Achievement Effects of Five Comprehensive School Reform Designs Implemented in Los Angeles Unified School District

by Bryce Mason

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The author estimated achievement effects as measured by the Stanford Achievement Test 9 for students in grades 1–11 who participated in America’s Choice, Co-nect, Different Ways of Knowing, Success for All (SFA), and Urban Learning Centers comprehensive school reform (CSR) designs implemented in the Los Angeles Unified School District between 1999 and 2002. This study yielded effects estimates that were generally less than prior research has suggested. The author found no consistent evidence across the five CSR designs that earlier intervention caused larger gains. However, students who began SFA in grades 1 or 2 benefited in reading, mathematics, and language arts. Results suggested that comparison group selection methods accounted for smaller effect sizes rather than being an artifact of where the reforms were implemented. Conditional on a statistically significant average achievement effect, there was strong evidence that longer participation caused larger effects. Policymakers thinking of implementing a CSR design must consider that prior-effects research might have overestimated achievement effects due to less internally valid research methods.

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in August 2005 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Charles Goldman (Chair), Brian Stecher, and Brian Finch.

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