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'Education Passports' To Help Puerto Rican Pupils Transfer

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Beginning next month, students transferring between high schools in Puerto Rico and New York City will receive "education passports" containing background information designed to ensure that they are placed in the proper courses and grades.

The passports are part of a new project to address the academic problems of the more than 10,000 Puerto Rican high-school students who transfer between the two school systems each year.

The project is a collaborative effort of the College Board, the Department of Education in Puerto Rico, and the New York City Board of Education.

Funded by a one-year, $125,000 grant to the board from the Ford Foundation, the project will include the development of agreements between the two school systems in such areas as curricula, school records, and graduation requirements, said George H. Hanford, president of the board.

It is the first formal effort of its type between the two school systems, which are the largest in the United States."

Effect on Achievement

A recent study of student turnover in New York City found that the largest number of students entering and leaving the school system at nonstandard times were from Puerto Rico. Last year, according to Evelyn Davila, the College Board project's director, nearly 11 percent of the 661,000 students enrolled in public schools in Puerto Rico reported coming from the mainland.

Education officials often have to enroll and place such transfer students without evidence of their previous educational experience, said Mr. Hanford. As a result, students experience confusion and frustration because they repeat grades and courses, he said.

"Research has shown that mobility often has a negative effect on school achievement, especially among low-income minority students," said Ms. Davila. "The problem of mobility for Puerto Rican students is compounded by the language and culture differences they face at each end of the migration stream."

Recent reports from the governor's advisory committee for Hispanic affairs in New York State and the Association of Puerto Rican Executive Directors in New York City have noted the high dropout rate among Hispanics as a group and the low educational and socio-economic status of Puerto Ricans, in particular.

In 1981, the governor's committee noted, 36 percent of the state's Hispanic youths dropped out of school; the dropout rate from grade 9 through grade 12 was 80 percent.

Curriculum Review

Information contained in the education passports will include the student's level of proficiency in Spanish and English, the number of credits earned in a particular subject, the average grades received, any previous school transfers, and a record of vaccinations.

In conjunction with the project, the board is currently conducting a side-by-side comparison of the curricula offered to public-school students in grades 9 through 12 in Puerto Rico and New York City.

The review focuses on language arts, mathematics, and science--the three basic subject areas required in both school systems. The study will identify the academic skills covered by the two school systems in each subject area, the evaluation methods used, and the grade levels at which the subject is taught.

The resulting information will be made available to high schools in both locations.

Although the project is limited to the two school systems, Mr. Hanford said, it may offer useful information to other U.S. communities with large numbers of transfer students.

Awilda Aponte, secretary of education for Puerto Rico, and Nathan Quinones, New York City's schools chancellor, are serving on the advisory committee for the project, which includes curriculum specialists and educators from both school systems.--lo

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