Thursday, August 19, 2010
A new report says controversial reading reforms adopted in San Diego City schools more than a decade ago produced big results in literacy.
SAN DIEGO A new report says controversial reading reforms adopted in San Diego City schools more than a decade ago produced big results in literacy.
The Blueprint for Student Success was adopted in the San Diego Unified School District ten years ago under then superintendent Alan Bersin. It was designed to target students who were lagging behind in reading.
Bersin made English classes longer in middle school and extended the school year at elementary schools. He also required some high school students to take back-to-back English classes.
Many teachers despised the reforms, calling them a top-down, one-size-fits all approach to education.
But a new report by the Public Policy Institute of California says many of those reforms actually worked.
Researcher Julian Betts, a professor at UC San Diego, says the extra time spent on reading resulted in improved test scores, though it took several years for many of the reforms to bear fruit.
"Districts all across the country are laboratories for reform. It's very important we do careful evaluations of the reforms as they are implemented in major school districts to find out what works, what doesn't.
Betts is taking another look at the Blueprint for Student Success because school districts across the country have to post impressive gains under revamped federal and state accountability systems.
Betts says he analyzed test scores from the year 2000 to 2005.
He acknowledges not all aspects of the Blueprint were successful. He also admits this week's state test scores showing San Diego Unified made big gains in English, are not necessarily tied to the legacy of the Blueprint.
Teachers union leaders in San Diego Unified refute Betts' research. They say the district is now tailoring programs to meet the needs of individual students, which is resulting in even more significant gains in English.
"Teachers are going back to basics. It's totally, totally different than from what Bersin brought in," said Bill Freedman, president of the San Diego Education Association. "We're meeting the kids where they are, going back and finding their problems. Bersin had a one-around-the-world approach."
Betts says he realized the Blueprint for Student Success was an extremely controversial plan, but his mission was to perform a qualitative analysis at whether the reforms actually worked.
Betts says additional time on task did benefit elementary and middle school students. However, that same approach failed at the high school level.