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This study investigated the impact of Dr. Sprick’s Foundations program on the performance of students on standardized assessments and the behaviors of both elementary and middle school students within their school environments in Broward County Public Schools. In the 2004-2005 school year 12 middle schools and 4 elementary schools in Broward County Public Schools implemented Dr. Sprick’s Foundations program for school wide improvement. This research compared Florida State School Grades, reading and mathematic performance, customer survey grades, and detrimental student behaviors. There were 26 middle schools used for comparison schools and 4 randomly selected elementary schools for comparison. The report includes the academic year, 2003-2004, as the baseline year, and 2004-2005 as the first year of implementing Foundations. To further refine this study, students were disaggregated by race, gender and level of implementation of the project.
Formally, the title for this study is: “A Longitudinal Study of the Impact on K-12 Schools in Broward County Public Schools Implementing Dr. Randall Sprick’s Foundations Program, Using a Quasi-Experiment Design with Comparison Groups .”
To identify the effect of Foundations on students’ performance (both standardized test scores and behavioral outcomes such as suspensions), we compared performance in Foundations’ schools with performance in a comparison group of schools. To control for pre-existing differences in the groups, we included students’ previous-year performance in all analyses. We analyzed the data in a multilevel model, which corrects for students “nested” within schools. This nesting can create artificial differences between the groups that would mask the effect of Foundations, a problem that is solved by using the multilevel model.
Foundations is designed to significantly improve the learning environment. Over the years personnel from participating schools and the faculty of Foundations have observed that improving the atmosphere for learning can make a difference in academic achievement over time. It would be highly unusual to expect those differences within the first year of the program. There was one intriguing and consistent finding, however: middle school females significantly improved in math and reading.
In this study, detrimental behaviors included absences, suspensions, and “events”.
Middle schools were separated into two categories, low and high implementing schools. Overall, absenteeism was essentially the same for high and low implementing schools. Within middle schools designated as high in implementation, detrimental student behaviors and suspensions were significantly reduced for students of color. The last result was that males in high implementation middle schools significantly reduced their absenteeism. In summary, high implementation is persistently associated with positive results for middle school students.
For middle schools participating in Foundations, 33% of them improved their Florida School Grades in school year, 2004-2005, after one year, while 4% of non-participating middle schools experienced an improved school grade. Eight percent of the Foundations schools received a lower school grade, as compared with 19% of the non-participating schools.
The contextual effect pervaded the findings of this study. The environment by itself influenced the outcomes beyond what would be expected. This was not originally part of the research but the results were pronounced and definite. There were significantly improved performances in elementary schools; and in middle schools, students of color and male students scored significantly better on math and reading assessments when compared to students in lower performing schools. Certainly active practitioners of schoolwide improvement programs have observed the contextual effect, but it needs further investigation in actual school settings to better understand the full range of its dynamics.
Foundations is just one of Broward County Public Schools’ initiatives to help it meet its educational mission. Although this report shares results from the first year of its implementation, the findings are consistent with that mission. Future participation in and research on Foundations should make an on-going contribution to Broward County Public Schools.