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Remediation Said To Help Job Program's Enrollees

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Students enrolled in the federal Summer Youth Employment and Training Program who spend half of their time in remedial classes score substantially higher on mathematics and reading tests than those who work full time, according to a new study.

The report, released this month, examines a summer work-study project called STEP the Summer Training and Education Program, which is being tested in Boston; Fresno, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; and Seattle. Designed by Public/Private Ventures, a nonprofit research firm, the program is aimed at male and female students ages 14 and 15 who are doing poorly in school and who are eligible on the basis of income for the federal jobs program.

"We target that age group because they have a more difficult time finding jobs, and it is a year or two before they can drop out of school,'' said Michael A. Bailin, president of the Philadelphia-based research firm.

Under the program, first offered in 1985, students spend two consecutive summers in part-time jobs and part-time STEP classes, and receive academic and other support services during the intervening school year. Typically, local school districts and other agencies cooperate in providing services.

Researchers are comparing the students' progress in academic and life skills with that of control groups of jobs-program participants who do not receive the extra help.

Although the STEP students work only part time, they receive full-time pay. "By using the lure of summer jobs as an incentive to participate,'' Mr. Bailin said, "STEP provides remediation and life-skills instruction to youths who need, but might not otherwise seek, such help.''

At the beginning of last summer, students enrolling in STEP for the first time were given standardized Metropolitan Achievement Tests to gauge their basic skill levels in math and reading. Members of a control group also completed the test.

Test Scores Compared

According to the study, the students in both groups scored, on average, at the 6th-grade level in reading and at the 6.7 level in math--at least one to two years behind where they should have been for their age.

By summer's end, however, the full-time workers had lost about a full grade in reading and half a grade in math, whereas STEP workers lost less ground in reading, scoring at the 5.6 level, and gained in math, scoring at the 7th-grade level.

Along with the achievement test, students in both groups were given a questionnaire that asked about their life plans and measured their attitudes and knowledge in sex-related areas.

At the beginning of the summer, the answers showed that nearly half of all the students were sexually active, but that their knowledge of sexually responsible behavior, such as the use of contraceptives, was limited.

After a full summer of twice-weekly life-skills classes designed to increase their awareness of responsible social and sexual behavior, STEP youths significantly outscored the control group on their knowledge of contraception.

The researchers also followed the performance of the group of students that began STEP in the summer of 1985 and completed the 15-month program in August 1986. The students in the 1985 group did not perform as strongly in math and reading after enrolling in STEP as the students who entered the program in 1986, but they outscored their control group on the achievement tests, exhibited increased sexual knowledge, and were 6 percent more likely to be promoted to the next grade than the students who did not receive the extra help.

A third group will begin the program this summer.

Research Continuing

According to Public/Private Ventures officials, the research phase of STEP will continue through 1993 to determine whether the short-term gains in academic and life skills translate into improved graduation rates, a reduced number of teen pregnancies, and a more successful entry to the workforce.

Mr. Bailin said the STEP findings thus far "show that you can use the summer months to combine the resources of our youth-employment and public-education systems and have them achieve together what neither has been able to do separately: that is, improve the basic skills and life prospects of dropout-prone youth.''

The program, which was developed with support from the Ford Foundation, now receives funding from a consortium of foundations and agencies, including Ford, the Aetna Life and Casualty Foundation, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Information about the report is available from Public/Private Ventures, Communications Department, 399 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19106.

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