Archived Information

Tools for Schools - April 1998

Comprehensive School Reform Professional Development Model

What Is It?

Comprehensive school reforms seek to provide schools and districts with sets of principles, guidelines, and materials that teachers and administrators can apply and adapt in order to bring about systemic reform. The Comprehensive School Reform Professional Development Model provides guidelines and procedures for the extensive professional development required for the successful implementation and scaling up of the whole-school reforms the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk has developed, including Success for All, Roots and Wings, Talent Development Middle School and Talent Development High School.

Why Did It Get Started?

During the past decade, researchers have been developing comprehensive school reform programs and working with schools across the nation on the implementation and maintenance of the programs. It quickly became apparent that, if comprehensive school reform is to produce results, major changes in the structure of professional development are needed. A number of professional development strategies have been applied and evaluated, and a coherent set of strategies has evolved for helping teachers and administrators develop the commitment and expertise they need to successfully implement comprehensive school reform programs.

How Does It Work?

The primary components of the Comprehensive School Reform Professional Development Model include training materials to support inservice provision, program-affiliated national facilitators who have previous experience in using the program in schools, local networks that support the school's implementation, and a national network that helps ensure commitment to the program and continuance of the program.

A key to program delivery is the program-affiliated national facilitators. Employed full-time by the program, facilitators are drawn from teachers and school administrators who have been active in implementing and using the program in their schools. They are trained using a buddy system teamed with a seasoned facilitator to observe training in schools and then to deliver training in schools while being observed. The costs of recruiting and training new facilitators is covered by the program as part of the professional development fees charged to schools and districts.

What Are The Costs?

The cost of professional development for implementing comprehensive school reform will vary according to the size of the school, the materials needed, the components of the program, and the number of training days required. An estimate of $50,000 to $60,000 during the first year for a school of 500 students would be reasonable. Generally, costs can be covered by Title I, state compensatory, and special education funds in high poverty schools.

How Is The Model Implemented In A School?

The elements of most comprehensive school reform programs are phased in over a 2- to 3-year period. Implementation through the Comprehensive School Reform Professional Development Model incorporates the following elements.


Schools may become aware of the Comprehensive School Reform Program in a variety of ways, such as articles in educational journals and magazines, presentations at conferences or awareness videos and materials, including books describing the program and its outcomes. Given initial awareness, schools or districts invite program staff to make awareness presentations. Schools also send delegations to visit other schools in their region where the program is being implemented.


Given interest after awareness activities, comprehensive school reform model program staff visit the district to work out financial and training arrangements and to negotiate an understanding of what the district, school, and program responsibilities will be. The program is then presented to the whole staff of each interested school. Following opportunities to examine materials, visit other schools, and discuss among themselves, school staffs vote by secret ballot to implement the program. This exercise is essential in that it assures teachers that they had a free choice and that the program is supported by the great majority of their colleagues.

Planning for Implementation

A national trainer from the Comprehensive School Reform Program staff is appointed to serve as the school's lead contact. A school facilitator is then chosen, usually an experienced and respected teacher from within the school's own staff. The facilitator (and often the principal as well) attend a week-long training session, held well in advance of training for the school staff. This gives the facilitators and principals time to work out issues of staffing, space, finances, and ordering and storing materials.

Initial Professional Development

A 2- to 3-day professional development session is provided prior to implementation of the program. This initial development is typically done by the school's lead contact, other staff from the central program or regional training sites, and staff developers who are facilitators or teachers in existing program schools.

On-Going On-Site Staff Development and Technical Assistance

Follow-up visits and continuing staff development are conducted by program facilitators. These facilitators strengthen the skills of the building facilitators by jointly conducting an implementation review in which they visit classes, interview teachers and administrators, and look at student data. The facilitators model ways of giving feedback to teachers, give the building facilitators advice on solving their problems, share perspectives on strengths and weaknesses of the program, and plan with the building facilitator the goals for individual teachers and for general program implementation that the facilitator will follow up on. The facilitators meet with teachers to provide additional training, respond to questions and discuss issues needing further attention.

Local Support Networks

Local schools that have successfully implemented a whole school reform professional development program know the details of the program and how to make it work in an environment very similar to that of the new school. Experienced and new schools can establish "mentoring" relationships in which staff exchange visits, materials, and ideas. School-to-school mentoring lets the teachers, facilitators, and principals in successful schools share their wisdom of practice and hard-won experience. It gives new schools an attainable vision of what comprehensive school reform should be like and gives staffs of new schools support when they run into problems or opposition.

Local support networks also sponsor local conferences around the comprehensive school reform program to bring large numbers of local school personnel together to benefit from each other's expertise. Through local networking, staff members from different schools are able to suggest new ways of solving problems or looking at common issues.

National Network

Systemic and lasting change is far more likely when schools work together as part of a national network in which they share a common vision and a common language, share ideas and technical assistance, and create an emotional connection and support system. The network, at the least, sponsors an annual conference which offers valuable information on new developments and new ideas; builds connections between the experienced schools so that they can share ideas on issues of common interest and build significant relationships with other schools pursuing similar objectives; issues a communications newsletter and conducts other communications activities; and, in general, seeks to create an esprit de corps, and pride in what has been accomplished through the comprehensive school reform program.

What Is The Evidence That The Model Is Successful?

Using the Comprehensive School Reform Professional Development Model, the Success for All program has found that, in regular follow-up visits, more than 90 percent of teachers in the grades implementing the program are doing an adequate job of implementation. Further, many teachers are using the program materials and methods as a jumping-off point for innovative and exciting instruction.

Where Can I See It?

The model is being used and refined in conjunction with Success for All, Roots and Wings, Talent Development Middle School, and Talent Development High School programs. Contact the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk to visit sites.

Whom Do I Contact?

Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk
Johns Hopkins University
3003 North Charles Street; Suite 200
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
Telephone: 410-516-8800; Fax: 410-516-8890
E-mail:; Website:

The Research Base

The Comprehensive School Reform Professional Development Program builds upon research on effective professional development, implementation of reform, and dissemination practices. Professional development research has long noted the ineffectiveness of "one-shot" workshops in the implementation of effective practices and programs. The research has also noted the ineffectiveness of inspirational style workshops compared to workshops that focus on content, and noted the need for staff development to be conducted by colleagues that teachers relate to and respect. The Comprehensive School Reform Professional Development Program provides ongoing, site-based professional development that emphasizes the implementation and use of content-related methods and materials and emphasizes the staff development role of the local school facilitator.

Implementation research has long noted the need for teacher commitment and teacher ownership in the school reform process. The Comprehensive School Reform Professional Development Program promotes initial teacher and administrator buy-in through extensive early awareness activities that culminate in a school-wide commitment to implement the comprehensive school reform program. Through local and national networks, teacher-school contributions to the implementation of the program build recognition of teacher efforts and produce ownership.

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