, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 3-51

A six-district study of educational change: direct and mediated effects of the child development project

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Abstract

A comprehensive elementary school program, the Child Development Project, was conducted in two schools in each of six school districts over a three-year period. Two additional schools in each district served as a comparison group. The program attempts to create a 'caring community of learners' in school and classroom through classroom, schoolwide, and parent involvement components. The classroom component includes student collaboration, a literature-based approach to reading, and a student-centered approach to classroom management. Classroom observation, student questionnaire, teacher questionnaire, and test data were collected in a baseline year and in each of the three years of program implementation. Results showed positive student results in the five program schools that made significant progress in implementation. Schools that progressed in implementation showed gains – relative to their comparison schools – in students' personal, social, and ethical attitudes, values, and motives. Significant effects on academic achievement were found only in two schools with a performance-based assessment and a highly consistent local reform mandate. Modeling analyses indicated that student sense of community was an important mediating variable for almost all dependent variables – indicating that the program produced positive effects to the degree that it was successful in establishing a caring community in the school.