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School principals and parents of younger adolescents believe that middle schools are the best educational setting for students in grades 6-9, a new survey indicates.

More than 90 percent of the 324 middle-school principals and the 53 parents of middle-school students responding to a poll by the National Association of Secondary School Principals said that such students have "unique needs because of their age'' and should be taught in a "special setting'' separate from elementary or high schools.

In addition, some 90 percent of the parents and 75 percent of the principals favored special training and certification for middle-school teachers and principals.

The survey's findings, released this month, reflect an awareness that children in the early years of adolescence are going through a "traumatic'' phase in their lives and that their schooling should be tailored accordingly, said George Melton, deputy executive director of NASSP.

Many of the roughly 12,000 junior high, intermediate, and middle schools in the nation "are run too much like little high schools or senior elementary programs,'' he said.

A group of prominent black scholars argues in a new report that "one-sided emphases and single-minded approaches ... are simplistic and utterly inadequate'' in addressing the problems facing black Americans.

The authors attempt to bridge what they see as a rift between black leaders by calling for "a judicious, concurrent, and sustained mix of both black self-help efforts and public and private assistance'' to help the "so-called black underclass.''

"Black Initiative and Governmental Responsibility,'' released this month, is the second policy paper developed by the Committee on Policy for Racial Justice, a group of some 30 scholars based at the Joint Center for Political Studies.

John Hope Franklin, the Duke University historian, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, former chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and now a Georgetown University law professor, serve as co-chairmen of the committee.

In addition to calling for more efforts by the private sector, the panel advocates the following government initiatives:

  • Creation of a comprehensive child-development program for disadvantaged preschoolers.
  • Designing school-to-work transition programs to address the high dropout and jobless rates among black teen-agers.
  • Expansion of federal aid to education in an effort to close the gap in academic performance between disadvantaged youths and the school-age population as a whole.

Copies of the report can be ordered for $6.95 each by writing the Joint Center for Political Studies, Publications Office, 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20004, or by calling (202) 626-3500.

Helping states develop policies for students "at risk'' for school failure will be the focus of a two-year project announced last week by officials of the Education Commission of the States .

The project will concentrate on the role of schools in educating such students and in coordinating services for them with other agencies.

"The problem of at-risk students isn't just a problem of minority teens, but of all teens; not just of urban students, but rural; not just a minor annoyance, but a major epidemic,'' said Frank Newman, president of the E.C.S., in making the announcement.

He argued that schools are the only institutions of "sufficient scale, geographical distribution, and community connection to be the central agency in addressing this problem.''

The E.C.S. program, funded with a $354,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, will analyze existing state efforts to serve at-risk youths, examine the effects of current educational practices on such students, hold state and national forums for policymakers, and provide direct assistance to several states in developing, strengthening, and carrying out policies and programs to help at-risk students.

The federal government should eliminate subsidies for guaranteed student loans, and make the program available to students from all income levels, according to a study of federal credit programs released last week by the Brookings Institution.

"Our evaluation suggests that the student-loan program does encourage enrollments, but that at least 75 percent of the subsidies go to students who would have attended college without the program,'' the study found. "Thus it has become an expensive way of promoting higher education.''

The report notes that the subsidies, which account for roughly half of the $3.2-billion cost of the program, are more costly to taxpayers than loan defaults. Reducing those costs, it argues, would free up funds for grants, which could be targeted to disadvantaged groups.

In addition, the report concludes, allowing all families to participate in the program would "ensure that an inability to borrow [would] not restrict education decisions.''

The 214-page report, "The Economics of Federal Credit Programs,'' was written by Barry P. Bosworth, Andrew S. Carron, and Elisabeth H. Rhyne. Copies are available for $26.95 each in cloth, or $9.95 in paper, from the Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

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