The Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) was established in 1966 as an educational research and development center at Johns Hopkins University. The Center maintains a staff of full-time, highly productive sociologists, psychologists, social psychologists, and educators who conduct programmatic research to improve the education system, as well as full-time support staff engaged in developing curricula and providing technical assistance to help schools use the Center’s research. The Center currently includes the federally-supported Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk, and the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships.
The purpose of the Center for Social Organization of Schools has remained consistent since its founding—to study how changes in the social organization of schools can make them more effective for all students in promoting academic achievement, development of potential, and eventual career success. The emphasis on social organization is based in sound theory— that changes in the structure of an environment will produce changes in the attitudes, behaviors, and accomplishments of the people in that environment. Schools can be made more effective for all students through changes in the organization of the classroom, school, and district. This emphasis compels the Center to address many major, practical problems in education, including:
- How to develop learning environments that minimize student apathy or disruption, and maximize student commitment, satisfaction, and learning;
- How to organize educational experiences that foster the learning of students with different interests and needs;
- How to facilitate the successful transition from education to work;
- How to structure and coordinate educational programs to provide fair access to educational and occupational opportunities;
- How to connect schools with families and communities in ways that promote student success; and
- How to influence school administration and funding policies in ways that support whole-school reform.
The research methods used in Center studies reflect the tasks to be accomplished and the expertise of the research personnel. Survey research is employed to discover and define relationships between school organizational practices and student outcomes. Experimental research and related methodologies are conducted in school settings. Case studies and qualitative research methods are used to delve deeply into the characteristics of school contexts and the experiences of all participants in education. Bringing the circle full, Center technical assistance staff work closely with schools to implement and evaluate the research-based practices and processes.
The substantial research and development accomplishments of CSOS have resulted in its receiving continuing federal funding since its founding in 1966, currently from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and other divisions. The Center has successfully sought grants and contracts from other public and private sources to supplement and extend its mission.
Early and Elementary Studies focus on the development and evaluation of early-intervention literacy programs; development of teacher-training modules for early literacy instruction; development and evaluation of whole-school and curricular reform models; bilingual and English-as-a-second-language literacy programs; and summer-school and after-school programs for increased academic achievement.Middle and High School Studies focus on the development, evaluation, and dissemination of the Talent Development secondary school reform models. Other studies are considering retention, dropout prevention, and dropout recovery. School, Family, and Community Partnerships is developing, evaluating, and disseminating models of partnership that help students succeed in school, achieve at high levels, and develop social and emotional competencies. These initiatives are linked closely to CRESPAR elementary, middle, and high school reform efforts.Systemic Supports for School Reform advances research and development in the support of teachers, schools, reform designs, and school districts in improving the achievements of students placed at risk. Particular emphases are the development of a High-Reliability School District model to support effective implementation of comprehensive reform efforts, and a professional development program to support Talent Development schools.
Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships
The mission of this Center is to conduct and disseminate research, development, and policy analyses that help families, educators, and communities work together to improve schools, strengthen families, and enhance student learning and development. The Center began its work in 1990 as the Center on Families, Communities, Schools, and Children’s Learning.Current projects include the development of and research on the National Network of Partnership Schools, with an emphasis on the structures and policies advisable to “scale up” programs of partnership to all schools in a district or state. An international network of scholars from more than 40 nations works on these and related topics.
Success for All, a comprehensive restructuring program for elementary schools, with an emphasis on literacy skills, was developed at CSOS. In 1998, the Success for All Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, was established to disseminate Success for All and the Roots & Wings programs in elementary math, science, and social studies, which, by 2000, were in more than 1500 schools in the U.S.
The Talent Development Middle Grades and Talent Development High School projects are similarly whole-school reform efforts. All elements of curricular and social organization are considered, and, as in Success for All, the common, high-standards curricula are based on the assumption that every student can succeed. A particular emphasis of the high school model is organization around broad career themes. In 1999, the Talent Development Middle School and High School programs began five-year development grants from the federal government to advance the research, development, implementation, and evaluation of the whole-school reform models.The Center’s researchers publish regularly in leading social science journals—in addition to books, chapters, reports published by CSOS, and articles in periodicals—and present their findings at such annual conferences as those of the American Educational Research Association, American Sociological Association, and American Psychological Association.