Scripted reform models do best

In a major, long-term study of school reform models, scripted learning did best in high-poverty elementary schools, reports Education Week.

Thirteen years ago, the Consortium for Policy Research in Education‘s Study of Instructional Improvement set out to study three models: Success for All requires teachers to follow a detailed, instructional script; America’s Choice is less scripted but uses coaches to get teachers to follow the same strategies; Accelerated Schools urges teachers to develop their own strategies to help “students to ‘construct’ their own knowledge through interactive, real-world activities.”

Over time, what the researchers found was that, while teachers in the 28 schools using the Accelerated Schools model were most likely to feel a sense of autonomy and trust in their schools, their teaching practices were not significantly different from those used in the 26 comparison schools. The study’s preliminary analyses suggest that students, likewise, did not learn any more than their control-group counterparts did.

. . . In comparison, classes in the 31 America’s Choice schools and the 29 Success for All schools developed their own distinctive looks over time. The different instructional patterns, in turn, led to different, and more successful, student-achievement patterns.

Success for All students excelled from kindergarten through second grade; the average student moved from the 40th percentile to the 50th percentile 2½ years later. In third through fifth grade, the America’s Choice students were the top performers.

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  1. A script, it seems to me, is an actual curriculum –something that most schools seem to lack. Oh, we have teacher-edition textbooks with a plethora of suggestions, but this does not a curriculum make. We have access to the Internet, and thus, a limitless supply of other teachers’ lesson plans, many of them dubious. We have state standards. But these are all just pieces. Imagine being given a bag of assorted car parts from a dozen different cars. Wonderful potential there. But the devil is in assembly. In most classrooms in America, teachers only manage to put together a tenuously cohesive curriculum –a rough draft, if you will, of a really good curriculum. And then the school adopts a new textbook, or demands you give emphasis to some new program, and the whole thing falls down and you start from scratch on a new tentative curriculum. We never reach the polished, final-draft stage.

    It seems to me that the state should convene teams of wise, learned teachers to build curriculum kits with scripts (whose use would be optional) for each grade level and course in the state. It should be in the public domain –ergo, cheap.

  2. Here’s the thing about a scripted curriculum. It’s only a script the first or second year you use it. By the second pass through you’ve mastered it and are significanly less reliant on it.


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