CSRD Study Finds Cause For Optimism
The 1,800 Title I schools involved in the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program are showing early signs of success, according to a study released last week by the Department of Education.
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Some concerns about the $220 million federal program emerged from the study, however. For one, some schools fail to the use the aid for a thorough overhaul of their improvement efforts, rather than for extensions of existing projects, the analysis released Sept. 13 suggests.
"We want them to rethink the way they use all resources in whole-school reform," Kathryn Doherty, a program analyst with the Education Department's planning and evaluation service, said during a news conference here last week.
The study did not address student achievement or other outcomes, but rather was intended to serve as a baseline for observing trends at the state and local levels. But it found that schools in the demonstration project are more likely than traditional Title I schools to use newer reform approaches, such as extended learning time, and less likely to rely on Title I mainstays such as classroom aides.
The program was created by Congress in 1997 to help schools in the Title I schoolwide program—which allows high- poverty schools to use Title I funding for campuswide programs rather than focusing on specific students—implement their choice of 17 research-based, proven models for improvement. The legislation also allows states to approve reform plans devised by local officials or three models deemed "promising" by the American Institutes for Research.
About 48 percent of the participating schools are using one of the 17 original models, while 30 percent are using one of the AIR models. The remainder are using locally developed approaches.
But while 85 percent of teachers in CSRD schools reported receiving professional development in teaching and learning skills, 43 percent reported receiving no training in the actual model used.
The CSRD program, meanwhile, won accolades from some state officials last week.
Scott Jones, the director of school improvement for the Wisconsin Department of Education, called the program "a success story in the making" during the news conference.
Vol. 20, Issue 3, Page 29