Project Follow Through: In-depth and Beyond Imprimer Envoyer
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Écrit par Gary Adams   
Mardi, 30 Avril 2013 13:59

Project Follow Through: In-depth and Beyond

Gary Adams
Educational Achievement Systems, Seattle
1996

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Project Participants and Models

The Follow Through project was the largest, most expensive educational experiment ever conducted. This federal program was originally designed to be a service-oriented project similar to Head Start. However, because of funding cutbacks the emphasis was shifted from service to program evaluation. Over 75,000 low income children in 170 communities were involved in this massive project designed to evaluate different approaches to educating economically disadvantaged students from kindergarten through grade 3. State, school, and national officials nominated school districts that had high numbers of economically disadvantaged students. Parent representatives of these school districts chose to participate after hearing presentations from the 20 different program designers (sponsors). Each participating district implemented the selected sponsor's approach in one or more schools. For participating, each district received $750 per student beyond the normal level of funding.

Each sponsor was required to:
- "provide the community with a well-defined, theoretically consistent and coherent approach that could be adapted to local conditions;
- provide the continuous technical assistance, training, and guidance necessary for local implementation of the approach;
- exercise a 'quality control' function by consistently monitoring the progress of program implementation;
- serve as an agent for change as well as a source of program consistency by asking the community in retaining a consistent focus on the objectives and requirements of the approach rather than responding in an ad hoc manner to the daily pressures of project operations;
- ensure implementation of a total program, rather than a small fragment, such as reading, with a resulting possibility for a major impact on the child's life, and
- provide a foundation for comprehending and describing results of evaluation efforts" (Stebbins, St. Pierre & Proper, 1977, p. 5)

The orientation of the sponsors varied from the loosely-structured open classroom approach to the highly-structured behavior analysis approach. Nine of the original sponsors qualified for inclusion in the evaluation. To be included, a sponsor had to have more than three active sites that could be compared to control sites in the same communities.

Abt Associates used the system developed by White to classify the approaches of the different models. The first dimension was the theoretical orientation of the models:

- The behavioristic approach is based on the belief that all behaviors are learned. The reason that disadvantaged children are behind is because no one has taught them necessary social and academic skills. The training is based on selecting the behavioral objectives that are needed. Then teachers reinforce the steps in the behavioral objectives. The general label for this group became the Basic Skills Models.
- The cognitive development approach is based on the sequence of normal cognitive growth. The reason that disadvantaged children are behind is because they have insufficient normal cognitive experiences. The orientation of this approach is to provide interactions between children and teachers. During these interactions, children learn how to solve problems and learn verbal skills based on a self-directed process. Emphasis is placed on the teacher providing age-appropriate cognitive materials and experiences. The general label for this group was the Cognitive/Conceptual Skills Models.
- The psychodynamic approach is based on the assumption that socioemotional development (the development of the "whole child") is essential to educational improvement. Emphasis is placed on trying to improve children's self-esteem and peer interactions. The goal for the teacher is to provide an environment in which children can move toward the goal of self-actualization through children making their own free choices. However, it is assumed that children know what is best for their personal growth. The general label for this group was the Affective Skills Models.


Basic Skills Models
Direct Instruction Model (University of Oregon)­: Developed by Siegfried Engelmann and Wes Becker, this model used the DISTAR (DISTAR is an acronym for Direct Instruction System for Teaching And Remediation) reading, arithmetic, and language programs. The model assumes that the teacher is responsible for what the children learn.

Behavior Analysis Model (University of Kansas)­: Developed by Donald Bushell, this model used a behavioral (reinforcement) approach for teaching reading, arithmetic, handwriting, and spelling. Social praise and tokens were given to the children for correct responses and the tokens were traded for desired activities. Teachers used programmed reading programs in which the task was presented in small steps. The instructional program was not specified by the model. Two sites used the DISTAR materials. Many used Sullivan Programmed Phonics. Students were monitored and corrective procedures were implemented to ensure student progress.

Language Development (Bilingual) Model (Southwest Educational Developmental Laboratory): This curriculum-based model used an eclectic approach based on language development. When appropriate, material was presented first in Spanish and then in English.

Cognitive/Conceptual Skills Models
Cognitively-Oriented Curriculum (High Scope Foundation)­: This popular program was directed by David Weikart and was based on Piaget's belief that there are underlying cognitive processes. Children were encouraged to schedule their own activities and then follow their schedules. The teacher modeled language through the use of labeling and explaining causal relationships. Also, the teacher fostered a positive self-concept through the way the students were given choices.

Florida Parent Education Model (University of Florida): Based on the work of Ira Gordon, this program taught parents of disadvantaged children to teach their children. At the same time, students were taught in the classroom using a Piagetian approach. Parent trainers coordinated the teaching. Emphasis included not only language instruction, but also affective, motor, and cognitive skill instruction.

Tucson Early Education Model (University of Arizona)­: Developed by Marie Hughes, TEEM used a language-experience approach (much like the whole language approach) that attempted to elaborate the child's present experience and interest. The model was based on the assumption that children have different learning styles so the child-directed choices are important. The teacher assists by helping children compare, recall, and locate relationships.

Affective Skills Models
Bank Street College Model (Bank Street College of Education)­: This model used the traditional middle-class nursery school approach that was adopted by Head Start. Through the use of learning centers, children had many options, such as counting blocks and quiet areas of reading. The teacher is responsible for program implementation by taking advantage of learning situations. The classroom is structured to increase learning opportunities.

