Archived Information

Tools for Schools - April 1998

20/20 Analysis: A Tool for Instructional Planning

What Is It?

20/20 Analysis is a planning tool for developing an integrative service delivery plan that focuses on giving students who show the least and most progress on significant outcome variables intensive instruction and related service support. The goal of the program is to provide an analytic procedure for identifying students most in need of special help, based on student achievement and other outcome data routinely collected by schools and school districts. By identifying students in the lowest 20th and highest 20th percentiles, 20/20 Analysis pinpoints those students for whom the existing instructional and related service program delivery is least effective, so that it can be adapted to suit their individual needs.

Why Did It Get Started?

Current categorical programs designed to serve students with special needs are ineffective and cause a number of problems. In many schools, 50 percent or more of all students are placed in special categorical programs at some point between kindergarten and grade 12. The time and cost involved in such categorical evaluations and placements are staggering, and implementation of the categorical programs tends to be disjointed and ineffective in meeting students' needs.

How Does It Work?

20/20 Analysis consists of a two-phase process:

Needs Analysis

Administrators and educators select an area of learning outcomes such as reading, math, attendance, or disciplinary incidence and assess students' performance within that area. For example, using existing data from standardized achievement tests, and/or curriculum-based assessment and teacher evaluations in reading achievement, the school staff then examine grade- wide or school-wide achievement levels to identify students who require "special" interventions. Achievement levels for students below the 20th percentile or above the 80th percentile are identified as "low 20" or "high 20" groups for whom curriculum adaptation and/or intensive instruction are needed.

By focusing on both the lowest and highest ends of the achievement continuum, findings from the 20/20 Analysis provide a broad, systematic, outcome-based approach to identifying students requiring special educational and related service support. 20/20 Analysis provides an alternative to the current practice of identifying or "certifying" students for the existing narrowly framed (and mostly disjointed) categorical programs, which tend to result in child labeling and program segregation.

Implementation Plan

Phase two identifies and analyzes alternative ways to modify curriculum and instructional and related service delivery practices to the learning needs of individual students in the high- and low-20 groups. Emphasis at this phase of the analysis centers on programmatic implementation concerns that address the needs of the individual students and the development of individual program plans.

What Are The Costs?

The cost requirements vary, depending on the scope of analysis and need for follow-up activities (e.g., staff time to compile school district-collected data for analysis; staff time to develop an implementation plan for improving instructional and related service delivery; and staff time for implementation training). However, a central premise of the 20/20 approach is that the starting point for improvement is more efficient and effective use of current resources and finding creative ways to redeploy existing resources, including personnel to support implementation.

How Is The Model Implemented In A School?

Implementation of Phase I, the Needs Analysis Phase, can be carried out by using school-collected data with very minimal staff time. This aspect of the analysis can be done by the district-level evaluators in the district's "accountability" or evaluation office.

Phase II involves the thorough examination of Phase I findings and active participation of teachers, parents, and related service providers to develop an implementation plan. This plan calls for a collaborative and coordinated appeal to service delivery to enhance learning opportunities for each student, focusing particularly on those in the bottom and top 20 percent group for whom adaptations of the curriculum and instructional and related services support are needed.

Specifically, 20/20 Analysis provides schools with the information necessary for developing service delivery plans that encompass a full range of coordinated approaches to meet the individual needs of all children, including and especially those at the margins of the achievement continuum. 20/20 Analysis is intended to facilitate program implementation efforts in integrated ways to reduce fragmentation and improve program effectiveness.

What Is The Evidence That The Model Is Successful?

20/20 Analysis has gained increasing support among schools interested in implementing comprehensive school reform, particularly in light of the Title I schoolwide program provisions of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 (IASA) and the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, Part B). 20/20 Analysis directly addresses many of the current problems in the delivery of special or categorical programs through a variety of vehicles, including those discussed below.

Implementation of the second phase of 20/20 Analysis has consistently brought about collaborative efforts among professionals with specialized expertise who sometimes operate in disjointed and competitive ways, and encouraging school- and district-wide coordination of programs.

By concentrating on the important outcomes or goals of education and the basic components of student learning, such as reading, quantitative thinking, and classroom behavior, implementation of 20/20 Analysis has resulted in significantly improved student outcomes for children at the margins and students in the middle of the achievement distribution. In 20/20 Analysis learning difficulties are indicators of intervention needs rather than student deficits. Greater efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of special services can be accomplished through early detection, description of learning needs, and interventions.

Where Can I See It?

20/20 analyses are being carried out in selected schools in a variety of settings. Contact the Laboratory for Student Success for schools and school districts using 20/20 Analysis as a planning- and instructional-related service delivery tool.

Whom Do I Contact?

Dr. Margaret C. Wang, Professor and Director
Laboratory for Student Success at
Temple University Center for Research in Human Development and Education
1301 Cecil B. Moore Avenue
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122 6091
Telephone: 215-204-3000; Fax: 215-204-5130
Toll-free Telephone: 800-892-5550
E-mail:; Website:

The Research Base

Approximately 80 percent of the students now served in "special" categorical programs such as Special Education, Title I, as well as others who are in a variety of remedial and compensatory programs, show poor achievement in basic literacy skills. Findings from research demonstrate quite clearly that these students do not need different kinds of instruction, but more intensive quality instruction.

20/20 Analysis is a planning and program monitoring tool. It provides a systematic way of developing informed decisions utilizing existing school data. 20/20 analyses have been carried out in schools varying in geographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Feedback from these schools has indicated that the analysis is a feasible process and provides useful indicators for identifying students whose needs require greater-than-usual instruction and related services. Furthermore, the school staff sees 20/20 Analysis as a useful process for fostering a non-categorical approach to achieving targeted learning outcomes for individual students.

By assembling data over successive years, the 20/20 approach is useful in showing how successful individual schools are in improving the learning progress of low- and high-20 groups, as well as for average students. Longitudinal data show that some schools are consistently successful in increasing the progress of low-20 pupils (e.g., the data show low-20 pupils in first and second grades who rank significantly higher in terms of achievement by grades five and six). Data are also assembled to show characteristics of schools that are successful in increasing achievement at one or both margins (low-20, high-20, or both). Charting progress by various subgroups of students (e.g., African- Americans, Latinos, Native Americans) has been greatly facilitated without the use of labeling or separations of students by category.

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