Archived Information

Tools for Schools - April 1998

Success For All

What Is It?

Success for All is a structured whole school reform model focusing on students in grades pre- kindergarten through grade six. The model is designed to raise the achievement of students in low- performing schools. The idea behind Success for All is to use everything known from research on effective instruction for students in low-performing schools to prevent and intervene in the development of learning problems in the early years. A principle thrust is to ensure that every child in the school succeeds in learning to read at grade level by the end of the third grade. In addition to reading programs, Success for All provides one-to-one tutoring for primary-aged children struggling in reading, family support services, and other elements. A bilingual Spanish version of the program, called Lee Conmigo, has been developed.

Why Did It Get Started?

Success for All grew out of a partnership between the Baltimore City Public Schools and what is now the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk at Johns Hopkins University. The Baltimore school board president and superintendent of schools challenged the research team at the Center to develop a program that would enable every child in an inner-city Baltimore elementary school to perform at grade level in reading by the end of grade three. The program was first implemented during the 1987-88 school year in Baltimore. By fall 1997, Success for All had been implemented in more than 750 schools in 37 states throughout the country.

How Does It Work?

Specific elements of the program are described below.

Reading, Writing, and Language Arts

During daily 90-minute reading periods, students are regrouped by reading level across age lines. This eliminates the need for reading groups within the class and increases the amount of time for direct instruction. Tutors are used as reading teachers during reading time to reduce the size of reading classes. The reading program in kindergarten and first grade uses phonetically regular storybooks supported by careful instruction that focuses on phonemic awareness, auditory discrimination, and sound blending. The storybooks' contents focus on narrative and expository themes of interest to young children. Students become fluent as they read to each other in pairs.

At the second through fifth grade levels, students use school- or district-selected reading materials in a carefully structured set of interactive opportunities to read, discuss, and write. This program emphasizes cooperative learning activities built around partner reading, story summarization, writing, and direct instruction in reading comprehension skills. A writing and language arts approach based on writing process methods engages students in planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing compositions in a variety of genres. Language mechanics skills are taught in close connection with composition.

Cooperative Learning

This is the vehicle that drives the Success for All curriculum. Students work together in partnerships and teams, helping one another to become strategic readers and writers. Emphasis is placed on individual accountability, common goals, and recognition of team success.


Specially trained certified teachers work one-on-one with any students who are failing to keep up with their classmates in reading. Priority is given to first grade students.


A full-time facilitator works with teachers in each Success for All school to help them implement the reading program. The facilitator also helps implement the 8-week assessments, assists the Family Support Team, plans and implements staff development, and works with teachers to ensure that every child is making adequate progress.

Eight-Week Assessments

Students in grades one through six are assessed every 8 weeks to determine whether they are making adequate progress in reading. This information is used to assign students to tutoring, to suggest alternative teaching strategies in the regular reading classroom, and to make changes in reading group placement, family support interventions, or other means to meet student needs.

Family Support Team

The Family Support Team, composed of the principal or assistant principal, facilitator, social worker, and other building personnel, works with parents to help ensure the success of their children. The team focuses on promoting parent involvement, developing plans to meet the needs of students having difficulty with tardiness and attendance, and integrating community and school resources to benefit students.

What Are The Costs?

Success for All is typically funded by reallocations of existing Title I, state compensatory, and special education funds in high-poverty schools. The program facilitator and tutors required by the program generally come from existing school personnel, such as Title I-funded teachers. Costs for materials and training vary according to school size and other factors, but average between $60,000 and $70,000 during the first year for a school of 500 students. This figure drops to approximately $25,000 in the second year.

How Is The Model Implemented In A School?

All teachers receive a detailed teacher's manual supplemented by 3 days of in service at the beginning of the school year provided by Success for All trainers. Throughout the year, follow-up visits are made to the school by project trainers who visit classrooms, meet with school staff, and conduct in service presentations on such topics as classroom management, instructional pace, and cooperative learning. The staff development model used in Success for All emphasizes relatively brief initial training with extensive classroom follow-up, coaching, and group discussion. The building facilitator also organizes informal sessions to allow teachers to share problems, suggest changes, and discuss individual children.

Prior to adopting Success for All, district and building administrators, teachers, and parents are encouraged to review program materials, view videotapes, and visit nearby Success for All school sites. A school entering the program must have the vote of 80 percent or more of its staff in support of adoption of the model.

What Is The Evidence That The Model Is Successful?

From the very beginning, there has been a strong focus in Success for All on research and evaluation. The results of these evaluations indicate that the program clearly increases reading performance, especially for students who perform in the lowest 25 percent of their class. Compared to control groups, Success for All students score about 3 months higher in first grade, and 1.1 years higher in fifth grade on reading measures. The most dramatic research finding is that a school's reading performance tends to progressively increase with each successive year of program implementation. Evaluations also indicate positive impacts on the achievement of limited-English proficient students and students who have been assigned to special education. Retentions and special education placements decline significantly in Success for All schools.

Success for All has been implemented successfully in schools with tremendously diverse student populations. It is being employed by schools with 100 percent African-American student bodies; schools with predominantly Hispanic student populations representing different Hispanic groups, both native or immigrant to this country; schools with large numbers of Asian students; and integrated schools. The model is being used in inner-city schools in several large cities across the country, as well as in a broad range of rural schools.

Where Can I See It?

Demonstration sites are available in many parts of the United States. Contact the Success for All program for the nearest sites.

Whom Do I Contact?

Success for All Program
Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk
Johns Hopkins University
3505 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
Telephone: 800-548-4998; Fax: 410-516-0543
E-mail:; Website:

The Research Base

The Success for All model is predicated on research evidence stressing the importance of early academic success. Success for All incorporates a number of prevention and intervention strategies designed to ensure all children in a school develop strong foundations in reading by third grade. The model calls for one-half day prekindergarten and full day kindergarten, and provides developmentally appropriate curriculum emphasizing school readiness in the areas of language development, self esteem and prosocial skills. Research suggests that a strong emphasis on school readiness and the development of pre reading skills at the preschool level is critical to school success for poor children many of whom do not have the opportunity to developed them prior to beginning school.

In the early elementary grades, Success for All focuses relentlessly on providing ample time and resources for children to gain strong skills in reading by the third grade. The intention here is to prevent students from being retained in grade, or placed in special education programs or remedial education. Research suggests that these traditional "remedies" to poor performance in reading have little or no positive effect on student achievement.

The Success for All curriculum makes generous use of cooperative learning which has proved itself to be effective in strengthening students' academic as well as social skills. The Success for All staff development component is consistent with research on adult learning indicating that professional development should be focused and provide for frequent follow-up.

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