To the Editor:
Your article “Report Critiques Evidence on School Improvement Models” (Dec. 7, 2005) recounts the American Institutes for Research’s conclusion that Success for All is one of only two comprehensive school improvement programs that have “moderately strong” evidence to show that they work.
Rather than being a revelation, the AIR report ignores the flaws of studies of Success for All, and their undisclosed conflicts of interest. Of the 31 studies AIR finds “conclusive,” 25 are by the developers of the program and those associated with them, including a distributor.
Professor Stanley Pogrow uncovered flaws and biases in the research, and described them in articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals such as the American Educational Research Association’s Educational Researcher (October 1998 and November 1999 issues), and in a professional journal for practicing educators, Phi Delta Kappan (April 2000, September 2000, and February 2002 issues).
Mr. Pogrow’s analysis also indicates that studies conducted by developers show apparently favorable results, whereas independent studies show that the program fails. Such conflicting results sometimes come from the same school district.
The AIR report ignores conflict-of-interest problems, and fails to cite Mr. Pogrow’s analysis and criticism of both developer and independent studies. The research supports neither the AIR conclusion nor the claims made by the Success for All program developers.
Herbert J. Walberg
Research Professor Emeritus of Education
University of Illinois at Chicago