Friday, February 17, 2006

How a millionaire spends a $1000 per student and gets results

In this week's New York magazine, there is an article named "How Is a Hedge Fund Like a School?" discusses how Joel Greenblatt, the hedge fund guru turned a school around in Queens (I love Queens references, as this is where I live and write from).

Greenblatt walked in and found a research based curriculum for math and reading, and paid people to receive training as well as implement the program in a school. What was even more effective was that the program allowed the staff to identify children who were in need and provide remedial services immediately.

I encourage everyone to read this article - I've included the link above. But the article does not really discuss much about the program named Success for All developed by Bob Slavin. So here are a few points on the program.

  • Success for All (SFA) is a highly structured program designed primarily for use in Title I urban elementary schools serving at-risk students. It was piloted in one Baltimore elementary school in the 1987-88 school year. As of Fall 2000, Success for All was in use in approximately 1,800 schools -- urban, rural and suburban and in 48 states. It also is being used by schools in other countries, such as Canada, Mexico, Australia, Israel and England.
  • The program emphasizes prevention and early intervention, rather than remediation, to help children realize their potential from the start. The primary goals are to bring young students to grade level in reading and other basic skills and to keep them performing at grade level in the elementary years.

Success for All emphasizes several components:

■ One-on-one tutoring Assessments conducted every eight weeks
■ Initial and ongoing teacher training
■ Half-day preschool and whole-day kindergarten
■ Beginning reading instruction for 90 minutes each day
■ Reading groups that are regrouped regularly according to reading level
■ Cooperative learning
■ Family support services
■ Full-time facilitator who coordinates the program and provides training
■ Advisory committee that reviews the program's progress


There is a good deal of evidence doumenting the program's effectiveness:

1. Briggs and Clark conducted an analysis of the available studies on SFA in 1997. Their findings were:
● In most of the 23 schools and nine districts in which studies compared SFA and control students, SFA students scored significantly higher on reading tests than students in control groups. On average, SFA 1st graders were three months ahead of students in control groups. By the time they reached 5th grade, SFA students were more than a full grade ahead of control students.
● The original Baltimore SFA schools showed substantial reductions in retention rates. Schools that had more resources for implementing SFA were more successful in reducing retention than schools with fewer resources. Among five SFA schools, retention rates ranged from 0 to 1.9%. Previously, these schools had retention rates of 6.7 to 10.7%.
● Several districts experienced a 50% reduction in special education placements for learning disabilities. In the Baltimore SFA schools, 2.2% of 3rd graders were referred to special education, compared to 8.8% of 3rd graders in control groups. Reading scores for SFA special education students were substantially higher than control students, as well.

2. A study conducted by Smith et al. in 1996 evaluated SFA's effects on students' reading achievement in four cities. This independent study measured student achievement using matched groups of students in grades K-2. The sites included one school in Tennessee, two schools in Indiana, four schools in Alabama and two schools in Idaho. The Tennessee school implemented SFA for three years (1990-1993), while the other schools implemented the program for two years (1991-1993). Nationally standardized reading test batteries (Woodcock Reading Mastery Test and Durrell Analysis of Reading Difficulty) were used to measure achievement.

The findings were as follows:
■ In three of the four sites, SFA students showed greater achievement than students in the control groups at the four sites.
■ Achievement was most marked for students who ranked below the 25th percentile.
■ According to the evaluators, however, “SFA effects were not as strong and consistent as those obtained in the original studies. This research suggests that SFA can be implemented in sites geographically removed from the developers and apart from their direct supervision, but that continual monitoring and support of the program's quality is needed to ensure success over time,” (p.1).

3. In 1996, Slavin et al. evaluated the outcomes of 23 SFA schools in nine districts in eight states. Their findings were as follows:
● SFA students showed significantly greater gains in achievement over matched control students in all districts.
● The program had the highest impact on:-- The achievement of English as a Second Language (ESL) and special education
● students -- Reducing special education referrals.
● Effect sizes increased with the number of years of implementation (the longer children are in the program, the better they do). (See Figure 1 below).

4. A 1997 study conducted by Jones, Gottfredson and Gottfredson evaluated SFA in the Charleston, South Carolina, school district. It is important to note that the district's implementation of SFA did not include the standard requirement that 80% of teachers vote by secret ballot to endorse participation in the program. In addition, the district did not adopt the family support component. As always, the model's effectiveness may vary with level of implementation.

The tests used to measure student achievement were the Cognitive Skills Assessment Battery, Metropolitan Readiness Test, Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests - Revised, the Merrill Language Screening Test, the Test of Language Development, the Basic Skills Assessment Program, the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) and the Durrell Test of Reading Difficulty.The results of the study were mixed. According to the authors, “some of the effects were significant and positive, others were nonsignificant, and still others were significant and negative” (Jones, et al., 1997). Findings of the study included:
● Large positive effects were found for SFA students in the kindergarten program. These positive effects, however, did not occur in the later grades. The effects in grades 1-3 were “generally inconsistent and small.”
● In the first group (cohort 1), for all years, only one measured effect size proved significant: Comparison students scored higher than the SFA participants on SAT reading in Year 1.
● In the second group (cohort 2), in Year 1, SFA students scored higher than comparison school students on the Woodcock Letter-Word Identification and Word Attack scales, and the Metropolitan Auditory and Visual Matching scales. Comparison school students, however, scored higher than SFA students on Sentence Imitation. In the second year, SFA students scored higher than comparison school students on the Woodcock Word Attack.
● In the third group (cohort 3), SFA students scored significantly higher in the second year than comparison school students on the Woodcock Letter-Word Identification and Word Attack scales, and the Metropolitan Visual Matching scales (p. 659).

5. Hurley, Chamberlain and Slavin (2000) examined the performance of students in grades 3-5 on the reading portion of the TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) of all Texas schools implementing SFA as of 1998. They compared cohorts of SFA schools to the overall state with regards to gain of percent passing, during the period from the year before these schools began to implement SFA to 1998. Schools were grouped in cohorts by the year in which they began to implement SFA. The study found that each cohort of SFA schools gained significantly more than did the state for the same time period. They also reported that the longer schools had been in the program, the greater was the difference in gain over the state. For example, the 40 Texas schools using SFA for only one year gained in percent passing 9.8% while the state gained 5.2%. Forty-five schools using the program for four years gained 18.8% from the year prior to implementation to 1998 while the state gained only 11.1% for the same time period. Effects were particularly positive for African American and Hispanic children in SFA schools, compared to their counterparts in the state as a whole, so the program had the effect of significantly reducing the Minority-White achievement gaps.

Technorati tags:

No comments: