Improving the reading skills of elementary students in Title I programs through intensive, one-on-one tutoring and other school-based support services.

Dimensions: Equity pedagogy

Title and Location: Success for All Program

Baltimore, MD 21218

Contact Information:
Success for All Program
Center for Social Organization of Schools
Johns Hopkins University
3003 North Charles Street, Suite 200
Baltimore, MD 21218
Phone: (410) 516-8800
or (800) 548-4998
Fax: (410) 516-8890


The Success for All Program is a comprehensive restructuring program for students placed at risk, funded primarily from Title I funds, that aims to prevent reading difficulties before they begin by identification of and attention to learning problems in the early years. The assumption of the Success for All Program is that all students CAN read, and that the school must combine and organize its resources to provide all necessary services until each child is reading successfully. As of the 1996-1997 school year, Success for All is being implemented in more than 420 schools in 90 districts located throughout the United States.

Program History and Description

Success for All (SFA) began in Baltimore in 1986 as a collaborative project between Robert Slavin and other researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the Baltimore City Public Schools. The intensive reading program, in combination with other school support services, was piloted in one school during the 1987-1988 school year.

The Program combines a reading curriculum based on research and effective practices in beginning reading with effective use of cooperative learning. In addition to one-on-one tutoring, other services, such as medical services and contact with social service agencies, must be available for the students. Professor Slavin has stated: "The school does not merely provide services to children, it constantly assesses the results of the services it provides and keeps varying or adding services until every child is successful" (Slavin et al., 1995).

Originally conceived as a reading program, Success for All has expanded its focus across the curriculum. In addition to a Spanish-language adaptation of the program that began in 1991, the Roots and Wings program was implemented in ten districts in the fall of 1995.

Roots and Wings includes the reading, writing, and language arts components of Success for All plus two new elements for grades 1-5: MathWings, a constructivist mathematics curriculum, and WorldLab, a social studies/science curriculum emphasizing simulations and group investigations.

Program Components

Primary Goals

The primary goal of Success for All (SFA) is to have all students become skilled, strategic and enthusiastic readers and to be reading at grade level by the end of the third grade. Prevention of reading difficulties is emphasized before remediation of learning deficits becomes necessary. SFA requires that school staffs reconfigure how Title 1, special education, and other funds are disbursed. Therefore, the Success for All Program only enters a school when 80% of the school staff has voted in favor of participating and into districts "that have made a clear commitment to implement the program" (Slavin, et al., 1994).

A second goal, called "neverstreaming," is to keep children with learning problems out of special education classes if possible, to deal with learning problems within the context of the regular classroom, and to reduce the number of students who repeat a grade.

Instructional Strategies and Materials

Success for All schools share a common set of characteristics: 1. Reading Programs: Reading Roots, for K-1, available in Spanish under the title Lee Conmigo (Read with Me), is based on phonetically regular but meaningful and interesting minibooks. Teachers read children's literature orally, then children discuss, retell, and dramatize stories. There is an emphasis on phonemic awareness.

Reading Wings, for grades 2-6, uses the district's basal or literature series with cooperative learning activities built around story structure, prediction, vocabulary building, decoding, and story-related writing. Students are regrouped each day by reading level across grades for 90 minutes of reading instruction.

2. Eight-week reading assessments: Teacher observation and formal reading comprehension measures are used to assess each student's progress, assign individual tutors, or change reading group composition.

3. Reading tutors: Certified teachers or paraprofessionals work one-on-one with students who are not yet reading at grade level during 20-minute sessions. The goal is to practice the same stories read in reading groups. Tutors also work with small groups during the 90-minute daily reading sessions to reduce class size.

4. Preschool and Kindergarten programs: Eligible students are placed in these programs to provide academic readiness, prereading activities, and non-academic music and art.

5. Family Support Team: This team consists of school personnel (e.g., counselor or vice-principal) and the Title 1 parent liaison. This team presents programs for parents such as parenting skills workshops, gives hints for helping kids read at home, tracks student absences, helps with behavioral problems, and works to assure each child's success in school.

6. Program Facilitator: The Facilitator coordinates the activities of the SFA program and the support team with the instructional staff and oversees the operation of the Success for All Program at each school

7. Teacher Training: Extensive training sessions with detailed manuals, classroom follow-up, and continuing inservice throughout the school year are provided for teachers and tutors.

8. Advisory Committee: This committee, composed of the principal, facilitator, teacher representative, and a social worker, works within the school to oversee the progress of the SFA program.

9. Relentlessness: One consistent feature of Success for All schools is "a relentless focus on the success of every child" (Slavin et al., 1995, p. 12).


Most Success for All schools are high-poverty Title 1 elementary schools. Many are in the nation's largest cities, such as Philadelphia, Houston, and Chicago, while two are in a tiny rural district on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. Priority, in the form of individual tutoring, is often given to first graders so that they may succeed BEFORE they become remedial readers.

While this program is not aimed explicitly at ethnic minority students, many Title 1 programs are housed in schools with high numbers of students of color and language minority students. Success for All has been adapted by the Southwest Regional Laboratory (SWRL) for use with limited English proficient students whose primary language is Spanish.

Program Success

Student Achievement

Research and longitudinal evaluations of the Success for All program are extensive, including seven years of continuous data from six of the original schools in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Evaluations of 19 SFA schools in nine districts in eight states show that the program increases student reading performance significantly more than their matched controls (Slavin et al., 1995).

One important trend in the results is that the effect sizes increase with each year of implementation of the SFA program, meaning that the experimental-control differences increase each year. One explanation is that the schools become more knowledgeable and experienced running the SFA program over time.

Results for non-English speakers being taught in English and for the English/Spanish bilingual version of Success for All show substantially higher reading scores for SFA students than for the control groups (Slavin et al., 1995).

Program Attributes

The philosophy of SFA includes the tenet that parents are essential for the success of the program. The work of the family support team contacting parents regarding attendance and behavioral problems and providing counseling services where necessary helps make families feel comfortable in the school.

For the school staff, training includes extensive classroom follow-up, coaching and group discussions (Madden et al., 1991). A high degree of teacher support for SFA aids in its success (Ross and Smith, 1994).

Program Replication

More than 420 schools are now using the Success for All Program. And, more than 150 schools have used the SFA program for up to seven years, with only six dropping out. In every case, the program was dropped because of a change in principals. According to Slavin and his colleagues, "The observation that this program can be implemented and maintained over considerable time periods and can be effective in each of its replication sites certainly supports the idea that every school staff need not reinvent the wheel" (Slavin et al., 1995).

For information on implementation procedures, awareness materials, videos, sample materials and lists of schools available for visitation, contact:


Madden, N.A., Slavin, R.E., Karweit, N.L., Dolan, L., and Wasik, B.A. (1991). Success for All. Phi Delta Kappa, (April), 593-599.

Ross, S.M., Smith, L.J. (1994). Effects of the Success for All model on kindergarten through second grade reading achievement, teacher adjustment, and classroom-school climate at an inner-city school. Elementary School Journal, 95(2), 121-138.

Slavin, R.E., Madden, N.A., Dolan, L.J., Wasik, B.A. (1994). Roots and Wings: Inspiring Academic Excellence. Educational Leadership, 52(3), 10-13.

Slavin, R.E., Madden, N.A., Dolan, L.J., Wasik, B.A., Ross, S.M., Smith, L.J. (1994). Whenever and wherever we choose: The replication of Success for All. Phi Delta Kappa, 75(8), 639-647.

Slavin, R.E., Madden, N.A., Dolan, L.J., Wasik, B.A. (1995). Success for All: A Summary of Research. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, April, 1995.