January 21, 2010, WASHINGTON, D.C. – A landmark study on school improvement programs shows that America’s Choice surpasses other programs in increasing academic achievement.
Released in late 2009, School Improvement by Design is the capstone report of the Study of Instructional Improvement, a 13-year project of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education that received more than $20 million in federal and foundation money. A major, quasi-experimental study, School Improvement by Design analyzed the design, implementation, and instructional effectiveness of America’s Choice and two other comprehensive school reform (CSR) programs in elementary schools.
America’s Choice is a leading education organization offering states, districts, and schools instructional intervention solutions and programs. America’s Choice is currently working with 16 schools in Oklahoma City Public Schools and 19 schools in Tulsa Public Schools.
Over four years, researchers collected data from 115 elementary schools throughout the United States, including 31 America’s Choice schools, to determine how practices in CSR schools differ from those in more typical schools, and whether these differences impact academic achievement. Researchers focused on literacy achievement because of literacy’s importance to students’ greater academic success. Without a mastery of reading and writing, students are unable to “read to learn,” specifically to handle the literacy demands that accompany more advanced subject matter.
America’s Choice schools excelled over all other schools studied in increasing achievement at the upper elementary grades. Researchers found that “[students] in AC schools grew at a significantly faster rate than students in comparison schools and faster than students in all other schools.”
“We are thrilled with America’s Choice’s unparalleled success,” said Judy Codding, president and chief executive officer of America’s Choice. “This impact on reading comprehension comes at an important time in a student’s academic career, when reading comprehension is a major factor in future school success. Thanks to America’s Choice’s distinct instructional practices, unique curricular content, and strong instructional leadership, researchers saw critical differences that are vital to driving student success. As the report shows, America’s Choice dramatically increases student achievement.”
Unlike comparison schools that only increased achievement in the lower grades, if at all, America’s Choice’s gains were sustained into the higher grades. Due to America’s Choice’s distinct approach to literacy instruction, researchers report that America’s Choice schools experienced “accelerated growth in students’ literacy achievement at the upper elementary grades.”
According to researchers, America’s Choice’s success is due to several distinct characteristics, including:
• Strong instructional leadership from extensive coaching: America’s Choice schools are higher than all other schools on multiple dimensions of instructional leadership
• A clear and well-specified improvement plan: Teachers and leaders receive unmatched levels of instructional guidance, giving them a clear and well-specified view of their school improvement plan
• Faithful implementation of America’s Choice in schools: Teachers and principals implemented strategies with fidelity
• Greater emphasis on writing in lessons: America’s Choice teachers focused on writing in 54 percent of all lessons; comparison teachers focused on writing in 38 percent of lessons
According to the report, the potential for academic achievement increases “if schools have a faithful implementation of the design.” Teachers studied were consistent in their use of instructional strategies. This is likely due to the high levels of instructional guidance and standardization, which includes school leaders working closely with teachers to help them develop the knowledge and capabilities to use the design effectively. Researchers found that America’s Choice teachers were less variable in writing instruction than all other teachers studied, offering further evidence of the design’s impact on literacy instruction.
Schools in the study were disproportionately chosen from high and medium poverty districts to evaluate the impact of specific instructional interventions on student achievement in high poverty settings.
“America’s Choice’s success among vulnerable students, in particular, is very encouraging,” said Dr. Ken James, executive vice president and chief operating officer of America’s Choice. “We are going to continue to intensify existing strategies and incorporate new ones that the report verifies are effective. We see this as a prime opportunity to advance our commitment to turning around the lowest performing schools.”
To read the report, visit http://www.cpre.org/images/stories/cpre_pdfs/sii%20final%20report_web%20file.pdf.