Scaling Up The Design
After a three-year trial run in St. Mary's County, Md., Roots and Wings is about to soar nationwide. As part of the scale-up project launched by the New American Schools Development Corporation, four states and seven school districts have agreed to replicate one or more of the nine NASDC designs, Roots and Wings among them, in at least 30 percent of their schools over the next five years.
At least five of those sites--Cincinnati, Memphis, Philadelphia, Miami, and the state of Maryland--already have schools that are implementing a predecessor to Roots and Wings known as Success for All. That program reorganizes elementary schools that serve large numbers of disadvantaged students to insure that all children read competently by the end of 3rd grade.
Existing Success for All schools may choose to become Roots and Wings schools by adding elements to their program, such as WorldLab, an interdisciplinary social-studies and science curriculum. Roots and Wings encompasses the entire school curriculum, while Success for All focuses primarily on reading, writing, and family-support services. There are now some 200 Success for All schools nationwide.
Roots and Wings will also work with other schools in any of the 11 jurisdictions committed to the NASDC scale-up that meet its requirements for program adoption. For example, the principal must be committed to the program, and at least 80 percent of the teaching staff must vote to support it in a secret ballot.
"NASDC as a whole is now ferociously into the scale-up business, and we are operating ferociously along with it," says Robert E. Slavin, the Johns Hopkins University researcher who directs both Roots and Wings and Success for All. Over the next year, he anticipates that about 100 schools will join the network.
Meanwhile, St. Mary's County will continue with the program but with greatly reduced support. NASDC ends its funding for all of the demonstration sites this spring. The Education Commission of the States, which is working with NASDC to disseminate the designs, has given $75,000 to St. Mary's County to support the program, but that is far less than it previously received. Local budgets are also tight. Although the school system expects to grow by more than 500 students next fall, funding will probably remain level.
And that means personnel cuts. This year, all four Roots and Wings schools have full-time family-support coordinators, who work with families to address problems that can interfere with learning. Next year, the same responsibilities will be dispersed among existing staff members, such as pupil-personnel workers and school counselors.
"We moved into this project knowing that we had the benefit that other systems did not have, by having some additional funding," says Joan Kozlovsky, the superintendent of the St. Mary's County public schools. "But the whole goal was to enable these projects to continue when the revenues were neutral, so we've been really cognizant of that throughout our efforts."
Slavin and his co-workers have promised to continue providing curriculum development, resource materials, and staff training for the four pilot schools in the county.
In addition, at least three more of the county's 16 elementary schools have expressed an interest in parts of the project, such as the MathWings and the WorldLab curricula. "What we'll be doing is matching their interests with those of the program," says Kozlovsky, "so that we do a very deliberate scale-up and integration of these efforts into the schoolhouse."
"We've made a commitment to do whatever it's going to take to keep the curricular aspect of the program fully up and running because we expect a lot of people to visit the schools," says Slavin, "and they need to see the curriculum in place and going full steam ahead."