The student achievement guarantee

Figure 1. A Tentative Model of SAGE Small-Class Size Teaching and Learning Schools

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Figure 1. A Tentative Model of SAGE Small-Class Size Teaching and Learning


Rigorous Curriculum

The extent to which the reading, language-arts, and mathematics curricula in SAGE

schools conformed to national standards is reported in Table 57. These data, which are derived

from teacher perceptions from the Teacher Questionnaire, suggest general overall agreement

with the standards in both curriculum areas, but somewhat greater agreement in reading and

language arts than mathematics.

Greater knowledge of students

1. Personal knowledge

2. Task-progress knowledge

Less misbehavior

1. Family atmosphere

2. Quick intervention

More time spent

on instruction

More hands-on


More student


More content


More individualization (using regular

teacher-centered methods)

1. One-to-one help

2. Small-group help

3. Class participation


In reading, the areas of greatest agreement are (1) that the names of parts of books are

taught, (2) students are encouraged to choose books of personal interest, and (3) students are

taught to apply a variety of decoding strategies. The areas of least agreement are (1) that

students are taught to critique non-print media, (2) students are taught how language can be

adjusted for different audiences, and (3) students are introduced to texts representing a range of

historical periods.

In mathematics, the areas of greatest agreement are (1) that students have the opportunity

to connect mathematics to everyday situations, (2) students learn the enumeration system

through concrete experiences, and (3) students have opportunities to deal with a wide variety of

patterns. The areas of least agreement are (1) that calculators are used, (2) the concept of chance

is explored through actual events, (3) perimeter and related areas are developed intuitively, and

(4) metric and other nonstandard measures are taught.

The results concerning rigorous curriculum for 1997-98 are strikingly similar to those

found in 1996-97. In both years, the areas that are comparatively low are areas that many would

see as being inappropriate for primary school children such as use of calculators, critiquing nonprint

media, or learning about perimeter.


Table 57. Rigorous Curriculum, Grades K-2

Reading/Language Arts N Mean Standard Deviation

Students introduced to texts: represent range of genres 304 4.18 .74

Students introduced to texts: represent range of historical 308 3.32 .83

Students introduced to texts: deal with topics relevant to real world 309 4.16 .69

Students introduced to texts: variety of ethnic, culture contexts 309 4.11 .72

Students taught to apply variety of decoding strategies 307 4.61 .63

Students introduced to variety of interpretative strategies 306 3.89 .91

Students taught names for parts of books 311 4.00 .98

Students introduced to literature terminology 310 4.29 .86

Students taught to categorize texts: fiction or non-fiction 311 4.78 .46

Students taught to categorize texts: topic or theme 309 3.87 .89

Students taught to categorize texts: author 309 3.83 .99

Students taught to make associations among texts 311 3.67 .78

Student taught aware of how language can be purpose adjusted 310 3.52 .85

Students taught aware of how language can be audience adjusted 309 3.26 .86

Students encouraged to choose books interested in reading 311 4.76 .46

Students apply lang/conventions: critique/discuss print texts 307 3.52 1.04

Students apply lang/conventions: critique/discuss non-print media 306 3.15 .96

Students apply lang/conventions: writing to develop interests 308 4.19 .82

Students apply lang/conventions: speaking to develop interests 309 3.98 .90


Students write own mathematics problem about real or imaginary 308 3.15 .91

Students encouraged to develop own strategy for solving problems 312 3.95 .78

Opportunity to investigate open problems have more than one sol. 311 3.61 .88

Write in math class to reflect and demonstrate understanding 309 3.30 2.49

Mathematics language and symbols introduced in context of expl. 311 4.12 .72

Opportunities to make connections between mathematics and other 312 4.14 .62

Opportunities to make connections between math & everyday 205 4.27 .63

Estimation when working with quantities, measurement, comput. 312 3.72 .79

Opportunity to explore and use estimation strategies in real sit. 311 3.65 2.42

Learn enumeration through concrete experiences 311 4.23 .77

Discuss, model, draw, write about their understanding 309 3.71 .89

Instruction of facts emphasize development of thinking strategies 309 4.06 .81

Develop own computation strategies and algorithms 304 3.34 1.08

Calculators used in appropriate situations 310 2.46 1.23

Instruction includes concrete experiences with metric units 309 3.11 1.13

Concepts of perimeter, area, volume are developed 306 3.12 .93

Opportunity to explore geometric shapes through concrete exp. 310 3.87 .78

Opportunity to work with 3-dimensional figures 310 3.54 .93

Formulate & solve problems involving collecting & analyzing data 311 3.57 .79

Make predictions, inferences, decisions from data 309 3.83 .77

Concept of chance explored by collection of data and other events 308 3.10 .84

Concrete and real experience to develop fraction concepts 309 3.61 .86

Recognize, describe, extend patterns 311 4.23 .68

Create patterns using materials and discuss patterns 311 4.16 .76


Professional Development

The professional development section of the Teacher Questionnaire was completed by

SAGE kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade teachers in May 1998. A total of 150 teachers

at the first- and second-grade levels returned the questionnaire. Results from these

questionnaires regarding context and process of professional development programs in the

teachers’ schools and teachers’ personal development plans are contained in Tables 58 and 59.

