The schools in our initial study engaged in the process we term Program Design to bridge the gaps that became evident in the process of pursuing Program Alignment. Generally they worked on fixing these gaps by creating changes in classroom experience, student services, and other parts of the school that they found to be out of line with the aims of school improvement.
Program Design in our sample schools involved a variety of interventions including adapting existing curricula, creating new content to fill gaps, changing how teachers teach material (pedagogical interventions), and reconfiguring student services programs to better meet student needs.
Budget and program coherence (how well various programs at the school work with each other) were also usually considered in the Program Design phase.
One of the schools in our study drew up on their failure to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) according to 2004-05 NCLB requirements as a stimulus for engaging in Program Design. Based on an analysis of their AYP data this school recognized the need to improve the reading instruction they were providing for their special education students.
As a means of improvement this district adopted the Read 180 program, an intensive pullout program, but only after serious consideration of its potential. The principal then carefully analyzed student data to determine which students could benefit the most from involvement in the pilot phase of program use, and chose students based on the following factors:
- Their reading and writing scores
- Their Lexile level (a framework for matching readers to texts) on their most recent math tests.
- Their reading scores on the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test.
- The forms of support they currently received.
- Which students would have the least disruptive experience to their school day through program use.
This use of program selection fits the DDIS model of Program Design, because unlike in many instances where schools shop for programs, this school carefully considered implementation to ensure the program selected fit within their general programmatic and curricular structure. This ensured that the school wasn't adding a program that would conflict with preexisting practices in the school.
Furthermore, by examining student data this principal was able to fit the students into the program who were most likely to benefit from Read 180. This process also circumvented the weaknesses of the program, something a less measured implementation would not have accounted for.