Making Schools Work with Hederick Smith

Success For All Comer School
Development Program
KIPP High Schools That Work

school by school reform
students at Centennial Elementary Shool

Students count out sounds in a word at Centennial Elementary School, a Success for All school in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

In 1986, faced with failing schools in impoverished, inner-city neighborhoods, the Baltimore School Superintendent turned to Johns Hopkins researcher Bob Slavin for help. “[We] came to an agreement that we would try a model based on the idea that every single child was going to be successful – no matter what,” Slavin says. That model became research-driven Success for All, now used in 1,300 schools in 47 states* and rated one of the most effective reform models according to a meta-analysis of school improvement programs.

Slavin and his wife, Nancy Madden, both former special education teachers, developed the original model in 1987. They examined the research and handpicked the most effective tools and strategies that worked especially well with troubled inner city elementary schools. The Success for All strategy centers around a daily 90-minute reading period for all students, with a focus on phonics, and tutoring for children who are falling behind or need extra help. Students are grouped for reading by ability, not age, and their progress is assessed every eight to nine weeks at which time they can be moved to another reading group or receive additional tutoring.

To create an effective program, Slavin and his team intentionally engineered every aspect of learning. Teachers receive training in Success for All’s structured teaching practices and rigorous pacing. Schools also have a full-time Success for All facilitator on site to test and assess students, organize tutoring, and support teachers in the classroom. Since teacher buy-in is crucial to successful reform, before a school can bring in SFA, 80% of the faculty must vote for it. To date, Success for All has reached 1.5 million students since first beginning the program. It has expanded into the middle school and offshoots of the original program now target bilingual children and different subjects.

What You’ll See in a Success for All School:

  • 90-minute reading groups: These fast-paced, reading groups are held school-wide at the same time every morning without interruption. Each lesson plan is structured around the same basic framework in which the teacher explains new material, allows children to work in small groups, tests them informally or formally, and recognizes students for academic improvement and teamwork. SFA packs the 90 minutes, using drills and chants to keep children engaged.
  • Grouping by ability: Children who are the same age are grouped by ability for their 90-minute reading block. They are assessed regularly, and advanced as they improve. If a child is not improving, that student receives individual tutoring and other support.
  • Cooperative learning: Children work in pairs or in very small groups to insure participation in learning by all students. They talked to each other about their reading, and subject matter, sharing questions and seeking answers. SFA has found this particularly effective with non-native English speakers, who are often embarrassed to ask questions or read aloud in front of their entire class.
  • Continuous Testing and Assessment: Teachers constantly monitor student’s progress, formally and informally. All children are assessed in reading every eight or nine weeks. Teachers use data from assessments to plan lessons or interventions for individuals or groups, and also to do periodic regrouping of students on the basis of their latest performance.

*As of May 2005. Please note the total number of participating schools and states is subject to change.

Contact Information:

Success for All Foundation
200 W. Towsontown Blvd,
Baltimore MD 21204
800-548-4998 x.2372

Some Research Reports and Articles

“Educating Students Placed at Risk: Evaluating the Impact of Success for All in Urban Settings,” (2003), by Marco Munoz, Dena Dossett, and Katalina Judy-Gullans. Jefferson County Public Schools
This study looks at the effect of Success for All on standardized reading scores, attendance and disciplinary needs of students in three SFA schools compared to control students. The researchers also compared the schools using teacher, student and parent perception data. They found benefits for SFA students, particularly with reading, attendance and achievement test scores.

“An ‘Inside’ Look at Success for All: A Qualitative Study of Implementation and Teaching and Learning,” (2000), by Amanda Datnow and Marisa Castellano. Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR)
This report examines the effects of SFA in three elementary schools over a two-year period. Includes data from staff interviews, class observation, and school documents. Researchers found strong gains in reading, but not for other whole school changes. (PDF - Adobe Reader Required)

“Coping with Change: Educational Reform in Literacy Practice,” (2001), by Priscilla A. Eide. Primary Voices K-6 Volume 9, Number 3, pages 15-20.
Third grade teacher, Priscilla Eide, writes about her experience with Success for All at Little Mountain Elementary in Mt. Vernon, Washington. Eide talks about the challenges of changing her teaching style and the structure of her lesson plans, and about finding ways to work within the model’s specifications.

“The Long-Term Effects and Cost-Effectiveness of Success for All,” (2001), by Geoffrey Borman and Gina Hewes, Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR)
This report tracks the educational outcomes of the original SFA students in Baltimore, where the SFA program was first implemented. The study also looks at the cost of SFA and compares its cost-effectiveness to three other initiatives. (PDF - Adobe Reader Required)

The Success for All web site also lists quite a few research articles and evaluations. Be aware that these selections may only cite favorable findings, however.

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