Present Projects


Designed during the spring of 2011, and piloted in three districts during the 2011-2012 school year, this project currently involves four school districts (two K-8 districts and two unified school districts). The centerpiece project of the Talking Teaching Network, teachers have worked in teams to study the newly adopted California Common Core Content Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) in comparison to the previous standards for ELA. Teams addressed the question, What is the same, new, and different? Based on their analysis, teams began to redesign their current English Language Arts curriculum to better align with the new standards and identify and pilot instructional changes required to meet the rigor of the Common Core.

This project will continue in 2014-15 with teacher teams developing, piloting and ultimately publishing for use in their districts both literature units of study and informational text units of study. Both the literature and informational text units of study utilize currently available resources and curriculum – existing English Language Arts materials, Science materials and Social Studies materials.

Teachers in Talking Teaching Network districts also spent a year studying the Common Core Math Standards (2013-14) using Study Guides developed by the Talking Teaching Network. During the 2014-15 school year, two of the Network districts are implementing new math adoptions and one is piloting and reviewing new math materials for adoption. The adoption of new math materials provides the opportunity to understand the depth of study and depth of understanding of critical math concepts demanded by the Common Core Math Standards and how the new materials in conjunction with the standards themselves provides teachers with those opportunities.


Involving one K-8 private school, this project focuses on the defining characteristic of the new Common Core Content Standards – engaging students in depth of study and promoting among students depth of understanding. Across the year, teams of primary-, intermediate-, upper-elementary grade, and junior high school grade teachers will define, develop, and test teaching methods that produce “depth of study/depth of understanding.”


Now in its fourth year, this single-school project is researching and developing the methods for and effects of dividing the school into smaller communities, involving teams of students and teams of teachers. A team of teachers (one for each of English, Math, Social Studies, and Science) is assigned to approximately 120 students. Each team of teachers is responsible for personalizing the experience of each student (and his/her parents) and helping each student to take ownership over his/her learning and achievement. Preliminary results suggest the effort is contributing to decreases in negative behavior among students (referrals, detentions), a more positive, academic climate at the school, and some increases in students’ academic performance.  A new goal of the work has been added for the 2014-15 school year and will be an additional area of study for the staff: students taking ownership over his/her behavior.


Launched during the 2010-11 school year, this research and development project involved approximately 45 teachers representing all departments at a large, comprehensive high school (English, Social Studies, Math, Science, Music, Arts, and P.E.). While another 35 teachers developed common final exams for each course offering, the 45 teachers working on classroom assessments were developing, testing, and refining a wide variety of tools for teachers and students to evaluate the quality of work students achieve through their ongoing class assignments. Tools include qualities matrices (rubrics), scoring guides, checklists, reflections and surveys, cumulative progress records, and observation protocols.

For the 2012-13 school year, the research and development focus shifted to developing rubrics that provide descriptions of the quality of student writing, especially the students ability to provide in depth explanations. The work was conducted with pilot groups from the English and Science departments.

Following the success of the pilot efforts with Science and English developing rubrics to gauge student writing, the Arts team has undertaken a similar effort and will be developing rubrics to gauge student performance on art projects.

Past Projects


This study scaled up the model and design developed in the Freeman, single-school case study to nine school-wide Title I schools in the Los Angeles area. Over the five-year period, but especially across years 3-5 of the project, Getting Results (GR) schools demonstrated significantly stronger growth, as measured by state-wide assessments, than six comparable schools from the same district. Gains at GR schools also exceeded the average rate of growth statewide, which allowed all schools to improve their California Academic Performance Index by at least one decile and in some cases by 3-4 deciles. The study produced protocols, settings, and other materials to support collaborative teacher teams and teacher-leader development, which in addition to contributing to improved achievement also helped produce positive changes in teachers’ attitudes and beliefs.

Publications Associated with the Scale-Up Studies

• Saunders, W., Goldenberg, C., & Gallimore, R. (2009). Increasing Achievement by Focusing Grade Level Teams on Improving Classroom Learning: A Prospective, Quasi-Experimental Study of Title 1 Schools. American Educational Research Journal, 46 (4), 1006-1033.

• Gallimore, R., Ermeling, B.A., Saunders, W.M., & Goldenberg, C. (2009). Moving the Learning of Teaching Closer to Practice: Teacher Education Implications of School-based Inquiry Teams. Elementary School Journal, 109 (5), 537-553.

