Dramatic Gains Found in New 'Success for All' Study
ATLANTA--The first nationwide look at the acclaimed Success for All program offers evidence that the program can be effective in areas other than its home base, researchers reported here last week.
Previous studies have shown that the program has dramatically raised reading achievement among disadvantaged students in elementary schools in Baltimore, where it was created by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, and in nearby Philadelphia.
The new study, which examined the program in 13 schools in six states, found that Success for All can produce equally dramatic gains in places as far afield as Memphis and Fort Wayne, Ind. In all but one case, students in Success for All schools--particularly low-achieving students--improved their reading performance significantly more than did students in a similar school that was not involved in the program.
The only outcome that did not fit the pattern, in Caldwell, Idaho, reflects the fact that the comparison school was "extraordinary,'' and not that Success for All had failed, the researchers said.
The study offers evidence that "whenever and wherever we choose, we can successfully teach all children,'' Robert E. Slavin, the program's founder and a senior researcher at the Center for Research on Effective Schooling for Disadvantaged Students at Johns Hopkins, said here at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.
Mr. Slavin acknowledged that, despite the gains so far, the program has not yet succeeded in raising the achievement of every student to grade level or above. But, he said, that remains its ultimate goal.
"We're talking 'success for all,''' Mr. Slavin said. "We're not going to quit until that happens.''
Created in 1986, Success for All has become one of the nation's best-known and respected school-reform projects. Starting with one Baltimore school, it has since spread to 70 schools in 16 states. Nearly all participating schools are eligible for federal Chapter 1 compensatory-education aid.
The program has also formed the basis of a broader school-design project, known as "Roots and Wings,'' that Mr. Slavin is directing under a contract from the New American Schools Development Corporation. (See Education Week, Jan. 20, 1993.)
Although the program varies from site to site, it generally involves a schoolwide curriculum that emphasizes language and communications skills in grades K-1 and literature in grades 2-5; cooperative learning; one-to-one tutoring for students who are failing; and family support, among other elements.
The study presented here, which was conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins and Memphis State University, was based on the implementation of Success for All in five schools in Baltimore, three in Philadelphia, two in Fort Wayne, and one each in Charleston, S.C., Memphis, and Caldwell.
It found that students in the Success for All schools boosted their reading performance substantially, and at a greater rate than did students in comparable schools not using the program. This was particularly true, the study found, for students who were in the bottom 25 percent of achievement.
For example, 1st graders at the Florida Elementary School in Memphis were performing, on average, well above grade level and five months ahead of their peers in the control school. Those in the lowest quarter of achievement, meanwhile, were reading at grade level, while those in the control group were "nonreaders,'' the study found.
In addition to the gains in test scores, the students in the Success for All schools also showed improvements in other respects. In Baltimore, for example, the number of students retained in grade has dropped from 11 percent in grades K-3 to near zero, Mr. Slavin said.
Despite the gains, Mr. Slavin and the other researchers conceded that the results of the study are not all positive. The gains in reading performance are not uniform at all grades, they noted, and many students continue to fail to attain grade-level performance.
Some of these shortcomings can be attributed to variations in implementation, Mr. Slavin said. Although the researchers trained teachers in the program's principles, not all teachers were equally well-trained or equally well-skilled in implementing it, he said.