NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Success for All" Program is Effective

July 19, 1999

A reading program designed by an education researcher at Johns Hopkins University has become the most popular method in the country for improving troubled schools, according to reports. Developed by Robert Slavin, it is seen as a setback to the "empowerment" quest of teachers who demand to design their own curriculum.

Under the plan, students are placed in small reading groups of 15 or so according to their abilities rather than age. Every first- grader learns to read from a series of 48 black-and-white paperback storybooks published by Success for All -- each of which stresses a different phonic sound. Beginning readers spend a lot of time reading in unison and those who don't learn must repeat classes.

Starting at age six, they are also tested every eight weeks to determine whether they move to the next skill level. Those who fail get 20 minutes a day with individual tutors until they master the skill. Students also get a prescribed amount of time each day working in teams, so as to use peer pressure in learning.

  • The American Institute for Research has identified Success for All as one of only three school-overhaul plans whose student-achievement gains were verified by solid research.
  • A University of Memphis study of elementary schools in Ft. Wayne, Ind., found that those using Slavin's methods referred just 3.2 percent of their students from kindergarten through second-grade to special education -- compared to 14.3 percent in a comparable school.
  • A University of Tennessee study concluded that Memphis schools using Success for All did 25 percent better than had been predicted, based on poverty levels, on a state- wide assessment test.
  • The New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered all of the state's most troubled schools to adopt Success for All within three years or explain why they were picking another program.

Success for All will be used in 1,700 elementary schools this fall -- up from 1,130 last year. Almost all of these are Title I schools -- entitled to extra funding because they have many disadvantaged students.

Source: William M. Bulkeley, "Now Johnny Can Read if Teacher Just Keeps Doing What He is Told," Wall Street Journal, July 19, 1999.


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