School reform efforts have customarily been incremental, targeting specific procedures, structures, or instructional strategies. Whole school reform models are relatively new to public education. Most have come about within the last decade and vary in their approaches. Some reform models focus on curricula and instructional strategies, while others offer assistance involving school staffs in creating their own methods within a strong process that focuses on results.
Comprehensive schoolwide reform, aimed specifically but not exclusively at Title I schools, has been given wide acclaim along with monetary incentives for schools to pursue this model of reform. Schoolwide programs permit a school, with at least 50 percent poverty, to use Title I funds to upgrade the entire educational program in order to raise academic achievement for all students. Expanding the use of Title ! funds gives schools the option to build their own research-based schoolwide program or adopt and implement researched-based, externally developed whole school models. The intent is to ensure that all children regardless of their background can reap the benefit of comprehensive school reforms. Studies have suggested that enriching all students' educational experiences is a reasonable alternative to Title I targeted assistance programs, where Title I funds were used only for supplementary educational services for eligible children who were failing or at risk of failing to meet required state standards (U. S. Department of Education, 1990, 1993; Schenck & Beckstrom, 1993; Stringfield, Milsap, Yoda, Brigham, Nesselrost, Schaffer, Karweit, Dolan, Levin, Smith, Gamse, Puma, Rosenblum, Herman, Bedinger, Randall, & Stevens, 1997).
The emphasis on schoolwide programs responds to the research about what makes schools work for disadvantaged students. Schoolwide Title I programs can use funds as they choose, as long as they engage in reform strategies that help provide a high-quality curriculum and instruction for all children, according to a comprehensive plan to help children meet the State's standards. With the passage of the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program, passed in 1997, Representatives Obey and Porter's bill gave specific examples of whole school reform models that they perceived as "successful, externally developed, comprehensive school-reform approaches backed by rigorous research (Viadero, 1999). Since that time, the U. S. Department of Education, some states, and a few courts have essentially steered high poverty schools toward selecting schoolwide reform models from the "list." Title I policy favors these comprehensive schoolwide reform models and have essentially mandated the use of such programs in schools with high percentages of disadvantaged students (Pogrow, 2000).
One school reform model that has benefited from the legislation and has widespread implementation is the Success for All reading program. Robert Slavin, Nancy Madden, and a team of developers from Johns Hopkins University founded Success for All in 1986. Success for All (SFA) restructures elementary schools (usually high poverty Title I schools) to ensure that all children learn to read. The program uses a research-based reading curriculum, effective practices for beginning reading (Adams, 1990), and cooperative learning strategies (Slavin, 1995). SFA prescribes specific curricula and instructional strategies for teaching reading including shared story reading, listening comprehension, vocabulary building, sound blending exercises, and writing. Teachers are provided with detailed materials for use in the classroom. School staff receive training on the implementation of the SFA reading program and SFA personnel regularly monitor and report the school's implementation progress. The total cost of implementing Success for All has been estimated to be between $261,060 and $646,500 per school (King, 1994).
Studies have reported that Success for All reading program has favorable effects on reading achievement in elementary schools. …