Whole School Reform: Public School's Last Stand?On May 21, the New Jersey Supreme Court urged its state's Department of Education to implement in 28 impoverished districts Success For All, a whole-school reform model for elementary schools created and implemented by Johns Hopkins University education researchers. The court said that though other reform models would be permitted, it clearly emphasized the Success For All program as its preference. No other state court has called for such sweeping reorganization of its elementary schools.
The decision marks a growing trend among state and federal education departments that believe successful reform occurs when schools undergo thoughtful, comprehensive change rather than quick fixes or by piecemeal, says Robert Slavin.
Slavin, a Hopkins education research scientist, is director of Success For All, a non-profit comprehensive school restructuring program for children in grades pre-K through six. He is also co-director for Hopkins' Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk.
Slavin notes that reform-minded policy makers, such as those in New Jersey, are gravitating toward reform models that are research-driven and can be evaluated and duplicated.
Whole-school reform is also generating interest on the federal level. The Obey-Porter Bill, passed by Congress last November, offers $145 million in incentive grants for schools around the country that undertake proven comprehensive school reforms like Success For All. (Besides Success For All, the Obey-Porter Bill cites a middle school and high school reform model developed by two other Hopkins education research scientists.) Recent research from Memphis, Tenn., which has implemented city-wide comprehensive school reform based on eight different designs including Success For All, found that children in these schools were gaining more in achievement throughout the city and state.
Slavin, and others, call this comprehensive reform movement the urban public school system's "last stand" as it faces a battle against school vouchers and other assaults against the public school system. It gives particular hope to Title I, the largest federal investment in elementary and secondary schools for disadvantaged children. Title I is scheduled for re- authorization hearings in 1999, and officials of the U.S. Department of Education are predicting comprehensive school reform models, like Success For All, will play a key role in its re-authorization process.
Success For All has been adopted by 1,150 schools in 44 states, and is growing. Though there are countless curriculum and school redesign models in place or being proposed, there are surprisingly few programs based on research that is then substantiated by rigorous evaluation. It is also one of about five reform programs that has been successfully reproduced on a large scale.
For more information about Success For All ( http://successforall.com), Robert Slavin or whole-school reform, please call Leslie Rice at (410) 516-7160.
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