• McDougall, D., Saunders, W. and Goldenberg, C. (2007). Inside the black box of school reform: Explaining the how and why of change at Getting Results schools. Journal of Disability, Development, and Education, 54, 51-89.

• Saunders, W., & Goldenberg, C. (2005). The contribution of settings to school improvement and school change: A case study. In C. R. O’Donnell & L. Yamauchi (Eds.). Culture and context in human behavior change: Theory, research, and applications. (pp. 124-148). New York: Peter Lang.


A substudy of the Scale-Up Studies, this effort was conducted at one school and involved a cadre of eighteen K through 5th grade teachers. The study produced and successfully evaluated the overall effects of a 12-component language arts program (Opportunities Through Language Arts) for English Learners, some of who were in Structured English Immersion and some of whom were in Transitional Bilingual programs. The study was also able to isolate the positive effects of some program components through short-term research investigations and identify a small set of professional development settings that supported teacher learning.

Publications Associated with the Literacy Network/OLA Studies

• Saunders, W., O’Brien, G., Marcelletti, D., Hasenstab, K., Saldivar, T., & Goldenberg, C. (2001). Getting the most out of school-based professional development in culturally diverse schools. In P. Schmidt & P. Mosenthal, (Eds.), Reconceptualizing literacy in the new age of pluralism and multiculturalism. Greenwich, CN: Information Age Publishing.

• Saunders, W. & Goldenberg, C. (2002) Opportunities through Language Arts . Long Beach, CA: Small Island Multimedia. Available at

• Saunders, W. & Goldenberg, C. (1999). The effects of instructional conversations and literature logs on limited- and fluent-English proficient students’ story comprehension and thematic understanding. The Elementary School Journal, 99(4), 277-301.


Involving six elementary schools in East Los Angeles, this six-year project produced a design for late-exit transitional bilingual programming, along with Spanish and English language arts curriculum and performance-based assessments. Comparisons across matched cohorts at project and comparable non-project schools found significant program effects on Spanish and English reading and language, as well as literacy-related behaviors and attitudes.

Publications Associated with the Transitional Bilingual Education Studies

• Saunders, W. & Goldenberg, C. (2001). Strengthening the transition in transitional bilingual education. In D. Christian & F. Genesee, (Eds.), Bilingual education. Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.

• Saunders, W. (1999). Improving literacy achievement for English learners in transitional bilingual programs. Educational Research and Evaluation, 5 (4), 345-381.

• Saunders, W., O’Brien, G., Lennon, D., & McLean, J. (1998). Making the transition to English literacy successful: Effective strategies for studying literature with transition students. In R. Gersten & R. Jimenez (Eds.), Promoting learning for culturally and linguistically diverse students. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.


A single school case study (Freeman Elementary School), across this six year project the lowest achieving school in one of the lowest achieving districts in the state became the highest achieving school in that district. This project produced the Goldenberg and Sullivan School Change Model (subsequently the Getting Results Model – see Scale-Up Studies), grade level Language Arts and Math standards, performance-based assessments, and also designs for grade level meetings, teacher workgroups, and the Academic Leadership Team comprised of the school principal, grade level facilitators, and researchers. A substudy of this project also produced methodology for small group teacher-led discussion (Instructional Conversation).

Publications Associated with the Freeman Studies

• Saunders, W. & Goldenberg, C. (2007). The effects of an instructional conversation on transition students’ concepts of friendship and story comprehension. In R. Horowitz (Ed.), Talking texts: How speech and writing interact in school learning (p. 221-252). New York: Erlbaum.

• Goldenberg, C. (2004). Successful school change: Creating settings to improve teaching and learning. New York: Teachers College Press.

• Goldenberg, C. (1997). Settings for change . Long Beach, CA: Small Island Multimedia.

• Goldenberg, C., & Saunders. W. (1996). Using standards and assessments to promote excellence and equity among diverse students. In R. Blum & J. Arter (Eds.),Who’s learning what? A resource guide for student performance assessment in the context of school restructuring (VII-7). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

• Goldenberg, C. (1992/93). Instructional conversations: Promoting comprehension through discussion. The Reading Teacher, 46, 316-326.

• Saunders, W., Goldenberg, C., & Hamann, J. (1992). Instructional conversations beget instructional conversations. Teaching and Teacher Education, 8(2), pp. 199-218.

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