Table 58. Teachers’ Perceptions of Professional Development (Grades 1 & 2) N=150





1. Ongoing & Regular 1 4 7 42 46

2. changes in Practice 1 7 26 45 20

3. Adequate Funding 4 17 15 49 15

4. Widespread Support 2 12 25 43 19

5. Joint Learning 22 34 21 16 7

6. Study Groups 15 24 22 30 10

7. Improvement Plan 1 12 21 51 16

8. “Teacher as Learner” 0 6 21 57 17

9. Staff Development 1 6 16 60 17

10. Precede Decisions 3 19 43 31 6

11. Program Evaluation 3 18 41 30 8

12. Staff Development Activities 3 25 33 33 7

13. Teachers Knowledgeable 0 1 4 65 30

14. Ensure Quality 0 2 7 47 44

15. Effective Approaches 0 1 13 52 34

16. Strategies 0 1 13 44 42

17. Focus on Goals & Curriculum 0 4 19 50 27

18. Performance Assessments 1 6 18 54 21

19. Staff Development 6 23 33 29 9


Table 59. Teachers’ Perceptions of Their Personal Professional Development N=150

Question #20

Over the past year, I have…

Percentage of


Engaged in a mentoring relationship with another teacher. 49%

Participated in joint planning activities with other SAGE teachers. 96%

Collaborated with other teachers in delivering lessons. 88%

Collaborated with other teachers in evaluating student progress. 90%

Participated in a study group or on-line network. 24%

Collaborated in school-wide instructional initiatives or themes. 68%

Collaborated with other schools or institutions. 29%

Conducted research connected to my teaching. 26%

Attended a professional conference or skill-building workshop. 85%

Attended a workshop, seminar or retreat focused on diversity or human relations training. 28%

Attended a workshop, seminar or retreat focused on teaching smaller classes. 15%

Taken a course for graduate of CEU credit. 46%

Question 21

Do you have a personal formal, written professional development plan?

Yes 46%

No 54%

Question 22

Which of the following statements most accurately reflects the content of your professional

development plan?

It was determined primarily by me 36%

It was determined in consultation with school administrators. 14%

It was determined in consultations with district administrators. 1%

It was determined primarily by school and /or district administrators 6%

In terms of the content of staff development programs in SAGE schools, most teachers

agree that staff development in their schools is on-going, it enjoys financial as well as

professional and community support, and it brings about change on the part of teachers. There is

limited agreement, however, about the extent to which it occurs in joint learning activities inside

or outside of the school.

The findings regrding the process of staff development are that teachers strongly agree

that they are knowledgeable about child learning and development, are able to provide quality

education for all students, and have high expectations for all students. The areas in which there

is the least agreement are that teachers are involved in decisions concerning staff development,


staff development includes practical activities, and staff development focuses on teaching in

reduced size classrooms.

Teachers’ perceptions of their own development are contained in Table 59. These results

show that almost half of the responding teachers have professional development plans, and of

these about 60 percent are determined by the teachers themselves. The teachers’ professional

development over the past year consisted, primarily, of joint planning with other SAGE teachers,

collaborating with other teachers in delivering lessons and evaluating student progress, and

attending professional conferences or skills workshops. Those professional development

activities mentioned the least were attending workshops on reduced size classrooms or on

diversity, participating in study sessions or collaborating with other schools, and conducting

research regarding their teaching.

Family Involvement and Lighted Schoolhouse

The extent to which SAGE school parents are involved in the education of their children

is reported in Table 60 for 1996-97 and 1997-98. It can be seen that parent involvement is

relatively stable over the two-year period. Parent-school contacts occur most frequently through

teacher notes, teacher and parent conversations before or after school, and telephone calls.

Home visits and weekly progress reports occur infrequently.

