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'Indicators': Many Freshmen in Remedial Classes

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Washington--Previously unreported data contained in a new Education Department booklet indicate that a substantial number of the nation's college freshmen are enrolled in remedial courses.

The data, released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics, show that in the 1983-84 academic year, 16 percent of the first-year students were enrolled in remedial reading, 21 percent in remedial writing, and 25 percent in remedial mathematics courses. Sixty-three percent of all postsecondary institutions surveyed reported enrollment increases of 10 percent or more in such courses; 4 percent of the institutions reported decreases of 10 percent or more.

Health of Education

The data on remedial courses were published in the premiere version of a yearly publication that is intended, according to department officials, to describe the health of American education in much the same way that Commerce Department reports describe the health of the nation's economy.

Titled "Indicators of Education Status and Trends," the booklet parallels recent moves by state political and educational leaders to measure the effectiveness of recently implemented school-reform measures and to compare student achievement on a state-by-state basis. Department officials announced the project last fall. (See Education Week, Oct. 17, 1984.)

"Governors, legislators, and school boards expect new policies to achieve certain results," said Gary L. Jones, acting secretary of education, in announcing the document's publication. "They are advocating and establishing major changes in curriculum, spending, teacher qual-ity and rewards, and graduation requirements. We hope the data in this and future versions of 'Indicators' will help them to track the results of the actions, to better understand national trends, and, consequently, to judge how their states measure up."

National Trends

Unlike the department's controversial annual "wall chart," which provides state-by-state comparisons of such educational characteristics as average scores on college-entrance examinations and dropout rates, the 'Indicators' booklet reports data almost exclusively on a national basis. The department suggests in the foreword to the booklet that state and local officials draw their own comparisons, using comparable data on their own individual schools.

The educational indicators presented in the booklet are divided into three main areas: "outcomes," such as graduation and voting rates among young adults; "resources," such as per-pupil expenditures and the preparation of the teaching force; and "the context of education," which includes such variables as student characteristics, community support for public schools, and schools' instructional climate. The 20 measures included in the booklet are to be supplemented with additional data on student achievement from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Defense Department in an appendix to be published this spring.

Much of the information presented in the publication has been reported before, such as measures of students' reading and mathematics ability as measured by naep.

But the booklet contains a new composite index describing theg degree of pressure on states to provide services to disadvantaged, handicapped, and non-English-speaking students.

Index of Need

According to the new index, states in the South are required to spend substantially more than other regions for the education of such special-needs students. The only states outside of this region reporting a6similarly high index of need are New York and South Dakota.

According to Ron Hall, a senior policy analyst in the office of the undersecretary of education and coordinator of the "Indicators" project, the department views the booklet as a "first version" and welcomes comments and suggestions from the public for improving subsequent versions.

Copies of the report may be obtained for $3 from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. The stock number is 065-000-00222-1.--tm

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