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Study Charts Path Of Failing Pupils

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Children in Minneapolis who are placed in a transitional program after failing kindergarten need continued support to succeed in later grades, a new study by the school district indicates.

Most pupils who initially failed a kindergarten "benchmark" test mastered the material after completing the transitional program, but progressively fewer of those pupils passed comparable tests in grades 1 and 2, the district reported last month.

Since Minneapolis instituted its kindergarten-retention policy in 1984, an average of 10 percent of the city's 3,000 kindergarten students have been held back each year. Such decisions are based on teacher judgments and results of the benchmark test, said the district's curriculum director, Peg O'Shaughnessey.

Children in the transitional program spend part of the day in regular kindergarten and the remainder in a special language-arts and math class.

The study, which followed 176 students placed in the program in 1984, found that 92 percent passed the test the second time. But only 71 percent subsequently passed the 1st-grade benchmark test, and only 56 percent passed the comparable test by the spring of 2nd grade.

While the study "raises questions" about how to assist graduates of the transitional program who are still struggling in the early grades, Ms. O'Shaughnessey said, school officials remain convinced of the value of the program.

Richard Green, superintendent of schools, added that the results showed that some children placed in the special program--many of whom come from low-income and single-parent homes--remain "at risk" after kindergarten and warrant further attention.--dg

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