An Integrated Qualitative and Quantitative Evaluation of the SAGE Program

Description of SAGE Program

SAGE is a multifaceted reform aimed at reducing the impact of poverty on student achievement. Composed of four related strands, SAGE includes reducing classes’ pupil teacher ratio to 15:1; making the school building available beyond the school day; developing a challenging curriculum for students; and encouraging professional development for teachers. The SAGE program currently serves almost 100,000 students in almost 500 schools. Any district in Wisconsin is eligible to participate in the SAGE program, with reimbursement of $2250 per low income student in grades K-3. The SAGE legislation require annual evaluation of the program.

Description of the Research

The objective of this project, funded by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, is to identify educational practices—programs, policies, inputs, and processes— that are effective in raising student achievement and other student outcomes in schools participating in the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program. The SAGE program, with an annual budget of $100 million, is targeted at schools with high concentrations of low income students. SAGE schools are required to offer classes in kindergarten to third grade with no more than 15 students per class. The proposed research is distinctive in that it is framed by a new integrated qualitative and quantitative (IQ 2) research framework that was developed for this project. The proposed research includes five major research strands:

- Qualitative research on the educational programs, policies, input & processes that are associated with high student achievement in SAGE schools. This research is directed by Beth Graue.

- Quantitative research on the effects of alternative SAGE program structures (e.g., 15:1 classes, 30:2 classes, and 15:1 pull-out classes in reading and mathematics). This research will build directly on the research conducted by Robert Meyer and Norman Webb in 2003. This research analyzed historical student assessment data for all Wisconsin students (in SAGE and non-SAGE schools) from the 1995 kindergarten cohort to the present.

- A new longitudinal study that involves following samples of Milwaukee and Madison SAGE and non- SAGE students beginning in kindergarten and continuing through eighth grade.

- An annual survey of educational practices in all SAGE schools.

- Integrated qualitative and quantitative research to support the proposed longitudinal study and annual survey. (See the discussion of the IQ 2 research framework for further details.)

The research design for this project spans twelve years, the time required to follow two cohorts of students from kindergarten through eighth grade. In addition, the longitudinal study has been designed as an ongoing research enterprise with new student cohorts initiated every two years. This design was selected because it facilitates the study of change in educational practices, not just differences across schools in educational practices. We believe that a dynamic approach to studying continuous school improvement is the best strategy for identifying the crucial factors—instructional materials, space allocation, professional development, leadership, etc.—that are the keys to dramatically improving the productivity of all SAGE and non-SAGE schools in Wisconsin.


The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Project Website


Completed on June 30, 2007

Contact Information

Beth Graue
Phone: (608) 262-7435