Table 60. Questionnaire Results for Family Involvement

ITEM 1996-97 (N=212) 1997-98 (N=315)

Class Newsletter 71 62

Weekly progress report—requiring parent signature 24 28

Weekly progress report—not requiring parent signature 11 12

Notes sent home 98 93

Conversations with parents 95 94

Parental visits to school 74 76

Telephone calls 92 89

Home visits 10 14

Structured after school activities (not used) 33


Table 61 shows lighted schoolhouse data from the first two years of SAGE and the year

prior to SAGE. Data regarding lighted schoolhouse activities existing prior to SAGE were

obtained from the Baseline Data Questionnaire administered in May 1996, and from the school

contracts completed for DPI prior to a school’s enrollment in the SAGE program. Data for the

first year of SAGE, 1996-97, were obtained from principal interviews in addition to the year-end

reports required by DPI. Data for 1997-98 were obtained from the year-end reports required by


Schools report a progressive increase in the number of lighthouse activities and a

corresponding increase in the number of participants. Principal interview data from 1996-97

suggested that SAGE schools took responsibility for the conception and operation of the lighted

schoolhouse activities (as opposed to activities initiated by parents or community volunteers).

Those interviews also suggested that schools did not focus heavily on their lighted schoolhouse

activities in the first year of SAGE implementation. However, the data show that in nearly

every area, the number of lighthouse activities and the number of participants have increased

steadily since SAGE implementation.


Table 61. SAGE Schools’ Lighted Schoolhouse Activities for Students and for Families

Pre-SAGE 1996-97 1997-98

Change from

Pre-SAGE to




1996-97 to



Change from


to 1998

Student Activities

Child Care 12 13 17 4 1 5

Health Clinic 8 11 13 1 4 5

Breakfast 15 18 26 8 3 11

Tutoring 16 17 20 3 1 4

Homework Helpline 4 2 10 8 -2 6

Extended Library Hours 6 8 12 4 2 6

Community Recreation 14 19 25 6 5 11

Girl Scouts/Brownies 15 12 22 10 -3 7

Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts 12 12 23 10 1 11

Music Lessons 5 9 9 0 4 4

Summer Reading Program 0 0 13 13 0 13

Head Start 6 5 9 4 -1 3

Family Activities

Social Services 1 4 5 1 3 4

Health Clinic 4 8 7 -1 4 3

Family Resource Center 4 5 7 2 1 3

Adult Tech. Ed. 5 4 8 4 -1 3

GED Preparation 3 3 5 2 0 2

Extended Library Hours 5 5 11 5 1 6

Community Recreation 9 11 20 1 5 6

FAST 5 5 3 -2 0 -2

PTA/PTO 20 17 25 8 -3 5

Community Education 2 8 13 5 6 11

Even Start Literacy 1 2 5 3 1 4

Parent/Community Advisory 15 18 21 3 3 6

Other 7 36 31 4 20 24


Total Programs 202 213 329

Total Participants 11,766 15,678 20,796



The Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program is a statewide effort

to increase the academic achievement of children living in poverty by reducing the studentteacher

ratio in kindergarten through third grade to 15:1. Schools participating in the SAGE

program are also required to implement a rigorous academic curriculum, provide before- and

after-school activities for students and community members, and implement professional

development and accountability plans. The SAGE evaluation is being conducted under contract

with the Department of Public Instruction by the School of Education at the University of

Wisconsin–Milwaukee. This is the second of five annual evaluation reports.

During the 1996–97 school year SAGE was implemented in 30 schools located in 21

school districts. It encompassed 84 kindergarten classrooms, 96 first-grade classrooms, and 5

mixed-grade classrooms enrolling 1,715 kindergarten and 1,899 first-grade students. In 1997-98

the SAGE evaluation added 113 second-grade classrooms in the original 30 SAGE schools. In

1998-99 the SAGE evaluation added third-grade classrooms at those schools. The SAGE

evaluation will continue to assess the impact of the program in these schools through the 2000-

01 school year.

To measure academic achievement first-grade students in SAGE schools and in a group

of comparison schools were tested in October 1997 and again in May 1998 using the

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) Complete Battery, Terra Nova edition, Level 10

(fall) and Level 11 (spring). Second-grade students were administered Level 12 in May 1998. It

was decided that a standardized test at the kindergarten level was not an appropriate evaluation

measure. Therefore, standardized tests are not administered to kindergarten students as part of

the SAGE evaluation.


Major Findings

The Achievement Effect of Class Size Reduction

First grade

· Students in SAGE classrooms achieved significantly higher scores than students in

comparison school classrooms in all tested areas: mathematics, reading, and language arts.

The total scores of students in SAGE classrooms were also significantly higher than those of

comparison school students (see Tables 14-18, pages 24 and 25).

· African-American SAGE students, the programs largest minority group, scored lower than

African-American students in comparison schools in the fall pre-test, but made significantly

larger gains than comparison school students from pre-test to post-test. The test scores of

African-American students in SAGE classrooms surpassed those of African-American

students in comparison school classrooms on the spring post-test.

