To the Editor:
In a recent letter to Education Week (May 11, 2011), Stanley Pogrow makes a claim that he has made many times in the past: that Success for All, our whole-school-reform approach for Title I elementary schools, is ineffective or harmful to children. Mr. Pogrow dismisses the fact that Success for All recently received the highest score in the federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, scale-up competition, which required strong, replicated, scientifically valid evidence of effectiveness. He dismisses the fact that the What Works Clearinghouse gives high ratings to the evidence base for Success for All. He does not mention that numerous independent studies of Success for All, including a recently released study of more than 130 schools by the University of Michigan, have found positive effects of Success for All. He does not mention the fact that numerous published, independent reviews of research on comprehensive school reform have all supported the effectiveness of Success for All.
Instead, Mr. Pogrow cites isolated, out-of-context cases, none of which are published or meet any standard of research. Each of his cases can be answered, but the overwhelming, widely acknowledged evidence base for Success for All makes this unnecessary.
The Education Week Commentary that I wrote and which Mr. Pogrow critiques (“Job One for Title I: Use What Works,” March 30, 2011) was advocating an emphasis on all proven programs, not just Success for All, in the upcoming reauthorization of Title I. His letter to the editor is a good illustration of why this is essential. In the world Mr. Pogrow seems to inhabit, “evidence” is anecdote, and any assertion about a program’s effectiveness or lack thereof is as good as any other. That is in fact how research has so often been used in education, with selected, unrepresentative, and out-of-context anecdotes thrown back and forth to support or undermine an ideological position.
In recent years, objective and scientifically defensible standards of evidence have come to be accepted by the field, by the U.S. Department of Education, and by many other agencies. The research on Success for All amply meets the requirements of these standards, and most importantly, hundreds of thousands of at-risk children have benefited from this approach.
Robert E. Slavin
Center for Research and Reform in Education
Johns Hopkins University
Mr. Slavin is the co-founder and chairman of the Success for All Foundation, in Baltimore.
A version of this article appeared in the May 25, 2011 edition of Education Week as Success for All Founder Rebuts Critic’s Assertions