Open Education Model (Education Development Center)­: Derived from the British Infant School model, this model focuses on building the children's responsibility for their own learning. Reading and writing were not taught directly, but through stimulating a desire to communicate.

Responsive Education Model (Far West Laboratory): Developed by Glenn Nimict, this is an eclectic model using the work of O.K. Moore, Maria Montessori, and Martin Deutsch. The model used learning centers and the child's interests to determine when and where the child is stationed. The development of self-esteem is considered essential to the acquisition of academic skills.

Program Design
Each model had 4 to 8 sites with children that started school in kindergarten and some models also had sites with children that started in first grade. Each Follow Through (FT) school district identified a non-Follow Through (NFT) comparison school for each Follow Through site. The comparison school acted as a control group. Unfortunately, the NFT sites that were selected tended to have children who were less economically disadvantaged than the Follow Through sites. Because of this problem, Abt Associates used a covariance statistical analysis process to adjust for initial differences.

A total of 9,255 FT and 6,485 NFT children were in the final analysis group. Students in each school district site were tested at entry and then each spring until the third grade. The DI Model group included low income students in 20 communities. These communities varied widely­: rural and urban­, blacks, whites, Mexican Americans, Spanish American, Native Americans, and a diverse mixture of other ethnic groups.

The Stanford Research Institute was initially awarded a contract for data collection and Abt Associates received a contract for data analysis. The Office of Education determined the final design of the project with consultation from the Huron Institute. Because the sponsors had different approaches, the data collection was comprehensive. Assessment information was collected in the areas of basic skills (academic), cognitive, and affective behavior. The process of selecting appropriate assessment instruments was an arduous task given the time constraints of trying to select the most reliable, valid tests that could be administered in the least amount of time.

The following tests were used to assess basic skills, cognitive, and affective achievement: the Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT), the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), the Raven's Colored Progressive Matrices, the Intellectual Achievement Responsibility Scale (IARS+ and IARS-), and the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory. The MAT is a respected achievement test that assesseses Basic Skills and Cognitive-Conceptual Skills. The Basic Skills scales of the MAT included Listening for Sound (sound-symbol relationships), Word Knowledge (vocabulary words), Word Analysis (word identification), Mathematic Computation (math calculations), Spelling, and Language (punctuation, capitalization, and word usage). The WRAT measured number recognition, spelling, word reading, and oral and written math problems.

The Cognitive Skills scales of the MAT included Reading (comprehension of written passages), Mathematics Concepts (knowledge of math principles and relationships), Mathematical Problem Solving (the use of reasoning with numbers). Also, the Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices was used. The Raven's test, however, did not prove to discriminate between models or show change in scores over time.

Affective Skills was assessed using two instruments. The IARS was designed to assess whether children attribute their success (+) or failures (-) to themselves or external forces. The Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory is designed to assess how children feel about themselves, the way they think other people feel about them, and their feelings about school.

[…]

 

Conclusions

Educational reformers search for programs that produce superior outcomes with at-risk children, that are replicable and can therefore be implemented reliably in given settings, and that can be used as a basis for a whole school implementation that involves all students in a single program sequence, and that result in students feeling good about themselves. The Follow Through data confirm that DI has these features. The program works across various sites and types of children (urban blacks, rural populations, and non-English speaking students). It produces positive achievement benefits in all subject area - reading, language, math, and spelling. It produces superior results for basic skills and for higher-order cognitive skills in reading and math. It produces the strongest positive self-esteem of the Follow Through programs.

Possibly, the single feature that is not considered by these various achievements is the implied level of efficiency of the system. Some Follow Through sponsors performed poorly in math, because they spent very little time on math. Most of the day focused on reading and related language arts. Although time estimates are not available for the various sponsors, some of them spent possibly twice as much time on reading as DI sites did. Even with this additional time, these sites achieved less than the DI sites achieved. For a system to achieve first place in virtually every measured outcome, the system is required to be very efficient and use the limited amount of student-contact time to produce a higher rate of learning than other approaches achieve. If the total amount of "learning" induced over a four-year period could be represented for various sponsors, it would show that the amount of learning achieved per unit of time is probably twice as high for the DI sites as it is for the non-DI sponsors.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Follow Through results is the persistence of models that are based on what data confirms is whimsical theory. The teaching of reading used by the Tucson Early Education Model was language experience, which is quite similar in structure and procedures to the whole language approach. The fact that TEEM performed so poorly on the various measures should have carried some implications for later reforms; however, it didn't. The notion of the teacher being a facilitator and providing children with incidental teaching was used by the British infant school model (Open Education). It was a flagrant failure, an outcome that should have carried some weight for the design of later reforms in the US. It didn't. Ironically, it was based on a system that was denounced in England by its Department of Science and Education in 1992. At the same time, states like California, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and others were in full swing in the National Association for the Education of Young Children's idiom of "developmentally appropriate practices," which are based on the British system.

Equally disturbing is the fact that while states like California were immersed in whole language and developmentally appropriate practices from the 1980s through mid 1990s, there was no serious attempt to find models or practices that work. Quite the contrary, DI was abhorred in California and only a few DI sites survived. Most of them did through deceit, pretending to do whole language. At the same time, those places that were implementing the whole language reading and the current idiom of math were producing failures at a tragic rate.

Possibly the major message of Follow Through is that there seems to be no magic in education. Gains are achieved only by starting at the skill level of the children and carefully building foundations that support higher-order structures. Direct Instruction has no peer in this enterprise.

 
 
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