From Blueprint to Reality: San Diego's Education Reforms

Liam Julian

Julian R. Betts, Andrew C. Zau, and Kevin KingPublic Policy Institute of California2005

In 2000, the San Diego city school system stood at the forefront of the reform movement when it adopted then-Superintendent Alan Bersin's Blueprint for Student Success - an ambitious set of reforms to improve students' reading skills. In that same year, the district contracted with the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) to analyze and assess student achievement. This report, From Blueprint to Reality: San Diego's Education Reforms, is the second in a series and looks exclusively at the Blueprint and its impact. (Although many of the Blueprint programs have been discontinued or experienced cutbacks since their inception, the basic framework still exists.) The study finds that, although some of the Blueprint's policies are more effective than others, overall it is accomplishing its goals. The Blueprint program employs three strategies for raising reading skills:
- Prevention: Seeks to head off illiteracy by extending classes, supplying up-to-date teaching materials, and providing teachers with additional training.

- Intervention: Targets struggling students and provides peer coaches as well as additional practice and instructional time in reading.

- Retention: Retains students who demonstrate below-grade - level literacy skills.

Some strategies, such as assigning peer coaches to struggling students, didn't yield positive results at the district level, but others are showing their worth. For example, the Extended Reading Program - in which struggling students are supervised for 90 minutes of before- or after-school reading - was a significant success. The Blueprint has proven most beneficial to those elementary and middle school students performing in the bottom decile on national reading exams. The numbers from high schools were less rosy, though not all bad. In the early years, the Blueprint showed small, even negative, impact on high school students. But the results are improving, suggesting that the program is going through some growing pains. The report offers no final verdict on the Blueprint, but the preliminary results are encouraging, both for San Diego and for urban education administrators who seek innovative, successful reform ideas for their own cities. The report is available here.

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