Background/Context: The question of the influence of Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) on achievement is an important one because many policy makers use achievement scores as the measure of success for schools, classrooms, and students. Research has demonstrated that high-poverty schools have less experienced teachers and access to fewer resources than do low- and moderate-poverty schools. Interest in fourth-grade achievement has been minimal both in research and in legislation.
Research Question: Do these CSR schools make gains that would not be expected without the funding and programs? Another question examined here is whether there is a decrease in performance at fourth grade.
Population: The population consists of third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade student data from 65 schools.
Research Design: Data from the state’s norm-referenced TerraNova test and Stanford Achievement Test, and the criterion-referenced Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) from the years 2000–2007 for the samples were compared over time and between groups.
Conclusions: These limited data indicate that there were occasional, observable performance decreases on student standardized test scores from third to fourth grade that often recovered somewhat in Grade 5. Because of problems with making cross-year and cross-grade comparisons using the AIMS scores, the “fourth-grade window” hypothesis could not be reliably inspected with the data available. Although gains were shown for schools that received CSR funding, their gains were similar to both high- and low-poverty schools that received no funding. Fluctuations in yearly performances may be more of an artifact of changes in test design and scoring than of student improvements.