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Success For All

Ages 5-11

Rating: Level 2


Success for All (SFA) is a schoolwide, intensive educational intervention to detect and resolve literacy problems for school children in preschool through sixth grade, mostly in high-poverty schools. The program has somewhat different components, depending on each school’s needs and available resources, but there is a common set of core elements to SFA. These main components include the following:

The Schoolwide Reading Curriculum
The main component of SFA is implementation of the schoolwide, research-based reading curriculum in grades K–6. In kindergarten and first grade the program emphasizes language and comprehension skills, phonics, sound blending, and use of shared stories that students read to each other in pairs. In second through sixth grades, the program emphasizes writing, cooperative learning, partner reading activities, direct instruction in reading comprehension skills, and comprehension strategies such as summarization and clarification built around narrative and expository texts.

Reading Tutors
Reading tutors are used to promote student success in reading. SFA tutors are specially trained certified teachers and paraprofessionals who work one-on-one with any students who are failing in grades 1–3. Tutorial instruction is closely coordinated with regular classroom instruction and takes place 20 minutes daily.

Quarter Assessments and Regrouping
Students in grades 1–6 are assessed quarterly to determine whether they are making adequate progress. These assessments are used to regroup students according to reading level, to develop alternative teaching strategies, to provide tutoring, or to better meet students’ needs.

The Solutions Team
A solution team consists of school staff such as parent liaisons, social workers, counselors, and assistant principals who work in each school to support families and their involvement in their children’s success. The Solutions Team concentrates on parent education, parent involvement, attendance, and student behavior.

A Program Facilitator
A program facilitator works as an onsite coach for teachers to help them implement the reading program, to manage quarterly assessments, to assist the Solutions Team, to oversee the intercommunication of all staff, and to aid all staff in the progress of all students.


Success for All is one of the most widely implemented and researched interventions in the United States. The most recent and comprehensive evaluation of the program used a cluster-randomized trial. The sample included 41 schools randomized to a treatment or a control condition in two phases. In phase 1, six schools were recruited and randomly assigned to either the treatment or the control condition. The treatment schools implemented the SFA program in grades K–5. A second cohort of 35 schools was recruited for phase 2. Eighteen of the phase 2 schools implemented the treatment condition in grades K–2, while the other 17 schools implemented the treatment condition in grades 3–5. Grades K–2 in schools assigned to the grades 3–5 treatment condition served as the controls for the schools assigned to the K–2 treatment condition, and vice versa. Three schools (one grades K–2 school and two grades 3–5 schools) were closed owing to insufficient enrollment, reducing the analytical sample to 38 schools (20 implementing the treatment in grades K–2 and 18 in grades 3–5). The final analytical sample was composed of 1,672 treatment students and 1,618 control students.

All schools were situated in communities with high poverty concentrations, with a few rural exceptions. Seventy-four percent of the students participated in the Federal free-lunch program, similar to the 80 percent free-lunch participation rate for the nationwide population of SFA schools. The sample is more African-American and less Hispanic than the SFA schools nationally. Fifty-seven percent of the sample was African-American, compared with 40 percent in all SFA schools. And 11 percent of the sample was Hispanic, compared with 35 percent in all SFA schools. The percent of white students in the sample (29) was similar to the percent in all SFA schools (25). There were no statistical differences between the experimental and control schools in terms of demographics and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary test. Multilevel models assessed student and school-level effects on the four literacy outcomes.


The evaluation finds school-level impacts of assignment to the intervention that are consistent with key aspects of the program theory and with past meta-analytic evidence on program effects. Specifically, the results suggest that students in the Success for All schools were achieving at significantly higher levels on three of the four reading outcomes as measured by the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test Revised (WRMT–R).

The WRMT–R is a commonly used educational achievement test with several subtests. In this study, the WRMT–R was used to measure reading growth in four areas: letter identification, word identification, word attack, and passage comprehension. Letter Identification measures the subject’s ability to identify capital and lowercase letters in different type styles. It addresses the principles of phonics and forms the foundation for discovering the student’s knowledge of the bridge between sounds in speech and letters in print. Word Identification requires subjects to identify isolated words, which increase in difficulty and become less familiar as the test goes on. Word Attack measures the subject’s ability to apply phonic and structural analysis skills in order to pronounce nonsense words. Finally, Word Comprehension measures students’ vocabulary knowledge in four different subject areas: general reading, science–mathematics, social studies, and humanities.

Across the four outcomes, the impact estimate for SFA assignment ranged from a standardized effect of approximately d=0.12 (Passage Comprehension) to d=0.25 (Word Attack). Three of the four outcomes— Word Attack, Letter Identification, and Word Identification—were statistically significant. In all four models, the school-level mean pretest covariate was an important predictor of the outcome, and the fixed within-school posttest difference between baseline kindergarten and first grade students was between nearly half of one standard deviation and more than three fourths of one standard deviation.

When converted to additional months of learning, the practical effects of the program appear substantial for Word Attack and relatively large for the other literacy measures. For Word Attack, the learning advantage (relative to the controls) is comparable to more than half of an average school year. The reliability and magnitude of these effects are sensitive to the amount of exposure the students had to the intervention. To make the largest and most reliable gains, students seem to need longitudinal exposure to the program.

Notably, previous studies of SFA have also found positive achievement outcomes. For instance, a study of the long-term effects of SFA found that, compared with controls, SFA students completed the eighth grade at a younger age, with better achievement outcomes, fewer special education placements, fewer retentions, and at the same educational expense (Borman and Hewes, 2002).

Risk Factors


  • Low parent education level/Illiteracy


  • Identified as learning disabled
  • Inadequate school climate/Poorly organized and functioning schools/Negative labeling by teachers
  • Low academic achievement
  • Low academic aspirations

Protective Factors


  • Above average academic achievement / Reading and math skills
  • High expectations of students
  • High quality schools / Clear standards and rules
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Strong school motivation / Positive attitude toward school


Borman, Geoffrey D., and Gina M. Hewes. 2002. “The Long-Term Effects and Cost Effectiveness for Success for All.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 24(4):243–66.

Borman, Geoffrey D., Robert E. Slavin, Alan Cheung, Anne Chamberlain, Nancy Madden, and Bette Chambers. 2005a. “The National Randomized Field Trail of Success for All: 2nd-Year Outcomes.” American Education Research Journal 42(4):673–96.

———. 2005b. “Success for All: 1st-Year Results From the National Randomized Field Trial.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 27(1):1–22.

Slavin, Robert E., and Nancy A. Madden. 2006. Success for All: Summary of Research on Achievement Outcomes. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University, Center for Research and Reform in Education.

Slavin, Robert E., Nancy A. Madden, Lawrence Dolan, Barbara Wasik, Steven Ross, Lana Smith, and Marcella Dianda. 1996. “Success for All: A Summary of Research.” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 1(1):41–76.


Dan Anderson
Success For All Foundation
200 West Towsontown Boulevard
Towson, MD 21204
Phone: (800) 548-4998
Fax: (410) 324-4444
Web site:

Technical Assistance Provider

Dan Anderson
Success For All Foundation
200 West Towsontown Boulevard
Towson, MD 21204
Phone: (800) 548-4998
Fax: (410) 324-4444
Web site: