Research and Reports
Despite good programs, conscientious teachers, and sound work habits, 9th-grade students nationwide suffer from "a lack of meaningful instruction," according to the preliminary findings of a report sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
"I think there is good reason to be concerned," said John Lounsbury, author of the report and professor emeritus at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Ga.
On the basis of a "shadow" study, in which volunteers monitored 141 9th-grade students for one school day, Mr. Lounsbury concludes that 9th graders spend too much time on rote and textbook-learning and fail to "engage" themselves actively in the process.
"The thing that disturbs me most is the lack of critical thinking," Mr. Lounsbury said. "There are so many 'who, when, where, and what' questions and so few 'why and so what' questions," he said.
"Most of the obvious elements the general public is concerned about are in place and operating fine," Mr. Lounsbury stressed, including discipline and attention to basics. "[But] I would want a higher level of intellectualization," he said.
Rather than lengthen the school day or year, Mr. Lounsbury suggests that teachers not feel compelled to cover so much content and, instead, take time to "probe and analyze."
Participants in Upward Bound, the federal program established in 1964 to motivate and prepare disadvantaged high-school students to attend college, were more likely to graduate from high school and continue on to postsecondary education than students of similar backgrounds who were not enrolled in the program, according to a recent study funded by the U.S. Education Department.
The survey, conducted by the American Institute for Research, also found, however, that after the Upward Bound students had attended college for a year, the program's impact seemed to "fade." The researchers suggested that some type of assistance at the college level is probably called for to complement the high-school program.
The researchers based their study on data from the 1980 longitudinal survey "High School and Beyond," and a follow-up survey conducted in the spring of 1982. The research focused on 145 students who were high-school seniors when the 1980 survey was taken.
More than 75 percent of the program participants sampled who entered college were members of mi-nority groups, and more than 80 percent were of below-average socioeconomic status, the study found.
The survey found that some 97 percent of the Upward Bound students and 95 percent of comparable nonparticipants finished high school.
However, the survey revealed a substantial difference in the number of Upward Bound students and nonparticipants who entered college. More than 75 percent of program participants applied and about 85 percent of those students were accepted at their first- or second-choice school. In comparison, 60 percent of nonparticipants applied to colleges, and about 60 percent of those students were accepted.
The survey also found that more than 50 percent of Upward Bound students were attending college as of October 1981, compared with less than 40 percent of nonparticipants.
However, by February 1982, the percentage of Upward Bound students still in college had declined to 43 percent, while 35 percent of those not in the program were still in college.