Public Policy Institute of California Report Provides Lessons For Other School Districts

MENLO PARK, Calif. – Reading scores of elementary and middle school students in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) improved and achievement gaps among various racial and ethnic, language, and socioeconomic groups narrowed as a result of a set of innovative reforms, according to a study funded in part by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The study, “From Blueprint to Reality: San Diego’s Education Reforms,” was conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a nonpartisan think tank.  The report’s authors examined SDUSD’s “Blueprint for Student Success,” a reform package that includes double and triple length English classes, extended school days, summer reading programs and extensive professional development for teachers.

The results indicate that the Blueprint interventions helped raise the scores of some of the lowest achieving elementary and middle school students in San Diego.  Although student success varied by grade level – high school students failed to show improvement similar to elementary and middle school students, for example – the success of even some aspects of the Blueprint program are noteworthy.

The results of the study are based on individual student data from the first two years of the Blueprint reform program’s implementation, and researchers were able to assess the effectiveness of each program component to determine which ones worked best.  This is the first of two studies co-funded by the Hewlett Foundation tracking student performance over time in San Diego schools.  The second study will examine the effects of the reforms after five years of implementation to provide an even clearer picture of student achievement.

“This report examined one of the most important urban school reform efforts in the country, and the results are very encouraging,” said Marshall Smith, Director of the Education Program at the Hewlett Foundation.  “This two-year assessment and the five-year study to follow will give San Diego and other school districts a roadmap for improving student learning.”

Researchers found that two of the most effective reforms were the Extended Day Reading Program – in which students reading at below grade level received three 90-minute periods of supervised reading each week before or after school – and summer school.  Also effective were programs that provided additional resources, an extended school year and peer coaches – teachers assigned to assist colleagues with improving student reading – in low-performing elementary schools.

According to the authors of the PPIC report, other school districts in California facing pressure to improve student achievement and increase accountability should pay close attention to the successes of the reforms implemented by the San Diego Unified School District, which is the second largest school district in California and the eighth largest in the nation.

About one third of all SDUSD students participated in some kind of Blueprint intervention, with almost all of these students receiving additional instruction time in the classroom.  The authors analyzed about 112,000 student records from grades 2 to 11 from 1999 to 2002.  SDUSD introduced the Blueprint reforms gradually beginning in the Fall of 1999.

The report was authored by Julian R. Betts, a senior fellow at PPIC and professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego, Andrew C. Zau, a PPIC research associate, and Kevin King of UC San Diego.  The study was also funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies.

The full report is accessible at
About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,, has been making grants since 1966 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world.  The foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, environment, global development, performing arts, philanthropy, population, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.  A full list of all the Hewlett Foundation’s grants can be found at

About the Public Policy Institute of California

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues.  Research focuses on three program areas: population, economy, and governance and public finance.  The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.  More information is available at