Success for All: A Comprehensive Educational Reform for Improving At-Risk Students in an Urban School in China

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Education for all and success for all are human rights as well as our common goals to achieve in the 21st century. However, a large number of students from low socio-economic backgrounds have suffered from school failure globally. How can we help all students to achieve success in school? This has been a thorny problem for schools both in the West and the East. Success in school in our era of globalization is significant not only for individuals' personal development but also for a nation's economic growth and social development. School failure has caused many serious problems such as student dropout, juvenile delinquency, emotional and mental problems among students, unemployment, and so forth.

This research investigates an educational experiment in a middle school in Shanghai, China. The school, called Zhabei No. 8 Middle School (hereafter No. 8 School), is located in a run-down, lower working class district. Since the mid-1980s the school has experimented on an educational reform program called success education, aiming to help those at-risk students to be successful in school. The objective of this research is to investigate how this educational experiment has been carried out and to identify experiences that could be learned by the international educational community. 

The study adopts a case study approach and employs a theoretical framework, the Comprehensive School Reform model (CSR), which has developed rapidly in the United States since the 1990s, to analyze the data. The study examines the comprehensive school reform efforts that have been carried out in Zhabei No. 8 Middle School, and analyzes the critical role played by Principal Liu Jinghai. Particular attention is paid to the strategies adopted by the school to help enhance students' self-esteem through integrating love and care throughout the school's curriculum and activities. The critical roles played by teachers called "class directors" are meticulously studied, and efforts the school has made to collaborate with parents and the local community are examined. An ethnographic approach was used to gather data in this study. A combination of interviews, participant-observation, and document analysis was applied to arrive at a systematic and complex understanding of this educational endeavor in China.