to better motivate their students?

Explore these questions in this talk with Kadhir "Raja" Rajagopal, author of Create Success! Unlocking the Potential of Urban Students. Rajagopal has been an educator for six years and is currently an algebra teacher at Grant Union High School, a low-income comprehensive urban high school in Sacramento, Calif. He was named the 2011 Sacramento County Teacher of the Year, and was also selected as a 2011 California Teacher of the Year.

Inspired by his ability to teach algebra to low-income and mostly black and Latino urban students—and have them outscore the state averages for high-income and white students on standardized tests—Rajagopal developed a model for teaching that unleashes the potential of students who may have failed or struggled throughout their school careers. Rajagopal's CREATE model for closing achievement gaps uses culturally responsive instruction, high expectations, formative assessments, and flexible pacing to improve your instructional approach for all students—especially those who are underserved in urban classrooms.

There are several things that I do to create a culture of excellence, a culture in the classroom where it's cool, it's OK to be successful. It's where success is the norm. And one of the things I do is, I make the materials easy to understand. ... If it seems easier to comprehend, students are more likely to try. So I explain the material in a language they understand, using similes, metaphors, stories, basketball, football—I make it student-centered. I think like the students before I teach so I teach it in a way so that it seems really easy for them. And as a result, they try more. Because success breeds more success. They feel like they can succeed.

Join Rajagopal for an interactive discussion on how his culturally responsive model for motivating and connecting with students can be used to close achievement gaps in any inner-city classroom at the 2011 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show (Session 1120). Get ready to witness his model in action and meet high-performing students from his former classes—kids who once associated themselves with a history of failure in mathematics.

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