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National report lauds America's Choice

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The company that designed the school reform program being used in Oklahoma City public middle and high schools received accolades for its elementary school program in a 13-year-study.

“The study was probably the most ambitious longitudinal study ever done on elementary schools,” Judy Codding, President and CEO of the for-profit company America’s Choice said. “What it really attempted to do is say, ‘what is it going to take to improve student achievement across the board?’”

The study – conducted by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education – looked at three school reform programs used in elementary schools across the nation to garner a sense of how “school improvement by design” was working.

School improvement by design is a term that refers to the independent programs that popped up across the nation in the 60s working with school districts to reform the way teachers teach in the classroom.

“We argue that design based school improvement tends to work best – not when the process encourages local educators to invent instructional and organizational solutions to the practical problems of teaching and learning that they face – but rather when it helps teachers learn how to use a well specified set of practices through extensive supports,” wrote the authors of the study in an introduction to the findings.

Codding said that while the study focused on elementary schools, many of the applications overlap with what is being done in Oklahoma City Public Schools through the ACT America’s Choice Rigor and Readiness Program.

“We provide enormous professional development and ongoing support,” Codding said. “These things are enormously important to do.”

She compared the program to medicine, where doctors diagnose an illness but an entirely different set of trained professionals develop the treatment.

“Teachers’ expertise is working with kids. It’s not in designing programs and designing curriculum,” Codding said. “We’ve spent the time and money and resources to figure out what is it going to take and what kid of support to get kids ready for college.”

The Oklahoma City School Board voted to test ACT America’s Choice in a select number of sixth and ninth grade classes across the district. The initial cost was $2.7 million and the board approved an additional $500,000 to go toward more coaching, materials and assessments.

If the program is approved by the board again it will cost an additional $2.7 million a year for the next two years.

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