More than 1,100 schools nationwide have chosen the Success
for All program as their key to academic achievement. What makes Success for All so popular with so many educators?
Early this year, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that schools in the state's 28 neediest districts undertake
"whole school reform." The goal of the order was to improve educational opportunities for the state's poorest students.
The Supreme Court gave school districts three years to implement reform. Leo Klagholz, commissioner of the New Jersey
Department of Education, hoped that fifty schools would implement major changes in the first year of the order. To
his pleasure, 72 schools volunteered to adopt reform measures; and 27 of those schools are implementing a program
called Success for All.
MORE THAN 1,100 SCHOOL NATIONWIDE!
More than 1,100 schools nationwide have chosen the Success for All program as their key to academic achievement. The
plan is to add another 600 schools in 1999. What makes Success for All so popular with so many educators? First, let's
define the basic Success for All program. The main components of Success for All are:
- The Early Learning Program -- A prekindergarten and kindergarten program that "emphasizes oral language
development using thematic units, children's literature, oral and written expression, and learning centers."
- Reading Roots -- A reading program that integrates phonics with meaning.
- Reading Wings -- For students reading at second through sixth grade levels, a program based on a school's
existing novels, anthologies, or basals, which emphasizes improvement of strategic reading and comprehension skills.
- One-to-One Tutoring -- Children having difficulty with reading receive one-to-one tutoring.
- Family Support -- A team is created to help children with needs extending beyond the classroom.
- Facilitator -- Every Success for All school has a certified teacher as a full-time program facilitator.
- Professional Development -- All teachers participate in three consecutive days of training before the
program is launched.
The Success for All mission statement is straight-forward: "By targeting prevention and early intervention, virtually
every child can become a successful reader and student. Never again should a single girl or boy be allowed to 'fall
through the cracks.'"
SUCCESS FOR ALL: ITS BEGINNINGS
Robert E. Slavin was a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., when he created Success for All with
his wife and colleague, Nancy Madden, and other colleagues at Johns Hopkins. Slavin and Madden have devoted years to
determining how best to teach at-risk students. As of July 1998, the development and proliferation of Success for All,
and its sister program, Roots & Wings, moved from John Hopkins to a new not-for profit organization, the Success
for All Foundation (SFAF). Slavin remains the Co-director of the Center for the Social Organization of Schools at the
Johns Hopkins University, in addition to his role as Chairman of the Board of Success For All.
Success for All was launched 11 years ago with a pilot program in one Baltimore, Md., elementary school, Abbottston
Elementary, where 83 percent of students qualified for free lunch. That year, Slavin found, the Success for All students
had much better reading scores than students not in the program, and special education placements decreased. The program
was expanded to five other Baltimore schools. News of Success for All spread throughout the nation.
GETTING WITH THE PROGRAM
The essence of Success for All is a daily 90-minute period during which reading instruction takes place. During that
segment, students are regrouped according to ability. Every certified teacher in the school teaches reading, so classes
are smaller. Phonics is taught, along with context. "We try to get a balance between meaning and decodability," Slavin
has stated. Has Success for All changed over the past 11 years? "The intent and the basics of the program have not changed,"
Tony Lewis, coordinator of communications at Success for All, told Education World. What has changed, Lewis explains,
is the scope of the program. In addition to Success for All, another program, called Roots & Wings, has also been
developed. Different schools select a particular program depending on their academic goals.
ROOTS & WINGS
Roots & Wings is a "researched-based program that restructures education for children from birth to age 11, with
the school, parents, community agencies, and others working together to see that children receive whatever they need
to become competent, confident, and caring learners." Roots & Wings is a product of the Success for All Foundation.
Its key elements are:
- Early learning programs -- The school is a family development center that has an infants and toddlers
program to ensure readiness for school as well as preschool and kindergarten programs.
- Reading Roots/Reading Wings -- Reading features a fast-paced curriculum that combines phonics with meaningful
text and includes cooperative learning activities.
- Tutoring -- Students with serious reading problems obtain one-to-one tutoring.
- MathWings -- The program, based on NCTM standards, engages students in cooperative learning to discover
and apply math concepts.
- Family support and integrated services -- Parent participation in school is enhanced through a family
support team that coordinates health, mental health, and social services for families.
- Neverstreaming -- Prevention and early intervention mean most children don't need remedial and special
- WorldLab -- Integrated simulations for grades 1 through 6 are rooted in the content of science and social
studies and integrate reading, writing, mathematics, and fine arts with that content.
DOES SUCCESS FOR ALL SUCCEED FOR EVERYBODY?
A packet of materials on Success for All and Roots & Wings includes an authoritative-looking brochure titled "Summary
of Research on Achievement Outcomes." Results reported in the booklet can be summarized in these words: "The results
of evaluations of twenty-three Success for All schools in nine districts in eight states clearly show that the program
increases student reading performance. In every district, Success for All students learned significantly more than control
students." Authors of the booklet are Robert E. Slavin, Nancy A. Madden, and Barbara A. Wasik. In addition to doing
research on Success for All, Robert Slavin and Nancy Madden are founders of the program. Can they be objective? While
many observers subscribe to the research spearheaded by Slavin, some others say it is self-serving. For example, Herbert
Walberg, a professor of education and psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Rebeca Greenberg, a doctoral
student at the university, wrote of Success for All in Education Week
that "Though its own developers declare
it a huge success, independent evaluators find essentially negative evidence." Walberg and Greenberg referred to a study
of one Success for All school in Charleston, S.C., by three University of Maryland researchers. The program had "an
average effect of near zero -- that is, Success for All students scored about the 50th percentile or the same as matched
control groups," said Walberg and Greenberg. They also cited another study by Richard Venezky of the University of Delaware,
which challenged the overall success of Success for All.
IMPLEMENTATION IS THE KEY
Slavin responded by charging that the Charleston school "never implemented the program adequately." If the program is
not put in place as stipulated, even its supporters say it will not be as successful as it should. And Slavin pointed
out that Venezky said the Success for All students "were substantially ahead of matched controls." So where does the
truth lie? Well, if strength is in sheer numbers, then Success for All and Roots & Wings must have something very
positive going for them. The clear majority of schools using the programs report satisfaction with the programs. As
stated by Joe Stubbs, director of planning, assessment, and support services for the Houston Independent School District:
"Success for All is exceptionally comprehensive. It really does an outstanding job of putting together for teachers
the best of every proven approach to the teaching of reading. I've worked with a number of effective programs in the
last 25 years. And this has the single largest impact because it affects every child in a school."
ADDITIONAL INTERNET RESOURCES
Success for All
Success for All's Web site provides a memo from Robert Slavin describing how schools interested in the program can use a new funding source, the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD) program, also known as Obey-Porter funds, to help pay for adopting proven, comprehensive school reform.
Schoolwide Reform Models: What Works
An essay from Phi Delta Kappan by Olatokunbo S. Fashola and Robert Slavin puts forth the argument that "we know what models can be used for schoolwide reform."
Editor's Note: Education World received a couple emails from readers who chastised us for this
article's glowing representation of the Success for All program. They pointed to research that refutes the claims
of success made by Success for All proponents. The article did make reference to studies that question the benefits
for students of Success for All, but if you would still like to learn more you might want to check out an article
recently published in Education Week. That article, Miami
Study Critiques 'Success for All', presents information and links to additional information that should provide
for readers of this story a well-rounded picture of the Success for All program. You might want to check out one other
link too, An Independent Look at Success for All.