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Success for all Programs

The Success for All Program, Tutoring, Outcomes

Almost all children, regardless of their home backgrounds, enter school bright, confident, hopeful, and highly motivated, certain that they will succeed in school. However, within just a few years, many of these children will be on a path toward failure. In particular, many students will be reading far below grade level. Research shows that disadvantaged third graders who have failed a grade or are reading well below grade level are extremely unlikely to ultimately graduate from high school. Both research and common sense dictate that prevention and early intervention make more sense than remediation and special education for these children. However, it is not enough to convince school staffs that it is important to ensure that all children start off with success; schools need proven, replicable models highly that are likely to work with at-brisk children.

The Success for All Program

The search for such methods led a group at Johns Hopkins University to develop a program called Success for All. Success for All began in the Baltimore City Public Schools in 1987 and (as of school year 2001–2002) exists in more than 1,800 schools in forty-eight states (Maine and New Hampshire are the exceptions). Adaptations of the program are currently in use in Britain, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Israel. Most Success for All schools are in high-poverty urban and rural districts, but many less-impoverished schools also use the program. The idea behind Success for All is simple: focus resources, attention, and the best instructional methods known on the early grades to make certain that no child ever falls behind, especially in reading.

Students in Success for All schools start at the age of four or five with programs designed to build language, self-esteem, and pre-reading skills. In first grade they start a structured reading program that emphasizes systematic phonics in the context of meaningful, enjoyable stories. Students work in cooperation with each other on reading and writing activities. By the end of first grade almost all students are well on the way to successful reading, and they then move on to work with novels, short stories, and expository content in small groups, with programs emphasizing cooperative learning, through the sixth grade. Programs in math, science, and social studies are also used by many Success for All schools in grades K–6. Extensive professional development, follow-up, and coaching enable teachers to use the programs effectively.


Quality early childhood programs and reading and writing instruction prevent most reading problems from arising, but not all. The next level of intervention is tutoring. Tutors are certified teachers or paraprofessionals who work one-on-one primarily with first graders who are having difficulties learning to read. The tutors work in close collaboration with classroom teachers–if a child is struggling with Lesson 37, the tutor works on that lesson so that the child will be ready for Lesson 38. The tutors teach a reading class during a common reading period, both to reduce class size and to make sure that tutors are thoroughly familiar with the reading program.

Family support is also a key element of Success for All. A family support team in each school works to involve parents in the education of their own children in a variety of ways and also deals with such issues as attendance, behavior problems, health problems, and connections with social agencies. A curriculum for solving social problems, Getting Along Together, is used in all schools.

One of the most important individuals in a Success for All school is the facilitator, a teacher who usually works full time to help other teachers implement the program. The facilitator visits classes to give feedback and support, organizes an eight-week assessment program to monitor the progress of every child, and makes sure that teachers, tutors, and family support staff are all communicating. There are several days of formal training and follow-up for teachers each year, but the facilitator sees to it that professional development occurs every day.



Success for All has been evaluated over time in high-poverty Title I schools throughout the United States. In most evaluations, Success for All schools were compared to matched control schools on individually administered tests of reading. The results have been remarkable in their consistency, breadth, and power. In every district, students in Success for All schools have been found to be reading better than students in control schools. Figure 1 summarizes the average differences between Success for All and control students in reading performance across many studies. The "ES" at the top of each pair of bars refers to effect size, the proportion of a standard deviation separating experimental and control schools. The consistent effect size of more than a half standard deviation is considered very large in educational research.

In addition to consistent effects for English-speaking children, strong positive effects have been found for a Spanish version of the program used in bilingual classes and for speakers of many languages learning English as a second language. Effects are especially strong for students who scored in the lowest 25 percent on pretests. Further, assignments to special education for learning disabilities have been cut in half, and retentions have been virtually eliminated.

In addition to the many studies involving individually administered reading measures, many eval uations have found that students in Success for All schools gain significantly more than other students on assessments used in state accountability pro grams. Based on these findings, an independent review by Rebecca Herman found Success for All to be one of only two comprehensive reform models to meet the highest standards of evaluation rigor, replication, and effectiveness.


HERMAN, REBECCA. 1999. An Educator's Guide to Schoolwide Reform. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service.

HURLEY, ERIC, et al. 2001. "Effects of Success for All on TAAS Reading: A Texas Statewide Evaluation." Phi Delta Kappan 82:750–756.

LLOYD, DEE N. 1978. "Prediction of School Failure from Third-Grade Data." Educational and Psychological Measurement 38:1193–1200.

SANDERS, WILLIAM L.; WRIGHT, S. PAUL; and ROSS, STEVEN M. 2000. Four-Year Results for Roots and Wings Schools in Memphis. Memphis, TN: University of Memphis, Center for Research in Educational Policy.

SLAVIN, ROBERT E., and MADDEN, NANCY A. 1999. "Effects of Bilingual and English As a Second Language Adaptations of Success for All on the Reading Achievement of Students Acquiring English." Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 4 (4):393–416.

SLAVIN, ROBERT E., and MADDEN, NANCY A., eds. 2001. One Million Children: Success for All. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

TRAUB, JAMES. 1999. Better By Design? A Consumer's Guide to Schoolwide Reform. Washington, DC: Thomas Fordham Foundation.




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