Reading & Literacy

Study Supports ‘Success for All’ Reading Method

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — April 11, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A reading program that its developer contends has been shunned by some federal and state officials has again been proved to help poor and minority children learn to read—this time with the kind of research methodology used in medical studies.

The third and final report from a federally financed study of Success for All, released last week, concludes that students in schools using that model improved their reading skills significantly more than similar groups of students taught with other methods.

The study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s research arm, looked at 35 low-income schools in Chicago, Greensboro, N.C., and Indianapolis. The schools were randomly selected to implement Success for All or continue with their existing reading programs.

“Final Reading Outcomes of the National Randomized Field Trial of Success for All” is posted by the Success for All Foundation. (Microsoft Word required.)

“After three years of implementation, the evidence suggests that Success for All schools are capable of producing broad effects across the literacy domain for both children who are exposed to the model over each of the first three years of their academic careers and for all children enrolled in the schools, regardless of the number of years of exposure to the reform,” the report says.

‘Real-World Circumstances’

Geoffrey D. Borman, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted the three-year study. Unlike previous studies of the program, which were primarily conducted by its developers in schools that adhered closely to implementation guidelines, Mr. Borman’s analysis reflects how the program works in general practice.

The previous studies were “very much shepherded over by program developers [at sites] that were demonstrations of what the program could do at its best,” Mr. Borman said. “This study looked at the effect of SFA when it is widely disseminated and implemented … in more real-world circumstances.”

Students in the Success for All program showed a half-year gain in their reading skills over the control group and scored in the 64th percentile on a standardized test, compared with the 50th percentile for the other students, Mr. Borman said.

The $7 million study has won praise from researchers and officials for its rigorous research design. The federal No Child Left Behind Act has promoted the use of such randomized studies in determining which instructional programs and interventions are effective. (“Long-Awaited Study Shows ‘Success for All’ Gains,” May 11, 2005)

Randomized field trials—used commonly in medicine but rarely in education—assign subjects randomly to experimental or comparison groups. Success for All, developed at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore by Robert E. Slavin, is one of the best-known and most-studied school improvement programs in the country. It has also been widely debated and criticized.

One of its critics has repeatedly questioned the credibility of the data on the program’s effectiveness, and he continues to be a skeptic.

Conclusions Questioned

“The study is scientifically invalid and biased in favor of Success for All,” contended Stanley Pogrow, a research professor of educational leadership at San Francisco State University. He has accused previous studies of selectively using data to paint a positive picture of the program’s achievement results.

“This has been going on for 14 years under a variety of guises,” he said last week, “and the program isn’t working in the real world.”

But Mr. Slavin said that Mr. Borman’s study is further validation that the program works.

“It’s one more piece of evidence, and a particularly important one in the current context,” in which federal officials are encouraging more randomized studies, he said.

“This is about the 51st experimental-control comparison [on Success for All],” he said, “and the biggest to say that SFA schools improve student reading achievement more than similar comparison schools.”

Mr. Slavin has filed formal complaints with federal investigators in the past year over what he asserts has been a campaign in the Education Department to shut his program out of the $1 billion-a-year Reading First initiative.

The department’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, are both investigating claims that consultants to the federal reading program favored some commercial programs over others in the grant-making process. Their reports are expected later this year. (“Complaint Filed Against Reading Initiative,” June 22, 2005)

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 12, 2006 edition of Education Week as Study Supports ‘Success for All’ Reading Method

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Opinion A Simple Formula to Improve Reading and Writing Skills
Any teacher can effectively impart core literacy skills, writes Mike Schmoker. Here are three powerful steps to get started.
Mike Schmoker
5 min read
conceptual illustration of a youth opening up a universe of possibilities by reading a book.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Malchev/iStock/Getty; Getty Images
Reading & Literacy Opinion No, Fewer Books, Less Writing Won't Add Up to Media Literacy
NCTE’s call to “decenter” print media in favor of digital media has some troubling implications, argues Mike Schmoker.
Mike Schmoker
4 min read
conceptual illustration of a stairway of books leading out of a dark space filled with letters
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty images
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Sponsor
The Secret, Simple Literacy Solution Every School Needs
For support with ESSER funding, access how-to resources developed by Project Tomorrow.
Content provided by Gale
Thorndike Press large print books are about the same size or smaller than standard print editions.
Thorndike Press large print books are about the same size or smaller than standard print editions.
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor Reading Recovery Debate Is ‘Polarizing’
The executive director of the Reading Recovery Community pushes back against criticism of the program.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty