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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 8, no. 34 (July 17, 2000).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c July 17, 2000
Implementation of the Kentucky nongraded primary program / Patricia J. Kannapel, Lola Aagaard, Pamelia Coe, [and] Cynthia A. Reeves.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 32 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 8 Number 34July 17, 2000ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2000, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Implementation of the Kentucky Nongraded Primary Pr ogram Patricia J. Kannapel Lola Aagaard Pamelia Coe Cynthia A. Reeves AEL, Inc. Charleston, West Virginia (U.S.A.)Abstract We examine the development of the Kentucky nongraded primary program at the state level, and in six rural elemen tary schools from 1991 through 1998 (case studies of four of these schools are included in Appendix A). Data collected from our longitudinal q ualitative study reveal that teachers changed their classrooms in re sponse to the primary program mandate, and some positive outcomes occurre d for students. Implementation was hampered, however, by rapid impl ementation timelines, failure to clearly articulate the purpos e of the program and how it linked with a larger reform effort, and a fi rmly entrenched "graded" mindset. Currently, progress toward full i mplementation of a continuous progress model for primary students has stagnated. To revive the program, policymakers need to make program goal s clear,
2 of 32demonstrate how its implementation will facilitate attainment of reform goals, and assist teachers in implementing the prog ram as intended. (Note 1)Introduction The concept of nongraded schooling is not n ew. Nongraded, multi-age education has moved in and out of favor throughout the educat ional history of the United States. Yet, even though the notion of nongradedness often conjures up a positive image of children moving at their own rate, of older student s helping younger ones, and of younger students learning from older ones, nongrade d schools and classrooms have failed to take hold in public schools in any largescale or long-term way over the past several decades. Graded schools became the norm in urban school districts in the latter half of the 19th century, and in rural schools a sh ort time later (Tyack, 1974), and have persisted to the present day. Tyack & Cuban (1995) suggest that, because the graded school arrived on the scene at a time when elementa ry education was rapidly expanding, and offered a standardized way to process large num bers of students, the organization of schools by grades became the generally accepted for m of American public education. In this sense, gradedness might be thought of as one o f the characteristics of the "real school," a concept proposed by Metz (1990) to signi fy a common script that American schools have come to follow, and that has come to b e widely accepted by educators and parents alike. This article examines a recent attem pt to stem the tide of gradedness: Kentucky's statewide effort to replace grades K-3 w ith a nongraded, continuous progress model. Study Description This report is based on findings from a lon gitudinal study of implementation of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) conducted by r esearchers from AEL, Inc. The research team studied state-level implementation, a s well as implementation in four rural districts. AEL followed implementation in rural set tings in Kentucky because most Kentucky school districts are rural, AEL had a rura l focus at the time, and comprehensive reform in rural districts has been li ttle reported or documented. The study districts were selected from a list of distri cts identified by various Kentucky stakeholders and policymakers as representative of "typical" Kentucky school districts: we asked that they identify districts that were nei ther at the forefront of reform, nor likely to subvert it. From 1991 through 1995, we st udied the primary program along with other aspects of KERA implementation in all 15 elem entary schools in the four districts. From 1996 through 2000, we narrowed our focus to si x schools, and to a specific cohort of students within those schools: the class of 2006 Â—a group whose entire schooling had been under KERA, and who were completing the primar y program in 1996-97. This study sample of six schools included two schools in western Kentucky, two in central Kentucky, and two in eastern Kentucky. Four of the schools were located in towns, while two were in outlying communities or rural are as. Five were located in county districts; one was in a small, independent school d istrict. When compared to urban and suburban schools, our study schools were relatively small, ranging in size from 80 students to 500 students. The percentage of student s on free/reduced lunch has fluctuated throughout the study period, ranging from about 3040 percent at the low end to 60-70
3 of 32percent at the high end. The study was qualitative in nature: we rel ied on interviews, observations, and review of documents to provide information. Across the years of the study, we observed over 180 hours in primary classrooms and conducted approximately 400 interviews with administrators, teachers, parents, primary students and state officials. We also observed professional development sessions on the primary pr ogram. Documents analyzed included lesson plans, primary program action plans and annual evaluations, school transformation plans, school council minutes, schoo l board minutes, and local newspapers. At the state level, we interviewed key officials who where instrumental in primary program implementation, regularly attended meetings of the Kentucky Board of Education, observed early professional development institutes on the primary program, and examined primary program implementation documen ts. Our analysis has included extensive review and discussion of our field notes and key documents, as well as a discussion of prelimina ry findings with state officials, and with administrators and teachers in the local distr icts. This paper addresses the following questions: What was the state and national context for Kentuck y's nongraded primary program? 1. How was the program implemented at the state level? 2. What changes occurred in primary classrooms? 3. How did the primary program affect students? 4. Additionally, we have included in Appendix A short case histories of primary program implementation at four of the schools we have studi ed intensively.The Context for Kentucky's Nongraded Primary Kentucky's nongraded primary program (herea fter referred to as the "primary program") is but one component of a massive restruc turing of the state's educational system. The Kentucky Education Reform Act, passed b y the Kentucky General Assembly in the spring of 1990, came about as the r esult of a lawsuit filed by 66 of the state's poorest school districts charging that the state's system of financing public schools placed too much emphasis on local resources (Rose v Council for Better Educ., 1989, p. 4). The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in the summer of 1989 that the entire state school system was unconstitutional, and ordered the state legislature to restructure entirely the state's system of public schooling. The Kentucky legislative leadership organiz ed a task force, composed of legislators and representatives from then-Governor Wallace Wilk inson's office, to design the restructuring package. Subcommittees on curriculum, governance, and finance were created to work out the details of the reform. Each committee hired a national consultant to assist in developing its portion of the restruct uring package. The consultant who designed the curriculum package, which contains the primary program, was David Hornbeck, then of Hogan and Hartson in Washington, D. C., but currently superintendent of the Philadelphia schools. Hornbec k, with substantive input from the Task Force and the Governor's office, designed a re form package that shifted the focus from teacher inputs to student results, required sc hools to ensure high levels of achievement for all students, and gave schools autonomy to decide how to help students achieve reform goals, but held them accountable for student performance as measured by
4 of 32a performance-based assessment instrument. This res tructuring package strongly reflected an approach that would soon become known as "systemic reform" (Cohen, 1995; Fuhrman, Elmore, & Massell, 1993; Murphy, 199 0; O'Day & Smith, 1993; Schwartz, 1991; Smith & O'Day, 1991). The groundwork for this brand of restructur ing had been laid by Governor Wallace Wilkinson in the two years prior to 1990. Wilkinson with guidance from Education Secretary Jack Foster, developed an "outcomes-based restructuring plan that called for school-based management, leadership and staff devel opment, increased resources for instructional improvement, an outcome-based curricu lum, performance standards, accountability, and a rewards program (Wilkinson, 1 988a, 1988b). As pointed out by Fuhrman, Elmore, & Massel l (1993), the primary programÂ—with its requirement that schools eliminate grades K-3Â—w as a curious addition to a reform package that called for locally-designed instructio nal inputs. Former Kentucky Education Secretary Jack Foster, who served on the task force that designed KERA, explained inclusion of the primary program: Although not specifically proposing creation of a p rimary program, Governor Wilkinson contended in his reform proposal prior to the Supreme Court decision that it was time to alter the struct ure of the school to enable teachers to work more effectively with children who have different learning styles, aptitudes, or interests. Wilkinson contende d that the traditional school leaves the educational needs of many childre n unmet because it is not flexible enough to meet their different learnin g needs.... A classroom in which everyone is studying the same thing at the sa me time is not one that can easily adapt to individual differences in eithe r learning style or ability. With this as background, David Hornbeck, consultant to the curriculum committee of the Task Force on Education Reform, [r ecommended that grades K-3 be replaced with an ungraded model] (Fos ter, 1999, p. 70). In addition to the push from the Governor's office, the decision to include a nongraded primary program as a starting point to a results-based restructuring plan is likely related to the fact that, at the time KERA w as developed, nongraded instruction was making a resurgence as a "new" schooling struct ure (Anderson & Pavan, 1993). The recent movement toward nongraded instruction is a r esponse to research in child development and the learning process, which suggest s that nongradedness is an appropriate strategy for curbing ability tracking a nd grade retention, which have been shown to have harmful effects on children (Massachu setts Board of Education, 1990). Proponents of nongraded primary programs argue that they provide a developmentally appropriate way for teachers to deal with individua l differences found among children at an age when they are psychologically vulnerable (Na tional Association for the Education of Young Children, 1987; National Association of El ementary School Principals, 1990). While nongraded programs are seldom cited a s a feature of systemic reform, the emphasis in nongraded programs on tailoring instruc tion to individual needs so that all students can achieve is quite compatible with the s ystemic reform movement's emphasis on helping all children achieve rigorous academic standards. Unfo rtunately, this sort of link between the primary program component of KERA and the larger reform package was not made clear to Kentucky educators. In Hornbe ck's final recommendations to the legislative task force, the primary program appears on page 65 of a 66-page document, is described in three sentences, and is not linked con ceptually with the systemic-reform-like recommendations that precede i t (Hornbeck, 1990).
5 of 32 Jack Foster acknowledged that the rationale for the primary program, and its link with the larger reform, was never made clear: We dropped that one in there very late... We had no protocols, no models, we had no documentation, no references to literatur e, nothing. It just appeared. So it really left the Department of Educa tion to do whatever they wanted. I was asked a couple of times to come over and interpret to them what we had in mind. Hornbeck was gone by now. I us ed my own philosophy as to the intent of that... So we got wh at we deserved on that one. You never want to lay something that significa nt into a piece of legislation without some sort of supporting documen tation that people can use to get at the legislative intent. But there is nothing; there is nothing (personal communication, 9/17/99).State-Level Implementation of the Primary Program Radical change is a difficult and often mes sy process, an observation well-documented in the education change literature (see Fullan, 1996). The implementation of the primary program was no except ion. The lack of clearly articulated legislative intent hampered primary program impleme ntation from the outset. State officials involved in early implementation of the p rimary program, along with the first program description issued by the Kentucky Departme nt of Education (KDE), reported that Department staff had to engage in extensive re search to get at the intent of the primary program. The program description, entitled The Wonder Years (Kentucky Department of Education, 1991), states that staff e xamined all statutory provisions regarding the primary program; reviewed the provisi ons of KERA that impact the primary program; reviewed the curriculum committee recommendations; reviewed direction and clarification provided by David Hornb eck, other Task Force members, and legislative staff; reviewed literature and research on "nongradedness;" reviewed position statements of national organizations for the educat ion of young children; attended conferences and heard national consultants; and vis ited schools with nongraded programs. From this research, the KDE identified se ven critical attributes of the program, which focused around how primary classroom s should look, rather than what primary teachers should teach. The attributes were developmentally appropriate educational practices, multi-age/multi-ability clas srooms, continuous progress, authentic assessment, qualitative reporting methods professional teamwork, and positive parent involvement. According to staff at KDE who were instrumental in developing the position statement, the critical att ributes were meant to serve as a guide to schools as they developed their primary programs The 1992 General Assembly, however, adopted the attributes into law. The critical attributes quickly became the linchpin of the primary program, not only because they were now mandated, but because the att ributes were virtually the only guidelines for reform implementation in the early y ears. The state's assessment contractor was developing the new performance asses sment instrument, and the KDE was beginning to develop curriculum frameworks. But the primary program attributes were the first piece of guidance to fall into place and it was around the attributes that professional development and primary program direct ives revolved. Early implementation was further complicate d by the implementation timelines.
6 of 32The original KERA legislation laid out no specific timelines for implementation. The 1991 program description suggested that implementat ion would occur over a three-year span beginning in 1992-93, but a former KDE officia l reported to us that KDE had envisioned full implementation occurring by 1996. T his recommended gradual approach might have facilitated linkages between the primary program and the larger reform because curriculum supports could have been put in place to help primary teachers plan what they were to teach (KERA goals) before having to f ollow the state plan for how to teach it (critical attributes). In 1992, however, a pparently in an effort to jump-start reform by getting the primary program in place, the legislature mandated beginning implementation in 1992-93, and full implementation by 1993-94. The unintended effect of the new timeline, coupled with the critical attributes becoming statutory requirements, was that teachers were thrust into the overwhelming demands of multi-age classrooms before the state ha d provided the curriculum guidance required by KERA. State curriculum frameworks did n ot appear until 1993 (Kentucky Department of Education, 1993b), and the even more widely used Core Content for Assessment was not available until 1996 (Kentucky Department of Education, 1996a). Consequently, primary teachers fashioned a program that demonstrated implementation of the seven critical attributes, but the fundament al issues of what they were to teach and how the curriculum should align with KERA had not b een worked out. Another aspect of primary program implement ation that became problematic was the issue of how to determine when students were re ady for fourth grade. An interim process for determining successful completion of th e primary program was adopted in December 1992 and is still in effect (Kentucky Depa rtment of Education, 1993a). There was some initial thinking that the interim regulati on would be replaced by the Kentucky Early Learning Profile (KELP), which was developed by the state's assessment contractor. According to the KELP handbook (Kentuck y Department of Education, 1994), this primary assessment tool was not intende d to mirror the fourth-grade assessment, but was designed to provide students wi th opportunities that would lay the foundation for the fourth-grade assessment. The KEL P was piloted during the 1992-93 school year and field tested in 1993-94. Training i n use of the KELP was made available to primary teachers across the state in the summer of 1994: the summer following the year they were required to fully implement the prim ary program. Because of concerns about the amount of paperwork associated with the K ELP, it was never made mandatory, but schools are expected to use a proces s similar to that spelled out in the "interim" regulation, or a "KELP-like" process for verifying successful completion of the primary program. The KELP was not widely adopted across the state. Bridge (1995) reported that most teachers found the KELP so burdensome that the y would discontinue using it if given the choice. The state Office of Education Acc ountability (OEA) reported in both its 1996 and 1997 annual reports that about one-thi rd of schools were using the KELP, and that there was no monitoring of schools not usi ng the KELP to determine if they were using an alternative that met the criteria for exiting the primary program. However, the KDE reported to the OEA in 1999 that, based on a survey returned by 94 percent of elementary schools, 75 percent of schools used one or more components of the KELP. Of this number, 44 percent used the KELP Learning D escriptions, which is the component that assesses students' continuous progre ss (Kentucky Department of Education, 1999). The failure to link the primary program to the rest of KERA resulted in a perception among teachers that the primary program was out of sync with reform in grades 4-12. In our study schools teachers expressed concern about the adjustment primary students
7 of 32would face when they reached fourth grade, where be havioral and academic expectations would be more rigid. These teacher per ceptions contrasted sharply with what we heard from state officials, who expressed h ope that primary program practices would be so successful and well-received that they would work their way up through the grades as teachers, parents and students came to em brace and expect these sorts of practices. A key official at the state department o f education commented to us in 1993: Now how responsive the rest of the system is to tha t group of children is going to be the next critical question. It has alre ady been asked. Parents are saying, "What happens when my child leaves this won derful program where they've become independent thinkers and they go int o Miss Jones stringent fourth-grade classroom and they're not allowed to c ontinue on?" Our response is, "If I were you, as a parent, I would r eally be at the door of that school principal or that school council insisting t hat the [intermediate grade] program change." That's where the dynamic of change can be. I don't think it should be mandated from here. I think it occurs because it's a good program and they want to continue it. Former Education Secretary Jack Foster made similar comments: It was our hope that [the primary program] would be so successful that by the time [students] came out of the primary, we cou ld convince other teachers up through the elementary school, and get the whole elementary school ungraded (personal communication, 9/17/99). While state officials expressed the belief that the primary program would mirror the kinds of practices needed at all grade levels to he lp students achieve the higher-order skills emphasized in the KERA goals and expectation s, the vast majority of training and support documents for the primary program did not l ink the program with KERA goals and expectations. In the primary, the focus was on eliminating student failure and on building student self-esteem and love of learning. This was to be accomplished through mandates as to how primary classrooms should operat e (the critical attributes). In grades 4-12, by contrast, the focus was on preparation for the state assessment, which was the tool for judging whether students were making progr ess toward KERA goals. Another major influence on primary program implementation was legislation that was meant to facilitate the primary program. Key me mbers of the legislature believed that the focus on multi-aging had detracted from th e broader purpose of the primary program. In 1994, the legislature passed a law that added flexibility for schools to determine, based on individual student needs, that multi-age/multi-ability grouping need not apply to every grouping situation throughout th e day; and that permitted entry-level (or kindergarten) students to be grouped in self-co ntained classrooms if developmentally appropriate. Greater flexibility was added in 1996 legislation. These legislative acts relaxing the multiage, multiability requirement wer e viewed by some teachers as a signal that they no longer had to implement the one attrib ute that, to them, had become synonymous with the primary program. McIntyre and K yle reported in 1997 that after multi-age grouping was made optional, fewer teacher s were implementing the multi-age component, and that some teachers abandoned the pri mary program altogether; a phenomenon we also observed in our study schools.
8 of 32Changes in Primary Classrooms In the first two years of primary program i mplementation (1992Â–93 and 1993Â–94), primary teachers at our six study schoolsÂ—in an att empt to implement the attributesÂ—made changes in their approaches to inst ruction, assessment, grouping practices, reporting methods, working with other te achers, and working with parents. While virtually all teachers tried new practices in their classrooms, some embraced the changes more enthusiastically than others. This sor t of varied implementation was also reported in other studies conducted around the stat e (Kyle & McIntyre, 1993; Raths & Fanning, 1993; Raths, Katz & Fanning, 1992). Among our study sample, we studied one school where an enthusiastic and persuasive princip al and an open-minded faculty combined their energies to make major changes in th eir approach to instruction and student grouping (see the case study of Orange Coun ty Elementary School in Appendix A). At two schools that had previously had high stu dent achievement using traditional approaches, changes were approached with caution by nearly all teachers (see the Newtown Elementary School case study). At two other schools, the issue of how much change to make was divisive (see the case studies o f Vanderbilt County Elementary School and Kessinger Elementary School). While changes in primary classrooms were su bstantial and widespread initially, movement toward greater implementation of the prima ry program has stagnated in our study schools, as well as statewide (McIntyre & Kyl e, 1997). Generally, primary teachers seem to have settled into an approach that is comfortable for them, whether it equates to full implementation or not. The reaction s to and implementation of the primary program in the AEL rural study districts do not seem to involve distinctly rural issues, as similar findings were reported in review s of other KERA research that included urban areas in the commonwealth (McIntyre & Kyle, 1997). One possible exception might be that none of these districts had tried a nongraded approach since a brief fling with it (when it was last popular) in t he 1950s, whereas some of the more urban and suburban districts in the state had been experimenting with the practice for some time before KERA was passed (Kentucky Educatio n Association/Appalachia Educational Laboratory, 1991). Below, we describe more fully the changes t hat occurredÂ—and the ones that persistedÂ—under each of the critical attributes. We also consider the perceived disjunction between the primary program and reform in the intermediate grades. Developmentally appropriate practices With the new professional development money from KERA, virtually all primary teachers in the study schools received copious training and experimented with new instructional pr actices. Professional development was weighted most heavily toward developmentally ap propriate instructional practices. Teachers reported being simultaneously overwhelmed and energized by what they were learning and doing. One teacher commented in 1992: I've attended a lot of workshops, I've attended a l ot of seminars, I'm doing some things this summer. I'll be learning more abou t whole language for two weeks, and I've got a couple of other workshops I'm really interested in. I just finished training to be a math specialist. T hat was really rewarding. Everything that I have done and every workshop that I've gone to, I've learned a lot and I've tried to apply it in the cla ssroom. Of all the changes primary teachers attempt ed, changes in instructional practices
9 of 32were adopted most readily, and have persisted more than have changes in the areas of the other critical attributes, reportedly because t eachers have had success with many of the new approaches. In a review of research on the primary program statewide, McIntyre & Kyle (1997) also reported that teachers found dev elopmentally appropriate practices the easiest attribute to implement, continued to us e varied instructional practices, and rated this attribute as the most important one in t erms of student learning. The most common practices we observed in th e early years were use of hands-on and calendar activities to teach mathematics; thema tic or interdisciplinary instruction; use of authentic literature, whole language, or lit erature-based instruction; journal or other writing activities; and flexible seating arra ngements. Although the degree of implementation varied across schools and teachers, virtually all teachers experimented with these practices in the first two years of prim ary program implementation. In addition, about half of the teachers employed learn ing centers; a lesser proportion attempted cooperative learning activities. In gener al, teachers assigned less textbook work, drill, seat work, and rote memorization than in the pastÂ—although these practices were in regular evidence at two of our study school s. Similar findings were reported statewide; Bridge (1995) found that teachers were u sing a variety of approaches and materials, attempting to integrate the curriculum t hrough theme activities, and arranging the physical environment of their classrooms to fac ilitate primary program implementation. As primary teachers tried new approaches, h owever, they found that developing thematic units, learning centers, and hands-on acti vities was labor-intensive and time-consuming. In addition, they worried that stud ents would not acquire "basic skills" without the customary drill and practice. These con cerns were echoed by intermediate teachers, who began to report almost immediately th at primary students were coming to them lacking in basic skills. Thus, after the initi al two years of classroom innovation, many primary teachers returned to more traditional practices such as using spelling books to teach spelling, drilling on math facts, an d use of workbooks and worksheets to teach phonics. Some of the new instructional practi ces have persisted in our study classrooms, however, including more flexible seatin g arrangements, partner or group work, emphasis on process writing, use of authentic literature as part of the primary reading program, and greater use of hands-on activi ties. Practices that have mostly fallen to the wayside are learning centers (except in entr y-level primary classrooms), cooperative learning activities, and broad use of t hemes or interdisciplinary instruction. Multi-age/Multi-Ability Classrooms Probably because the primary program had initially been referred to as the "nongraded primar y," and because this was one of the most tangible attributes to be implemented, teacher s equated the multi-age, multi-ability attribute most strongly with the primary program. W hile state officials retrospectively reported to us that this attribute was meant to ser ve as a tool to enable continuous progress, it was not presented that way in the stat e guidelines, nor in any professional development we observed. As a result, educators imp lemented multi-aging as an end in itself, and one that was difficult conceptually and logistically. Two schools initially attempted K-3 classrooms, pulling students into sma ller groups (single or dual-age) for skills instruction. Three other schools grouped stu dents into twoand three-age span groups, also breaking them into more homogeneous gr oups during the day for skills instruction. One school was more cautious, never ex perimenting with more than a dual-age classroom. In response to the legislation that relaxed the multi-age requirement, by the 1996-97 school year, three of the six schools studied more intensively since 1996 had returned to single-age classrooms (although one of these has si nce opted to return to dual-age
10 of 32classrooms), two continued with dual-age classrooms because low enrollment forced split classes, and one school had a K-2, 3-4 arrang ement. McIntyre & Kyle (1997) also reported that many schools statewide returned to si ngle-age classrooms. The KDE reported in 1999 that the most common structure in the primary program was dual-age classrooms, with partial inclusion of five-year-old s; and that 21 percent of schools reported single-age groupings (Kentucky Department of Education, 1999). At no school did we witness the envisioned elimination of "grade differentials." This finding correlates with other research around the state, where it was reported that multiage/multi-ability grouping was one of the mo st controversial and difficult attributes for teachers, fewer teachers implemented the multi-age component over time, and teachers viewed the multi-age/multi-ability att ribute as least important to student learning (McIntyre & Kyle, 1997; Raths, Katz, & Fan ning, 1992). Similarly, a 1999 survey found that a majority of teachers, parents, and the general public did not believe that the graded structure should be eliminated in t he first four years of schooling (Kentucky Institute for Education Research, 1999). Throughout this time period, inclusion of k indergarten students was problematic at our study schools and across the state. Many educat ors and parents viewed kindergarten as a preparatory program, and did not believe young children should be mixed with older ones when they first began school. The issue was so divisive at one of our study schools that entry-level students were pulled in and out of the program several times during the 1993-94 school year as teachers struggled to reach consensus on integrating these students into the primary program. A parent of one of these students reflected on the experience: I felt like that it was a rocky start when he began here. His first year, they started out with multi-age, and some wanted multi-a ge and others didn't. So they were in that for a couple of weeks and then sw itched. In the first nine weeks, he had changed three times, teachers, groupi ng, etc. before they decided how to do it. As a parent, I was not very h appy because he was young and immature and having all of that change co nstantly, not knowing where you are going or who your teacher is... [I ha ve been] generally satisfied other than that beginning year. I just wi sh that there had been a decision made before school started as to how to do it. When the 1994 General Assembly enacted legi slation that permitted entry-level students to be grouped in self-contained classrooms if such grouping was developmentally appropriate for individual students five of the six study schools studied intensively took this as a blanket endorsement for placing all entry-level students in self-contained classrooms. Continuous progress The state defines continuous progress as follows: "Continuous progress means that students will progr ess through the primary school program at their own rate without comparison to the rates of others or consideration of the number of years in school. Retention and promot ion within the primary school program are not compatible with continuous progress (Kentucky Department of Education, 1993a, p. 8). While this attribute appea rs central to the primary program philosophy, primary teachers in our study schools a ppeared to be more focused on implementing those attributes that had some concret e, visible manifestation: multi-age groups, new report cards, anecdotal records, parent orientation programs, common teacher planning time. Continuous progress was neve r articulated to us as a major goal of the primary program. Similarly, Bridge (1995) re ported that fewer than half of the
11 of 32teachers she studied showed evidence that they were providing for the continuous progress of students through the primary program. It appeared that the concept of gradedness was firmly entrenched at all levels of the system. Teachers, as well as parents and students, were never able to abandon the concept of gradedness and to think in terms of each student progressing continuously toward acquisition of KERA goals and expectations. Even within dual-age or multi-age classrooms, teachers often referred to students by grade level; or sometimes referred to the level of the task by grade, such as having "fir st grade spelling words" and "second-grade spelling words." Many schools attempt ed a change in terminology, so that kindergarten was referred to as P1, first grade as P2, etc. These new terms, however, served the same function as the grade designations-separating students by age. Principals told us that even the KDE required that enrollment information be provided by grade level. Another difficulty teachers had with the no tion of continuous progress had to do with retention. Teachers were told by state officia ls that the determination of whether students needed to spend a fifth year in the primar y program should be made during the fourth year of primary. The rationale for this was that, if schools adopted a truly continuous progress model, then students would work continuously toward acquisition of KERA goals rather than having a determination ma de at some arbitrary point that they had not made adequate progress and thus, needed to repeat an entire year of instruction. Because the graded model and mentality had not been abandoned, however, the ban on retention created problems. One of our study school s ignored it entirely. Teachers at four schools did make an effort to allow students within their usually-dual-age classrooms to work at an appropriate level, but there was still a need to make a determination as to whether a child was ready to move on to the next du al-age classroom. For instance, where the primary program was configured into K/1st and 2nd/3rd grade classrooms, teachers felt a need to "retain" some students in t he K/1st classrooms an extra year rather than send them on to the 2nd/3rd grade room. A prin cipal, who was hired after the school council had voted to return to single-age cl assrooms in the primary program, described how she saw the single-age configuration at her school impeding continuous progress: We have single-age all the way through primary, sel fcontained. We have done a minimal amount of sliding students [from one level to the next to meet individual needs]. We had a child who was not happy and a behavior problem in kindergarten and I suggested moving him to first grade for 45 minutes daily in a skill area he was strong in. Lit tle by little, that child was eased into first grade so he is there all the time. If we had had a multi-age situation, these things could be taken care of in t he classroom without all this hullabaloo. It is not a naturally occurring th ing that each child's need is met. We are meeting their needs but the curriculum is not set up to do it. We are having to reach out to make it happen. It should be noted that some teachers had s tructures for allowing students to progress at their own rate in certain subject areas At one school, teachers in a dual-age classroom used flexible grouping and regrouping for mathematics instruction, assessing and re-shuffling student groups at the end of each unit. The more common practice, however, was to use grouping practices in which stu dents stayed with the same teacher most of the day and were placed in relatively stabl e ability groups for reading and math instruction. Even in schools where some teachers ha d worked out continuous progress
12 of 32within their own classrooms, the movement from one grade level to the next interrupted the smooth continuum of progress for children. Authentic assessment Authentic assessment practices attempted by most teachers in the early years included use of anecdotal record s to record student progress and behavior as it occurred naturally, and accumulation of student work into portfolios of some type. At two of the six schools studied intens ively, teachers, over time, continued to implement practices (such as engaging students i n individual or group projects) that were better assessed with alternative instruments, such as scoring rubrics developed for specific assignments. One of these schools continue d to use the KELP, mostly because it was a district requirement. At the remaining school s, use of anecdotal records and other authentic assessment techniques had nearly disappea red by the 1996-97 school year. As with multi-aging, teachers at these schools had imp lemented authentic assessment because it was required rather than as a tool to mo nitor students' continuous progress. Some teachers reported that they found it useful to share anecdotal records with parents at conferences but, for the most part, teachers wer e unclear how to manage or make use of these alternative assessment techniques. Qualitative reporting Traditional report cards with number/letter grade s were replaced in all study schools with qualitative repo rting, such as lists of broad skills or capabilities, accompanied by codes or narrative to indicate whether students were progressing or in need of further assistance. Teach ers found these reporting systems cumbersome, however. They also reported that parent s did not understand the qualitative progress reports. Many parents corroborated this st ory, reporting that letter grades gave them a better sense of how their children were prog ressing. As a result, by 1996-97, three of the six schools had replaced the qualitati ve progress report with a report card with number/letter grades, or some system for equat ing symbols on the report card with number/letter grades. And, as was the case with aut hentic assessment, traditional reporting methods were a comfortable fit with the m ore traditional practices preferred by teachers at these schools. At the one school that u sed the KELP, student progress was reported to parents in narrative, and was shared at conferences scheduled at regular intervals during the year. Teachers at this school reported that the KELP was timeÂ–consuming, but provided a great deal of inform ation about student progress. Professional teamwork Primary teachers at all schools initially attempt ed some form of teaming, and tried to carve out time for co mmon planning. Teaming often meant exchanging or mixing students for a portion of the day so that, for instance, one teacher taught to an advanced group while another taught lo wer ability students. At one school, however, primary teachers did teach together in a l arge, open classroom that facilitated communication and flexible grouping and regrouping of students. This sort of teamwork was still in evidence at that school in 1996-97. Ov er time, initial structures for common planning and teamwork either disappeared or became under-utilized at five of the six schools, as well as around the state (Bridge, 1995) However, primary teachers continued to communicate with one another and work together m ore than in the past. Positive parent involvement The level of parent involvement has been highly varied among our study schools throughout the resea rch period. Programs to acquaint parents with the primary program were held at all s ix schools the first year of implementation. Some schools instituted parent volu nteer programs, and many primary teachers sent regular newsletters home to keep pare nts abreast of classroom activities. Initial efforts to get parents involved in the prim ary program have relaxed at all schools, but parent involvement efforts are generally higher now than they were pre-KERA. Disjunction between primary program and intermediat e grades As mentioned previously, primary program implementation was hamp ered by the lack of clear linkages
13 of 32to the larger reform. This disconnect played out no t only at the state level, where support materials and training for primary were developed s eparately from those for all grade levels, but also within local schools. Primary teac hers were focused on the critical attributes, while teachers in the intermediate grad es were focused on preparing students for the state assessment. Intermediate-grade teache rs were themselves unclear on how to teach in ways that would help all of their students reach the demanding goals of the state assessment, but they did know that they had to help students develop portfolios and answer open-response questions, both key features o f the state test. Because most elementary schools extend only up through fifth or sixth grade, and elementary students were administered the state assessment in grades fo ur and five, the entire school was held accountable for these students' performance. T he pressure of this accountability program led most intermediate-grade teachers to int ensify the more traditional approaches rather than attempt new, untried, and un proven strategies in a highstakes environment. Ideally, had the two groups of teacher s come together with their concerns, primary teachers might have become more focused on KERA goals and expectations, and intermediate teachers might have looked to the primary to identify instructional practices that might help students acquire those go als. Instead, the two programs developed in relative isolation from one another. P rimary teachers worked together to fashion programs that addressed the critical attrib utes, while intermediate teachers worked feverishly to prepare their students for the state assessment. As a result, it appeared that two separate reforms were underway in the study schools. The split between the two programs was palp able, leading to resentment on both sides. Primary teachers were constantly given the m essage by intermediate grade teachers that the "cutesy" things they were doing i n their classrooms were not preparing students for the rigorous expectations of fourth gr ade. Over time, rather than the primary program concept working its way up through the elem entary school, pressure to prepare students for the state assessment program filtered down into the primary program. Primary teachers in the study schools were unsure h ow to incorporate rigorous content within the critical attributes of the primary progr am; and they had been given the message from intermediate teachers that the approac hes they were using were NOT preparing students for the assessment. Therefore, i nstead of using the new approaches they had learned to teach to KERA goals, many prima ry teachers returned to the tried-and-true, scope-and-sequence curriculum mater ials to make sure they were covering all the content required to do well on the assessment.Effects on Students Studies of nongraded programs in other stat es and nations have generally shown that such programs do NOT negatively impact achieve ment, and sometimes have positive effects on noncognitive measures such as improved student attitudes toward self, peers, and school (Lloyd, 1999; Miller, 1990; Pavan, 1992; Veenman, 1995). Determining achievement effects of Kentucky's prima ry program is difficult for at least three reasons: (1) the program was not fully implem ented either in our study school or in most schools statewide (McIntyre & Kyle, 1997); (2) all Kentucky elementary schools were required to implement the primary program, so no control group of Kentucky students was available with which to compare achiev ement; and (3) there are no good baseline data with which to compare pre-KERA and po st-KERA achievement. Most schools discontinued administering the CTBS for the first few years after KERA was
14 of 32passed and when they resumed, a different version o f the test was in place. With these provisos in mind, we will use the evidence that is available to conjecture about the effects of the changes that were implemented at the primary level. Anecdotal evidence As soon as the first group of primary students ex ited to fourth grade, we began to hear comparisons of them to prev ious fourth graders. Fourthgrade teachers reported that students coming out of the p rimary program were lacking basics skills, specifically in the areas of spelling and m ath facts. Some teachers also complained that students were unaccustomed to worki ng alone because of being allowed to work with partners and help one another in the p rimary program. Another complaint was that, because primary teachers emphasized posit ive aspects of student work, students could not discern or did not care if they had done well or poorly on their work; for instance, believing that getting half of the an swers correct on a test or exercise was good work. To balance those complaints, parents and fo urth grade teachers also told us that the exiting primary students were "better thinkers," as ked more questions, and were better creative writers. Parents of randomly-selected stud ents in the class of 2006 almost universally reported that their children enjoyed sc hool, and had learned much more than the parents expected by the time the students reach ed fourth grade. Although some parents had initially been confused by the new syst em for reporting student progress and many still wished for letter grades, we did not see in any of our study districts a general uprising from parents against the primary program. By the time the class of 2006 had reached fourth grade, most of the parents we interv iewed expressed satisfaction with the primary experienceÂ—although a few reported that som e primary teachers had interpreted continuous progress to mean that children should be allowed to do only what they wished to do. On a statewide survey conducted in 1999, sc hool board members, principals, teachers, parents, and the general public were aske d how well the primary program had worked to improve teaching and learning in local sc hools. Over 60 percent of school board members, educators, and parents serving on sc hool councils believed the program had worked well. Over half of public school parents and the general public also believed the program had worked well; another 20-30 percent of these two groups reported that they did not know or were undecided. Less than one third of any group reported that the program had worked poorly (Kentucky Institute for E ducation Research, 1999). Test scores State assessment results suggest some positive ou tcomes of the primary program. Statewide, fourth-grade scores in all subject areas improved between 1993 and 1998, with the highest overall score and t he greatest gains occurring in reading. NAEP scores have also improved at the four th-grade level in reading and math, surpassing the national average in reading by 1998. On the CTBS/5 in 1999, exiting primary student scores had improved very slightly o ver the previous two years and were at or above the national average in all areas. Whil e these scores alone may not be indicative of the primary program's effectiveness, given that our study and others cited previously indicate that many schools have not full y implemented the program, they suggest that at the very least, no harm has been do ne by the primary program. McIntyre & Kyle (1997) reported that a stud y that compared student achievement on the state assessment to levels of primary implem entation found no general pattern that linked the two (Hughes & Craig, 1994, as cited by McIntyre & Kyle). In our sample of six schools, three schools had consistently risi ng test scoresÂ—and relatively high scoresÂ—on the state assessment the first two accoun tability cycles (a period of four years). Of these three, two had maintained fairly t raditional practices; the other was the one school that had most fully implemented the prim ary program. In the third cycle,
15 of 32however, one of the more traditional schools had de clining scores, while the other had experienced a very small increase. Only the school that was most fully implementing the program continued to surpass the improvement goal s et by the state. This school, where over 50 percent of the student body were from low-i ncome families, also had the highest scores among our six study schools (see the Orange County Elementary School case study in Appendix A). While our study sample is too small to generalize these findings to the state, we might conjecture that schools impl ementing traditional practices will reach a plateau on the state assessment, which is d esigned to measure higher order skills; and that more substantive changes are required if s chools are to continue to improve on the state test. Further research is needed in this area.Discussion The above discussion illustrates the diffic ulties Kentucky experienced trying to move schools from a traditional graded approach to a continuous progress model. That schools should find it difficult to make this trans ition is hardly surprising, given that graded schooling has been a hallmark of formal educ ation in this country for over 100 years. Studies of school reform have shown that gra ded instruction has been highly resistant to change over the years. Tyack and Tobin (1994) identify graded schools as part of a "grammar of schooling" that has remained remarkably stable over time. Similarly, Elmore (1996), Firestone, Mayrowetz & Fa irman (1998), and Tyack and Cuban (1995), identify age and ability grouping as part of a core pattern of schooling that has historically proven highly resistant to ch ange. Tyack and Tobin (1994) attribute the staying power of graded schooling (and other wi dely-accepted school structures) to the fact that this organizational form got in on th e ground floor of organizational development of schools and thus, became institution alized. They also note that inertia plays a role; and that familiar organizational stru ctures such as graded schooling enable teachers to discharge their duties in predictable f ashion: controlling student behavior, instructing heterogeneous populations, and sorting people for future roles in school and life. The historical record alone, then, suggests t he monumental task that the Kentucky legislature undertook in attempting to replace grad es K-3 with a nongraded structure. Our research, as well as other studies of Kentucky' s primary program, adds Kentucky to the long list of places that have tried, somewhat u nsuccessfully, to eliminate the graded structure of schooling. What lessons might be learned from Kentucky 's attempt at establishing a nongraded primary program? The first issue that must be consi dered is whether it is possible to mandate a change of this magnitude. National and in ternational researchers who have studied and advocated for nongraded programs emphas ize that nongradedness is a philosophy as much as a practice, and that only tea chers with some commitment to the concept are likely to implement it with any success (Anderson, 1993; Goodlad & Anderson, 1987; Lloyd, 1999; Pavan, 1992). In the face of such evidence, one wonders i f states and localities might look at other ways to accomplish the goals of nongradedness. Lloy d (1999), who reviewed recent research on multi-age classes, poses this very ques tion at the conclusion of his review: is the multi-age structure a necessary condition for d elivery of developmentally appropriate curriculum, or would it be more fruitful to ensure that teachers of single-grade classrooms adopt the practices of good multi-age te achers, such as a focus on diversity/individual differences and continuous pro gress, differentiated instruction and
16 of 32developmentally appropriate curriculum, curriculum which can be engaged at different levels of complexity, flexible grouping, and collab orative learning? In Kentucky, the vision for the entire refo rm was to create a system in which all students at all grade levels, through varied instru ctional approaches and continuous assessment of progress, would be helped to achieve challenging standards. While nongradedness seems a very rational means to accomp lishing this goal, mandating such a program ran counter to the reform's overall philo sophy of allowing schools to determine how to help students achieve KERA goals. In addition, research has demonstrated the intractability of the concept of g raded instruction. Given that the desire in Kentucky and many other states and localities is to restructure educational systems so that all students can achieve at high levels withou t being stigmatized if they fail to do so in prescribed ways and on a prescribed schedule, re sources might be better directed toward professional development and technical assis tance on teaching challenging content to all students through diverse instruction al strategies, rather than on mandating nongradedness for its own sake. Yet, Lloyd (1999) asserts that the very fac t that age-related assumptions about development are resistant to widespread change is a rationale for implementing nongraded programs. The multi-age structure itself is more likely to offer the perceived benefits than are single-grade classrooms. In Kentu cky, it was this sort of thinking that led to including the primary program in the reform package in the first place. This was a way to jump-start a reform that was meant to change teacher beliefs about who can learn, what they can learn, and how they can learn it. While there have clearly been problems mand ating this sort of sweeping change, we are unprepared to say that Kentucky's nongraded pri mary program should not have been attempted, or should be abandoned at this juncture. We have seen that instructional change aimed at meeting students' individual needs has been more widespread in the primary grades than at other levels of the system. Available achievement data shows that achievement for students who have been through the primary program has improved in some areas, while remaining stable in others. In ad dition, we have anecdotal evidence that the primary program has improved student motiv ation and attitudes toward schooling, as well as their creativity and thinking skills. A great deal of time and energy has been ex pended in Kentucky on implementing both the primary program and the larger reform. Rat her than disrupt the reform process and risk sending the message that the goals of the primary have been abandoned, the most prudent approach for Kentucky policymakers at this point is to work toward linking the primary program approach with the overa ll goals of KERA. The first step in this process would be to send clear, highly visible messages to schools that the primary program is still in place. Second, the overall goal s of the primary program must be made clear. Fullan and Stiegelbauer (1991) argue that th e crux of change involves the development of meaning in relation to a new program In Kentucky, a basic problem that plagued implementation of the primary program from the beginning was that its meaning was unclear to teachers. In articulating the progra m's overall purpose, the link to overall KERA goals must be established. It should be made c lear that the purpose of the primary program is to enable all students to progress continuously toward acquisiti on of KERA goals. Linkages need to be made between support sys tems and implementation documents such as the KELP, which helps establish w hether primary students are ready to move on to the fourth grade, and the Core Content for Assessment (Kentucky Department of Education, 1996a), which defines the content on which fourth-graders will be tested. Finally, Kentucky policymakers should accep t (as they have been doing all along)
17 of 32variations on the primary program concept. The grad ed structure may never be entirely eliminated, but if implementation of the primary pr ogram leads teachers to move closer to a continuous progress model that enables all stu dents to achieve the reform goals in ways that are appropriate to them, then the program will have been a success. Note This publication is based on work sponsored wholly or in part by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U. S. Departm ent of Education, under contract number RJ96006001. Its contents do not necessarily reflect the views of OERI, the Department, or any other agency of the U. S. Govern ment. This publication is based on work sponsored wholly or in part by the Office of E ducational Research and Improvement, U. S. Department of Education, under c ontract number RJ96006001. Its contents do not necessarily reflect the views of OE RI, the Department, or any other agency of the U. S. Government. AEL is an Equal Opp ortunity/Affirmative Action Employer. AEL's mission is to link the knowledge fr om research with the wisdom from practice to improve teaching and learning. AEL serv es as the Regional Educational Laboratory for Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and W est Virginia. For these same four states, it operates both a Regional Technology in E ducation Consortium and the Eisenhower Regional Consortium for Mathematics and Science Education. In addition, it serves as the Region IV Comprehensive Technical Assistance Center and operates the ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Sch ools. Information about AEL projects, programs, and services is available by wr iting or calling AEL. AEL, Inc.Post Office Box 1348Charleston, West Virginia 25325 -1348 304/347-0400800/624-9120304/347-0487 (Fax)firstname.lastname@example.org://www.ael.orgReferencesAnderson, R.H. (1993). The return of the nongraded classroom. Principal, 72 (3), 9-12. Anderson, R.H. & Pavan, B.N. (1993). Nongradedness: Helping it to happen Lancaster, PA: Technomic.Bridge, C. A. (1995). The Implementation of Kentucky's Primary Program 1 995: A progress report. Lexington, KY: Institute on Education Reform, Univ ersity of Kentucky. Cohen, David K. (1995). What is the system in syste mic reform? Educational Researcher 24 (9), 11-17, 31. Elmore, Richard F. (1996). Getting to scale with go od educational practice. Harvard Educational Review 66(1), 1-26. Firestone, W. A., Mayrowetz, D., & Fairman, J. (199 8). Performance-based assessment and instructional change: The effects of testing in Maine and Maryland. Educational
18 of 32Evaluation and Policy Analysis 20 (2), 95113. Foster, Jack D. (1999). Redesigning Public Education: The Kentucky Experien ce Lexington, Kentucky: Diversified Services, Inc.Fuhrman, S. H., Elmore, R. F., & Massell, D. (1993) School reform in the United States: Putting it into context. In S. L. Jacobson & R. Berne (Eds.), Reforming education: The emerging systemic approach pp. 3-27. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.Fullan, M.G. (February, 1996). Turning systemic thi nking on its head. Phi Delta Kappan 420-423. Fullan, M. G. & Stiegelbauer, S. (1991). The new meaning of educational change Second edition. New York: Teachers College Press.Goodlad, J.I. & Anderson, R.H. (1987). The nongraded elementary school New York: Teachers College Press.Hornbeck, D. W. (1990, February 23). "Recommendatio ns related to Curriculum (Adopted by the Task Force on Education Reform 2/23 /90)." Frankfort, KY: Legislative Research Commission.Hughes, K., & Craig, J. R. (1994). Using performance assessment achievement data to evaluate a primary instructional program Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Evaluation Association, Boston, MA.Kentucky Department of Education (1991). Kentucky's primary school: The wonder years Program Description I. Frankfort, KY: author. Kentucky Department of Education (1993a). State regulations and recommended best practices for Kentucky's primary program Frankfort, KY: Author. Kentucky Department of Education (1993b). Transformations: Kentucky's curriculum framework. Frankfort, KY: Author. Kentucky Department of Education (1994, June). Kentucky Early Learning Profile: A part of the Kentucky primary system: Teacher's hand book Frankfort, KY: Author. Kentucky Department of Education (1996a). Core content for assessment, Version 1.0 Frankfort, KY: Author.Kentucky Department of Education (1999, August). Ke ntucky Department of Education, 1998-99 primary program: Response to data request f rom the Office of Education Accountability, August 10, 1999. Frankfort, KY: Aut hor. Kentucky Education Association/Appalachia Education al Laboratory (1991, April). Ungraded primary programs: Steps toward development ally appropriate instruction Charleston, WV: Appalachia Educational Laboratory.Kentucky Institute for Education Research. (1999, A ugust). 1999 Statewide education reform study, final report Bowling Green, KY: College of Education and Behav ioral
19 of 32Sciences, Western Kentucky University.Kyle, D. W. & McIntyre, E. (1993). Developing and implementing non-graded primary programs: Experiences from the primary year Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, A tlanta, GA. Lloyd, L. (1999). Multi-age classes and high abilit y students. Review of Educational Research, 69 (2), 187-212. Massachusetts Board of Education (1990). Structuring schools for student success: A focus on grade retention Boston, MA: Author. McIntyre, E. & Kyle, D. (1997). Primary program. In J. C. Lindle, J. M. Petrosko, & R. S. Pankratz (Eds.), 1996 review of research on the Kentucky Education R eform Act pp. 119-142. Frankfort, KY: Kentucky Institute for Educ ation Research. Metz, M. H. (1990). Real school: A universal drama amid disparate experience. In D. E. Mitchell & M. E. Goertz (Eds.), Education politics for the new century: The twentie th anniversary yearbook of the Politics of Education A ssociation pp. 75-91. London: The Falmer Press.Miller, B.A. (1990). A review of the quantitative r esearch on multigrade instruction. Research in Rural Education 7 (1), 1-8. Murphy, J. (1990). The educational reform movement of the 1980s: A comprehensive analysis. In J. Murphy (Ed.), The education reform movement of the 1980s: Perspec tives and cases (pp. 355). Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing Co rporation. National Association for the Education of Young Chi ldren (1987). 1987 NAEYC position statement on developmentally appropriate p ractice in the primary grades, serving 5through 8-year olds. Young Children 43(2), 64-68, 81-84. National Association of Elementary School Principal s (1990). Early childhood education and the elementary school principal Alexandria, VA: Author. O'Day, J. A. & Smith, M. S. (1993). Systemic reform and educational opportunity. In Fuhrman, S. H. (Ed.), Designing coherent education policy: Improving the system 250-312. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Office of Education Accountability (1996). Annual report Frankfort, KY: Kentucky General Assembly, Office of Education Accountabilit y. Office of Education Accountability (1997). Annual report Frankfort, KY: Kentucky General Assembly, Office of Education Accountabilit y. Pavan, B.N. (1992). The benefits of nongraded schoo ls. Educational Leadership, 50 (2), 22-25.Raths, J. & Fanning, J. (1993). Primary program reform in Kentucky revisited Report to the Prichard Committee. Lexington, KY: Prichard Com mittee for Academic Excellence. Raths, J., Katz, L. & Fanning, J. (1992). The status of primary school reform in
20 of 32Kentucky and its implications: Report to the Pricha rd Committee Lexington, KY: Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.Rose v. Council for Better Educ., 790 S. W. 2d 186, 60 Education Law Reporter 1289 (KY 1989).Schwartz, H. (1991). Putting the pieces together: A systemic approach to educational reform. Planning and Changing, 22 (3/4), 231-239. Smith, M.S., & O'Day, J. (1991). Systemic school re form. In S.H. Fuhrman & B. Malen (Eds.), The politics of curriculum and testing: The 1990 Po litics of Education Association yearbook (pp. 233267). Bristol, PA: Falmer. Tyack, D. B. (1974). The one best system: A history of American urban ed ucation Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Tyack, D., & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward Utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Tyack, D. and Tobin, W. (1994). The "grammar" of sc hooling: Why has it been so hard to change? American Educational Research Journal 31 (3), 453-480. Veenman, S. (1995). Cognitive and noncognitive effe cts of multigrade and multi-age classes: A best-evidence synthesis. Review of Educational Research 65, 319-381. Wilkinson, W. G. (1988a) A plan to restructure schools in Kentucky Frankfort, KY: Office of the Governor.Wilkinson, W. G. (1988b) Q & A: Improving Kentucky's schools: A conversatio n with Governor Wallace G. Wilkinson Frankfort, KY: Office of the Governor.About the AuthorsPatricia J. Kannapel Research and Development Specialist for AEL, Inc. (Charleston, WV), has been co-director of AEL's ten-year study o f the implementation of statewide reform four rural Kentucky school districts. She ho lds masters' degrees in education and anthropology from the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky. Patty is currently a doctoral student in applied anthropolog y at the University of Kentucky. Lola Aagaard was a researcher with AEL's study of the Kentucky Education Reform Act for eight years of its tenyear span. Her Ph.D is in adult and community education (with an emphasis in research methods and data anal ysis) from the University of Oklahoma. Lola's eclectic academic history also inc ludes degrees in nursing, biology, and public health. Email: email@example.com Pamelia Coe has been principal investigator of AEL's tenyear study of the implementation of the Kentucky Education Reform Act She obtained her masters' degree in cultural anthropology from Columbia Unive rsity (NY) and her Ph.D. in foundations of education (specializing in anthropol ogy of education) from Michigan
21 of 32State University. Prior to becoming involved in edu cational research, Pam worked in community development with the American Friends Ser vice Committee, mostly with American Indian groups. Cynthia A. Reeves spent four years as a member of AEL's research tea m studying the implementation of statewide reform in four rural Ke ntucky school districts. She holds master's degrees in economic development and applie d anthropology from the University of Kentucky. Cindy is currently working on her dissertation in applied anthropology at the University of Kentucky.Appendix A Case Studies of the Primary ProgramOverview These case studies illustrate the ways in w hich local factors influenced the implementation of the primary program, whether towa rds greater or lesser conformity with the mandate. The descriptions of these schools also portray the wide range of practices that are taking place under the "primary" umbrella in Kentucky. The schools profiled here are normal schoolsÂ—neither the worst nor the best that Kentucky has to offer. Their responses to the primary program manda te ranged from grudging implementation of the least they thought they could get by with to enthusiastic acceptance and nearly full implementation.Newtown Elementary School Â—"Tradition, Tradition!" Overview The local factor that most heavily influenced the development of the primary program at Newtown Elementary School (NES) was a longstanding tradition of excellence in education, as evidenced by some of th e highest standardized test scores in the state and a college attendance rate of over 90 percent. This tradition reinforced teachers' deeply felt belief in the value of the ri gorous traditional program the school provided. In addition, strong parental involvement and teachers' feelings of empowerment created a very positive school climate. When the school earned rewards after the first biennium of KIRIS testing, these fa ctors were reinforced and there was even less incentive for change than there had been originally. NES is located in a small town, which has h ad its own independent school district since the early years of the century. Newtown pride s itself on raising enough local tax revenue to support a highly successful school syste m, whose students have outperformed those in any of the nearby rural county districts. Parents have traditionally been highly invested in their children's education, and middle class families from a number of nearby districts have paid tuition to send their children to the independent district. History of the primary program The principal who was at the school when the program was being developed encouraged teachers and parents to take leadership and gave them unstinted support. Planning for the prima ry program was accomplished mostly through the efforts of one or two enthusiast ic teachers, who were interested in receiving additional training to implement the new program. Most of the faculty remained skeptical of the mandated changes. The initial NES primary program plan specif ied three-year, multi-age classrooms, with a separate kindergarten program. Primary teach ers had access to a broad spectrum of training opportunities, but not all availed them selves of the full range. Teachers and students were divided into multi-year primary famil ies, with groups of teachers sharing students. Students studied reading and math in skil l groups (largely single age) but were
22 of 32taught "themes" (usually science and social studies ) in the multi-age setting. Teachers reported that it was difficult to keep the attentio n of and involve students across such a wide age range. The first year of implementation, some teac hers continued to use mostly traditional methods, but supplemented them with some new approa ches, including centers, sustained silent reading, journal writing, and some hands-on math and science projects. Nearly all teachers rearranged their classrooms so that desks were in clusters or students seated around tables rather than in straight rows f acing front. Many engaged in joint planning with one another. Some teachers shelved th eir textbooks and taught thematically. Teachers struggled with anecdotal records, but many began ensuring that primary students kept portfolios of work. (The content of t he portfolios and the number of pieces of work varied from teacher to teacher.) Student pr ogress was reported on a skills checklist with a narrative section rather than a tr aditional report card. Parents lamented the elimination of letter grades and reported that neither they nor their children could tell from the progress reports just how the students wer e doing. The multiyear families at Newtown Element ary changed quickly to dualage self-contained classrooms, and later they changed a gain to essentially single-age units. The dual-age rooms, in some cases, were taught as s plit classes with little mixing of the two age groups for instructional purposes. Joint pl anning decreased to cooperation among grade-level teachers with the exception of pl anning for periodic schoolwide themes. Instruction remained largely traditional wi th a skills emphasis. Even so, teachers at higher grade levels reported that some primary stud ents were advancing to the upper grades without the necessary proficiencies. Soon, e ven teachers who had enthusiastically embraced new methods returned to stressing skills e ither on their own or as a result of encouragement from others. Textbooks, worksheets, p honics workbooks, and spelling books were very much in evidence. Some teachers, es pecially at the third grade level, opted to give number or letter grades on student wo rk. These traditional approaches were reinforce d when the KIRIS results began coming in: the school earned rewards in the first two acco untability cycles. The success of the "tried and true" methods convinced school personnel that they were on the right track and should persevere. Most parents were very please d with the school's approach; they had been uncomfortable with the year or two of caut ious experimentation that followed the initial primary implementation. Status of the primary program at the end of the 1996-97 school year Newtown Elementary had retained some of the new strategies encouraged by the primary program. Teachers reported that primary students were writin g more than in the past. Students worked in groups more than they did before KERA, ac cording to the principal. Hands-on math and science have proven helpful and i nteresting for most teachers and students, although the extent to which these approa ches were used varied by teacher. Teachers were conscious of the individual skill lev els of students and tried to take them into account. Some teachers grouped students by ski ll level for reading or math instruction. Others gave whole class instruction in the basic subject areas but required less of students who had lower skill levels. The school personnel seemed comfortable wit h their approach in the primary program, and there was no sense of movement toward more or less implementation. Throughout the school's implementation of KERA, the faculty was confident that NES students would be successful on the statewide asses sment and that the school will continue to be recognized as one of the most academ ically rigorous and successful
23 of 32schools in the area. Summary NES was proud of its primary program before KERA was passed. The faculty has used the training made available as the KERA primary program was implemented to increase their repertoire of techniq ues and materials, and they have made some lasting changes, such as increasing the a mount of writing done by primary students. But, for the most part, they have approac hed change with great caution. Their KIRIS scoresÂ—like their previous scores on standard ized testsÂ— have been high enough to convince them that their approach was correct an d that their traditionally high academic standards will be maintained.Kessinger Elementary SchoolÂ—"The Need for Leadershi p" Overview The factors that appeared to most strongly influe nce the evolution of the primary program at Kessinger Elementary were local ones: leadership, teacher beliefs, and school climate. Interestingly, many primary tea chers at Kessinger appeared to grasp the intent of the primary program and to agree with the overall philosophy of allowing students to progress at their own rate through an i nstructional program geared to the needs of young learners. The primary program might have been implemented in a consistent direction at Kessinger had the faculty b een able to pull together toward a common vision. But the opportunity to do so was imp eded by frequent changes in principals, as well as a longstanding lack of cohes iveness among the teachers. Differing philosophies among teachers that had been largely d ormant pre-KERAÂ—when teachers had the freedom to teach as they saw fit within the ir own classroomsÂ—were brought to the forefront when the faculty was called upon to c reate a coherent primary program. History of the primary program Kessinger Elementary is located in a small, rural county where the economy is based largely on agricu lture. In spite of an increase in the local tax rate and more state funding after KERA wa s passed, the district continues to struggle financially because of lack of industry an d tourism in the county. There is a great deal of turnover in school and district leade rship, in part because the district pays lower administrator salaries than surrounding distr icts. Kessinger has had five principals in the eight years since the passage of KERA. When KERA passed, Kessinger teachers exhibi ted varying degrees of enthusiasm for the nongraded primary program. Generally, prima ry teachers were willing to give the program a try and planned to implement it as specif ied by state guidelines. Some teachers, however, found that the primary philosoph y fit their own belief systems very well and were eager to begin implementation, while others were skeptical and wanted to proceed more slowly. These different viewpoints exa cerbated existing tensions among the faculty. The principal was uncomfortable with t he conflict that arose from trying to arrive at a common vision for the program. When dif ferences of opinion surfaced at the first meeting to plan the primary program, the prin cipal delayed the planning process to provide a cooling-off period. Instead, the controve rsy heated up. By 1992Â–93, Kessinger teachers had been una ble to agree on a primary configuration, so they implemented two different ap proaches. One team of teachers implemented a KÂ–3 arrangement at one end of the hal l, while another team implemented a dualÂ–age arrangement (KÂ–1, 1Â–2, and 2Â–3) at the o ther end. Neither team had common planning time with their colleagues, and teachers o n both teams reported at midÂ–year that they were exhausted and frustrated from trying to implement new instructional programs without support or time to interact with t heir peers. Teachers on both teams tried different strategies for student grouping but were unable to settle on a strategy satisfactory to all. By the end of the year, teache rs on the K-3 team began to differ
24 of 32among themselves, with some supporting the KÂ–3 arra ngement, others favoring a dualÂ–age configuration, and others coming to believ e that singleÂ–grading was desirable. There did not seem to be a strategy for teachers to meet and try to reach consensus on a unified approach. In 1993Â–94, the frustration and confusion r egarding the Kessinger primary program reached a peak. Teachers still had not agreed on th e appropriate configuration, and a new source of conflict arose when some teachers began t o push to exclude kindergarten students from the program. Teachers moved kindergar ten in and out of the program during the school year, shifting students among tea chers. A parent complained that her child changed classes four times during the year as the teachers wavered on kindergarten inclusion. Another parent described the primary pro gram as "a mess," and reported that the two factions of primary teachers were constantl y bickering. The teachers themselves contemplated having a "negotiator" from the state d epartment come talk to them. After the 1993-94 school year, the Kessinge r principal opted to return to the classroom. The SBDM council hired a principal from outside the district who initiated and supported a move to dualÂ–age classrooms with so me ability grouping for skills. The primary configuration at Kessinger in 1994Â–95 was K Â–1, 1Â–2, and 2Â–3. Teachers kept their students in dualÂ–age groups for a period of t ime each day, but students spent the bulk of the day in ability groups, mostly by grade. The disagreement over kindergarten inclusion in the primary program continued. This second (since our study began) princip al resigned for a better offer in another district at the end of 1994Â–95. The SBDM council, o n a split vote with no principal yet on board, voted to switch to a singleÂ–grade configu ration the following year. The move was supported by intermediategrade teachers, as w ell as some parents. The council subsequently hired a new principal, who set out to support the program that was already in place. She divided Kessinger teachers into singl eÂ–grade teams and, for the first time, teams were given common planning time. Although tea chers appeared to get along better, there were signs that factionalism continue d. The principal reported that they were still "fighting the battle" in the school and with the community about what was expected of multiÂ–age classrooms. A veteran faculty member reported that KERA had divided the school into "for" and "against" faction s, and that teachers wasted a lot of time pulling in different directions and trying to win support for their views. Status of the primary program at the end of the 1996-97 school year At the end of 1995Â–96, the third principal resigned to return to her home county. A new principal was hired and set about to bring the primary program "i nto compliance" with state requirements in 1996-97. This fourth principal, how ever, came on too strong for some teachers and was unable to intervene successfully. She attributed the problems in the primary to the lack of continuity in leadership. Sh e said she had tried to help with this, but conceded that "there are times when my vision i mpedes the process." At the end of the school year, she resigned because she did not f eel she had sufficient support to be an effective leader. The ongoing turmoil at Kessinger had consid erably less detrimental effect on the primary program in particular and instruction in ge neral than one might expect. In fact, Kessinger earned rewards in the second accountabili ty cycle (1994-95 and 1995-96). By 1996-97, Kessinger primary teachers, as a group, di d not seem to have been defeated by the conflict that had become a way of life at the s chool. Classroom observations at Kessinger revealed that very little instructional t ime was wasted, and that teachers were generally focused on helping students succeed. The majority of Kessinger primary teachers continued to implement many practices cons istent with the primary philosophy. Many struggled within the singleÂ–grade structure to manage a continuous progress
25 of 32model in their classrooms or exchanged students wit h other teachers. For instance, at least two teachers within their own classrooms esta blished individualized reading programs for students. Two teachers of different gr ade levels combined their classes three times a week to teach science, planning units together after school and on weekends. Teachers who supported fuller implementatio n of the primary program were not vocal in their support, but seemed to have decided that the best way to manage the situation was to try to do what they thought best f or students within their own classrooms or in conjunction with another, like-min ded teacher. Teachers who opposed the primary program were more vocal. Generally, the KES teachers we interviewed and observed, whether they supported the primary concep t or not, seemed to be conscientious and devoted to helping students learn The two factions of teachers had simply been unable to arrive at a meeting of the mi nds with regard to the primary program. Those who opposed the program, including s ome parents, were more vocal and influential than supporters. The latter group conti nued to support the primary program and implement it to the best of their ability withi n a structure that was not conducive to the primary concept. Summary The Kessinger case illustrates how inconsistencie s in leadership can seriously impede a school's progress, particularly in a school where a faculty that lacks cohesiveness is called on to make major programmati c and instructional changes. In the early stages of primary program implementation, tea chers were mostly left on their own to work out their differences. At that time, most o f the teachers were willing to at least give the program a try, although there were varying levels of enthusiasm. When things did not go well at first, teachers had only their o wn belief systems and past experience to fall back on in knowing what to do next. Those who had been skeptical about the program returned to practices with which they had b een successful previously. Those who supported the philosophy forged on, thus wideni ng the chasm between the two camps of teachers. By the time a principal was hire d who understood and supported the primary program philosophy, the factions were wellentrenched and difficult to bring together. The constant change in leadership since t hat time has made the problem worse. By the time each new principal had begun to grasp t he nature of the problem, the year was nearly over and then the principal moved on to another job. The situation will not be easily resolved under any circumstances, but there is a desperate need for continuity in leadership in order to get the primary program and the school on track. The future of the primary program at Kessin ger is uncertain. At the time of this writing, the Kessinger SBDM council had hired a new principal, this time someone from within the district. The primary program has switch ed to a K, 1-2, 3 configuration in an attempt to bring the program into "compliance." It remains to be seen what role the fifth principal will play in shaping the direction of the primary program. Because she has several years of experience in the school district, she may have greater insight into the problems going in than have previous principals. Wh ether her familiarity with Kessinger and its teachers will be an asset or a liability de pends not only on her ability to bring the faculty together, but on the teachers' own willingn ess to trust one another enough to ignore past differences and make another attempt at developing a common vision for students.Vanderbilt County Elementary SchoolÂ—"Why Are We Doi ng This?" Overview Vanderbilt County Elementary School (VCES) illust rates, perhaps more than any school in our study, how the combination o f state and local factors can
26 of 32influence primary program implementation. One of th e most central factors at VCES was the lack of a shared philosophy among the facul ty with regard to the primary program. The school had previously been traditional in its approach and had done well on standardized tests using this approach. KERA and a new principal arrived at the school nearly simultaneously, however, and it seeme d that a new day had dawned at VCES. VCES teachers were initially willing to suspe nd disbelief and implement new programs and strategies at the principal's urging. Some primary teachers were enthused about the changes but many were skeptical, perhaps because of their previous success using more traditional methods. When the first roun d of KIRIS results was released and VCES had not met its threshold, the teachers began retreating from primary program implementation. As a result, a school that initiall y made many changes in its approach to primary instruction returned to a program that clos ely resembled preÂ–KERA practices. History of the primary program VCES is located in the county seat of a rural, agricultural community. The new principal, hired in 1991 by the newly-formed SBDM council, greatly supported the concepts embedded in KERA and set about to put the school on a new path. Early reports from teachers w ere mostly complimentary; they appreciated the principal's energy, enthusiasm, and aggressiveness in seeking resources and opportunities for them to get the training they needed to implement KERA. The central office, too, was relatively pro Â–active in preparing teachers to implement the primary program, and several years of sound fis cal management enabled the district to provide substantial professional development to primary teachers. VCES teachers availed themselves of these opportunities more than teachers at other schools in the district, largely owing to the principal's encourag ement, support, and initiative in locating additional time and resources for teacher training. Primary teachers were appreciative of the resources and training availabl e to them, and most of them made many changes during initial implementation of the p rimary program. At that time, the focus appeared to be heav ily on implementation of the primary program critical attributes. VCES primary teachers changed their instructional and assessment approaches substantially, but did not ex press a strong sense of the overall purpose of the primary program. Many VCES teachers were especially skeptical of the multi-age requirement. The school was cautious in i mplementing a multi-age program, never going beyond a dual-age arrangement. During t he first year of implementation, half of the primary teachers had dual-age classroom s all day, while the other half had dual-age groups for an hour daily. Kindergarten tea chers incorporated their students into the program 90 minutes weekly. Teachers with full-d ay dual-age classrooms paired with another teacher for "skills grouping" in math and s ometimes reading: the teachers grouped students according to their skill level, wi th one teacher taking the "high" group and another the lower group. Teachers were required by the principal that year to submit evidence of flexible grouping and regrouping of stu dents. Teachers were provided with planning days and used these to collaborate with co lleagues. Collaboration tended to be dual-grade rather than across the primary. Many tea chers were systematic about keeping anecdotal records on students. In 1993-94, VCES primary teachers configure d their program with a variety of dualgrade arrangements: K-1, 1-2, and 2-3. In add ition, two self-contained kindergarten rooms were in place for parents who preferred that option. Primary teachers generally felt that a wider age span would be too difficult t o manage. Some teachers said they would prefer to return to a singleÂ–grade approach. Even with dualÂ–age classrooms, VCES primary teachers reported that they did not ke ep the same students from one year to the next so that no teacher would have the same problem students each year. Primary teachers continued to use many of the new instructi onal approaches they had learned
27 of 32about. In 1994Â–95, all VCES classrooms were config ured as either K/1 or 2/3. Teachers worked in teams of two or three within their grade groups (teams were either K/1 or 2/3, but there was not a mix) to do skills grouping each morning for language arts and math instruction. The skills groups were largely singlegrade groups, but some students crossed the grade boundary as needed. That same yea r, KIRIS results for the first biennium were released. Within the school district, other elementary schools that had not made as many changes as VCES scored high enough to earn rewards. VCES scores improved but the school did not meet its goal. Many teachers at VCES and throughout the district interpreted this as a sign that VCES h ad gone too far in throwing out triedÂ–andÂ–true methods. Teachers who had tried to f ollow the course the principal had set for the school began to question this course. T he principal began to give teachers more freedom to find approaches with which they wer e comfortable. The dual-age approach continued in 1995-96, but more and more teachers reported dissatisfaction with this arrangement; they express ed a desire to return to single-grade classrooms. Teachers began to incorporate some of t he more traditional approaches back into their classrooms, such as using basal readers and teaching spelling and phonics as separate subjects. Teachers reported that they felt less pressure now to use only the newer methods, perhaps because the assessment resul ts had given more credence to the argument that the new approaches were not effective Teachers also began to back away from authentic assessment techniques. One of the ch anges teachers had madeÂ—collaboration with special teachersÂ—increased in response to KIRIS results, as the school began to use Title I teachers as math an d science specialists to help teachers plan hands-on activities in their classrooms. Status of the primary program at the end of the 1996-97 school year The VCES principal, who initially made a strong effort to ge t the primary program moving in a consistent direction, changed strategy after the fi rst round of test scores were released. In 1996-97 when the primary teachers expressed a stron g desire to return to a single-grade configuration, the principal insisted they clear th is through the state department of education. When officials at the state department a ssured them that they could have single-grade homerooms with the understanding that students would be moved around during the day according to individual needs, the t eachers moved to a single-grade arrangement without overt opposition from the princ ipal. For the most part, VCES primary teachers appeared to have opted for a more traditional approach, placing students in single-grade classrooms and grouping th em mostly by ability in relatively stable groups. With the principal now giving the teachers more freedom in choosing instructional strategies, each primary teacher began implementing the program as she saw fit, resulting in approaches that varied from one classr oom to the next. The majority of primary teachers expressed support for the single-g rade approach, and several professed a belief that VCES teachers had thrown out too much initially and needed to return more to "the basics." Veteran primary teachers appeared to have reinstated the more traditional approaches. Younger teachers used more variety in t heir approaches, continuing to do some whole language, cooperative learning, handsÂ–on activities, and centers. Summary The VCES case illustrates how an educational inno vation can go awry when teachers do not see promising results after be ing obliged to make a change with which they do not agree and whose purpose they may not understand. VCES teachers were given ample professional development aimed at helping them implement the critical attributes, but they seemed to view the at tributes as ends in themselves, rather than as means to an end. The principal, who seemed to grasp the purpose of the primary
28 of 32program and felt implementation of the critical att ributes was essential to achieving the goals of the program, hoped that the extensive prof essional development VCES teachers received would bring them on board in implementing the program. Whether this happened or not, however, the principal felt respon sible for making sure the stateÂ–mandated primary program was implemented, and this was accomplished by a strong focus on process over content. As time went on and test results came in, however, the principal gave teachers more freedom in the cla ssroom in the hope that, once they were comfortable that they were covering the necess ary content, they would begin to incorporate strategies that enabled students with d ifferent learning styles to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. It is too soon to t ell what will become of the VCES primary program. In one sense, it might appear that KIRIS scores interrupted the reform process at VCES. However, if the principal and teac hers can continue working toward an approach that successfully combines the teachers expertise on what it takes to help students acquire basic skills with the principal's understanding of instructional strategies that enable all students to have success, then KIRI S results may have been just the impetus the school needed to get everyone moving in a common direction. Orange County Elementary SchoolÂ—"Change and Change Again" Overview At Orange County Elementary School (OCES), local factors facilitated the development of the most fully fleshed out prima ry program implementation we observed. There was a strong principal, teachers wh o trusted the principal and accepted her leadership, and a district ethic of openness to educational improvements. During primary program implementation, the school moved in to a new building designed to encourage flexible grouping and regrouping of stude nts and professional teamwork among the faculty. School climate is positive, and the faculty is developing a common, child-centered vision. When the first KIRIS results were reported, the school had the largest gains of any elementary school in the distr ict, and OCES earned rewards after the second biennium also. The faculty prided itself on what the school had been able to accomplish. In spite of success on KIRIS while implemen ting a relatively innovative primary program, OCES educators became fearful that they co uld not continue improving without increasing the fit between the primary prog ram and the KIRIS-driven upper elementary grades. Their solution was to combine th ird and fourth grades in a large open-space classroom. This combination resulted in a return to more traditional forms of instruction at the upper primary level, although co ntinuous progress and other aspects of the primary program were still emphasized. History of the primary program OCES is located in a large, rural, eastern Kentuc ky county school district. A new principal, who provid ed vigorous leadership, came to the school shortly before KERA went into effect. Some o f the faculty were initially leery of the new principal's strong advocacy of the nongrade d primary program and research-based curriculum innovations, but the prin cipal won their support by demonstrating respect for their professional opinio ns and decisions. From the beginning, teachers have been childoriented; they are determ ined to make sure their students, mostly from non-advantaged backgrounds, have the op portunity to achieve at high levels. Leadership from the principal and an active school counselor have reinforced the focus on the whole child. The school has the feel o f a large extended family, with cooks, instructional aides, and students, as well as teach ers and administrators, taking responsibility for the student body. The OCES primary committee, consisting of t he principal, counselor, and all K-3 teachers, developed and implemented a plan in which children aged 5-9 worked together in multi-age home bases for several hours a day. St udents worked on academic subjects
29 of 32in somewhat flexible skill groups for the balance o f the day. Special education children were fully integrated into these families. The plan resulted in frequent movement in the halls as children moved from room to room in order to change skill groups. One primary family was able to use a different strategy, howeve r. There was one large, open-space classroom that was able to accommodate four teacher s and almost 100 children. This arrangement facilitated teacher collaboration and m ore flexible grouping and regrouping than was possible in the other families. The primary teachers received a great deal of training in innovative curricula and strategies, especially during the planning year (19 91-92) and the first year of program implementation (1992-93). The primary teachers met as a group occasionally, and each family of teachers had common planning time schedul ed daily, when they jointly planned interdisciplinary themes or unitsÂ—usually t aught during multi-age, multi-ability "theme time" in the afternoon, after the academic s ubjects had been covered. Although the OCES primary teachers made a c oncerted effort to implement the critical attributes, they had difficulties that bro ught about an "implementation slump" during the third and fourth years of implementation Even with common planning time, teachers never had enough time to do all they had t o do, and they reported their personal life suffered. Parental participation, which was hi gh during the first two years of the program, waned, and collaboration among the teacher s in each family grew less intense. Teachers began using the common planning time for i ndividual planning. As primary students began entering fourth g rade, the upper elementary teachers compared them with previous classes. They reported that the children were more creative and better at problem solving than previou s classes, and less fearful of speaking in public, but that they were less disciplined and were often unwilling to sit quietly and work at their desks. When the school moved to the new facility, most primary children were housed in large open rooms, as had proved so successful for o ne primary family during the first two years of the program. One family shared two sma ller rooms. Another change for the primary was a district requirement that they use th e full Kentucky Early Learning Profile (KELP) for recordkeeping and reporting to parents. While some teachers complained bitterly about the amount of time and paperwork req uired by KELP, they also said that it enabled them to know their students and understand their achievement better than they ever had before. In 1996-97, the primary configuration was c hanged from K-3 families to two K-2 primary families and one large family combining Gra des 3 and 4. There were five teachers and approximately 100 children in the clas sroom housing Grades 3 and 4. The rationale for this move was to ease the transition from the primary program to fourth grade in both academics and deportment. The upper primary teachers responded to the pressure to prepare students for the academic rigors of KIRIS with a renewed emphasis on skills. They used basal readers and textbooks freely, following them closely in som e cases and using them as resources in others. Instruction was less thematic, although science and social studies were still taught as units. Students did participate in a numb er of hands-on science projects. The upper primary teachers incorporated con tinuous progress into basic skill areas. For a number of years every student in the school h as taken a basic skills test each year to make sure that those skills were not being negle cted. Beginning in 1996-97, the teachers in the third-fourth grade classroom assess ed all students in both grades on math and reading skills and used the resultsÂ—as well as their observation of student skillsÂ—to assign students to flexible skill groups. At the en d of each unit or chapter, students were shifted to other groups or new groups were composed based on student progress. Thus,
30 of 32 in a skill group focused on multiplication, some st udents might be assigned to a group reviewing place value, while others were considered ready to move on to division. Reading groups were shuffled less frequently than m ath groups. Status of the primary program at the end of the 1996-97 school year The K-2 classrooms at OCES were still organized around the seven critical attributes of the primary program; however, the final year of primary was focused on preparing students to succeed on KIRIS. The program in upper primary i ncorporated continuous progress in the basic tool subjects, especially mathematics, as part of this strategy. It is likely that the OCES primary program will continue to change in response to local pressures, including those of KIRIS preparation, perhaps by ho lding the younger primary students to increased academic expectations. Summary OCES illustrates how local factors, including a f elt need to improve local education, can lead a faculty to implement th e nongraded primary program wholeheartedly and how their response to state fact ors (KIRIS preparation) can influence the direction of change. Orange County educators we re committed to change because they wanted their students to achieve. Several fact ors came together in a timely way to persuade teachers that the primary program was a st ep in the right direction. Subsequently, educators at the school came to belie ve that the disjunction between the primary program and the intermediate grades must be addressed if the school was to continue meeting its accountability goal. Their cur rent solution to this problem seems to have pointed upper primary teachers toward a more t raditional scope and sequence as they attempt to inject KIRIS content into their ins truction. The teachers have not, however, abandoned a ll the primary program innovations: they continue to employ some flexible grouping and regrouping, the KELP assessment/reporting program, frequent communicatio n with parents, and hands-on and collaborative education as strategies for reaching their academic goals. Frequent testing as the basis for regrouping enables continuous prog ress in the basic tool subjects. The OCES dilemmaÂ—how to teach rigorous, cha llenging content while using developmentally appropriate practicesÂ—is shared by other Kentucky schools struggling with simultaneous implementation of a continuous pr ogress primary program and assessment-driven reform. The OCES primary program seems to be evolving in a rational and potentially positive direction. What t he teachers need is assurance that it is possible to integrate a KIRIS content focus into th e developmentally appropriate practices of the primary program, coupled with spec ific guidance in how to do thatÂ—then they would have the best of both worlds.Copyright 2000 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is epaa.asu.edu General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-0211. (602-965-9644). The Commentary Editor is Casey D. C obb: email@example.com .EPAA Editorial Board
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