Nevertheless, there are potential solutions to issues with scaling up. A controlled, incremental and systematic approach to the application of interventions is a possible path to scaling up interventions. For example, PERTS(http://www.perts.net/home/PERTS.php), created by doctoral students Dave Paunesku and Carissa Romero of the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, features such an approach. This method uses the Internet to deliver interventions to students. Teachers volunteer to have their students go to computer terminals to complete the interventions in a standardized fashion on designated days. As the procedure for delivering the interventions is highly controlled, the treatment message is given as intended, minimizing the potential for error. Interventions delivered in this manner have yielded reliable increases in GPA in studies of thousands of students across the country—particularly for low-performing ones.
A second potential strategy for scaling up interventions is less controlled but can be transformative. In this strategy educators are trained in the principles behind the practices, and given the interventions as additional tools in their toolbox of strategies. Educators learn the importance of belonging, affirmation, growth mind-sets and the theoretical principles behind them. In collaboration with researchers they receive continual coaching and feedback on what they are doing and whether it aligns with the conceptual goals. Through these efforts educators become more effective at sending the message, in word and deed, that students are valued, seen as belonging and have the potential to meet high performance standards. Following this example might lead to more success stories like that of Jaime Escalante, of Stand and Deliver fame, or that of Xavier University. Escalante continually refuted stereotypes about his low-income Latino students by challenging them to take and pass the AP calculus exam, and as a consequence many of his former students went on to college and successful careers. Xavier University, a historically black university, similarly refutes negative stereotypes through its rigorous premedical program, and the weaving of its philosophy that “intelligence can be taught,” based on psychologist Arthur Whimbey’s work, into its daily practices. In each of these examples the interventions are not one-shot efforts but principles that are made a pervasive aspect of everyday functioning. Similarly, expert tutors are among the most potent educational “interventions” known. They have been shown to produce student performance gains in the vicinity of two standard deviations. The social psychologist Mark Lepper has shown that expert tutors do not focus on a single strategy. Rather, they continually modify and change up their strategies, always with an eye to the general goal of maintaining each student’s self-confidence and motivation to succeed.
These potential strategies for scaling up have benefits and costs. The controlled approach is more reliable: Less can go wrong, increasing the probability that some students’ lives will be changed for the better. The more global approach is more prone to interference that could lessen positive impact, as the gap between the core theoretical construct and the tools used to realize it can be significant. This approach, however, has a greater likelihood to bring about a scientifically informed shift in philosophy that has the potential to transform the educational system for the better.