· African-American students in SAGE classrooms achieved greater gains on the CTBS total

score than white SAGE students from pre-test to post-test, reducing the achievement gap. In

contrast, African-American students in comparison school classrooms achieved lessor gains

and the gap in achievement between African-American students and white students widened.

Second Grade

· The achievement advantage of students in SAGE first-grade classrooms in 1996-97 appears

to be maintained in second grade in 1997-98. The advantage, however, does not appear to

have increased significantly.

Achievement Effects Related to SAGE Classroom Organization

Classrooms in the SAGE program achieve a 15:1 student-teacher ratio in several ways.

Most SAGE classrooms have roughly one teacher and fifteen students. Other classroom types

are also utilized, e.g., two teachers sharing a single classroom with 30 students but each teacher


teaching 15 students; two teachers team teaching roughly 30 students; and classrooms with

roughly 30 students that utilize a “floating teacher” to help teach selected subjects. There are not

enough classrooms of any single type of these latter types of classroom organization to do

separate analyses reliably. However, it is possible to compare the performance of classrooms

with a 15:1 student-teacher ratio to classrooms with a 30:2 student teacher ratio. The results of

analyses of first-grade classrooms found no achievement advantage for the one teacher to fifteen

students form of classroom organization on any of the CTBS sub-tests.

Reduced Class Size and Life in SAGE Classrooms

During the 1996–97 and 1997-98 school years, members of the SAGE evaluation team

conducted teacher interviews, made classroom observations, analyzed logs kept by SAGE

teachers describing their classroom activities, and tabulated the results of teacher questionnaires

on a variety of teaching and learning topics. Taken together, these data provide a picture of life

in SAGE classrooms which includes these features:

· Teachers have greater knowledge of each of their students.

· Little time is required to manage the class resulting in more time for instruction.

· Individualized instruction is pervasive and constant.

· The type of instruction used is mainly teacher-centered (e.g., students listen,

practice, answer, etc). Teachers also used hands on activities with some

regularity, but student-centered teaching (e.g., problem solving, cooperative

groups, etc.) is used infrequently.

Other SAGE Interventions

In addition to reducing class size the SAGE program calls for participating schools to

develop rigorous academic curricula, implement programs of staff development and professional

accountability, and be open extended hours for lighted schoolhouse activities.


Rigorous Curriculum

Based on teachers’ perceptions, national standards in mathematics, reading, and language

arts are being implemented in SAGE classrooms. The congruence between the standard and

teaching is greater in reading-language arts than in mathematics, however, specific areas in

which agreement is comparatively low are areas often thought to be more appropriate for older


Professional Development

Staff development appears to be an important feature of SAGE schools. Most teachers

view it as an ongoing, regular program that produces changes in classroom practices. Although

many report that they are not involved in making decisions about school staff development, are

not assessed in terms of the use of innovations, and are not given strategies to use in reduced size

classes, they see themselves working collaboratively with their colleagues in making decisions

about lessons and evaluating students.

Lighted Schoolhouse

In 1997-98 SAGE schools reported a rise in lighted schoolhouse activities when

compared to 1996-97 and to the year prior to their entry to the SAGE program. Over the twoyear

period, SAGE schools reported a 78% increase in the number of activities offered and a

77% increase in the number of people participating in these activities.


When considering the results of the 1997-98 SAGE evaluation several factors should be kept

in mind:

· The number of schools in the comparison group pool was reduced from 16 in 1996-97 to 14

in 1997-98. One school converted from a comparison school to a SAGE school. Two


additional schools withdrew for other reasons. This problem has been addressed for the

1998-99 academic year by the addition of three comparison schools.

· Second grade results may have been influenced by three factors. During 1996-97 a

considerable number of SAGE first graders achieved perfect scores on the spring post-test.

This had the potential effect of placing a “ceiling” on the gains reported for SAGE first-grade

students. Conversely, what was a “ceiling” in 1996-97 became a “floor” for the scores of this

group of SAGE students in second grade. It is not possible to know to what extent this

phenomenon had an impact on the 1997-98 SAGE second-grade achievement results. A

second factor that may have influenced the second-grade results reported for SAGE students

was that, because of uncertainties over funding for the second grade, nine of the thirty SAGE

schools did not implement the program in second grade until after the start of the school year.

In some cases implementation was delayed until January 1998. (See Table 62 for a list of

schools implementing SAGE in second grade after the start of the 1997-98 school year.)

Finally, the impact on class achievement scores of non-SAGE students entering the SAGE

program for the first time in second grade is unknown.

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