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No Gains Seen Yet in New York Dropout Efforts

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New York City school officials are hoping that a $55-million investment in dropout-prevention programs over two years may lower the system's dropout rate, but the school board's latest dropout report does not project substantial gains.

The report released by the New York City Board of Education said that 11.4 percent of the city's public high-school students dropped out in the 1983-84 school year, the same proportion as the previous year.

Dropout Projection

The report says that 38.4 percent of 1983's freshmen 14 years old and over will drop out, as will 1.3 percent of the special-education students in special programs and middle schools.

"I've always maintained that the dropout rate is much too high," said Nathan Quinones, the city's schools chancellor. "I am not satisfied with these figures and never will be, but it's important to note that the latest report doesn't reflect two new dropout-prevention programs that we are putting in place. I expect the rate to improve as a result of these programs."

The state legislature last year appropriated $22.5 million for New York City's dropout-prevention programs during 1984-85 and renewed funds for those programs in the same amount for the 1985-86 school year. Mayor Edward I. Koch's executive budget calls for an increase of $10.2 million in city funds for similar programs, bringing to about $55 million the amount to be spent on dropout-prevention programs over two school years.

But the Public Education Association, a nonprofit civic group, has criticized the legislation, saying that the spending on dropout programs was too diffuse and failed to concentrate on the schools with the most serious problems.

Misspent Funds

It also noted that although the money was intended to go to "service-intensive" programs that would offer counseling and assistance from community agencies, the money was often spent on machines instead. For example, some schools installed computerized telephone-contact systems to notify parents when their children were truant.

Judith Baum, spokesman for the civic group, said the board of education and community organizations should develop a closer working relationship in attacking the dropout problem.--at

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