Hopkins school programs win $27.9 million in federal grants

Education awards made to demonstration projects

October 23, 1999|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

Three reform programs designed at the Johns Hopkins University to turn around low-performing, high-poverty schools yesterday received federal grants of $27.9 million.

Much of the funding from the U.S. Department of Education is aimed at "comprehensive reform" -- reforms that change virtually everything schools do.

Hopkins got the largest share of $84.6 million to be awarded over five years to national demonstration programs. And it won renewal of a five-year grant to its center for the study of children who are at risk of failure.

"The significance of these grants is the shift toward comprehensive reform and away from a piecemeal and fragmented approach," said James McPartland, director of the Hopkins' Center for Social Organization of Schools. "It's also a sign that the federal government backs programs that can demonstrate with solid research that they work."

Success For All, a program that has spread to 1,500 schools nationwide, received $12.2 million to expand its curriculum from elementary to middle school. It is known for its programmed reading, writing and language arts curriculum and one-on-one tutoring for students struggling to read.

Robert E. Slavin, a Hopkins researcher, founded Success For All in a single Baltimore school, Abbottston Elementary, 10 years ago.

The program eventually expanded to five city schools but then faded from the city of its birth as superintendents and principals came and went -- along with a dozen short-lived reform efforts.

Only this fall did three new schools adopt the program in Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Success For All tripled in size nationally in the past three years as Slavin and his wife and fellow researcher, Nancy Madden, won prestigious awards and had to move the burgeoning Success For All offices to roomier quarters in a Towson office building. It is now an independent, nonprofit foundation, though it maintains close research ties with Hopkins.

Slavin said the grants will help the program continue its rapid expansion. "It's a heap of money for us," he said.

Two newer Hopkins models also received federal funding of $2.3 million this year and $11.6 million over five years.

The Talent Development High School program, which started five years ago at Patterson High School in East Baltimore, divides large high schools into smaller, career-themed academies and puts all ninth graders in a self-contained "success academy." The program is in a dozen districts nationwide, including schools in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and Newark.

Another Hopkins reform, directed at troubled urban middle schools, is designed to "ease the way for poorly prepared learners," McPartland said. Students just out of elementary schools have two teachers instead of the traditional five, and some teachers practice "looping" -- staying with the same students through middle school.

McPartland said most of the funding for high school and middle school reform will go to writing curriculum. "We want to be able to say, `Here's a blueprint. Now adapt it to your school.' "

Comprehensive or "whole-school" reform is in vogue in education.

Congress created the "Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program" two years ago and targeted $150 million annually to schools that seek to transform themselves with programs that are research-based and replicable.

The rapid expansion of whole-school reforms like Success For All has been helped by Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the major source of federal aid for high-poverty schools.

Pub Date: 10/23/99

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