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Report's Sampling of State Initiatives

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The following summaries of initiatives in four states to address the needs of at-risk children were included in the appendix to "America's Shame, America's Hope," the report issued last week by mdc Inc. The four states were among 14 cited in the report as having made the most progress toward implementing a


California's reform efforts have focused on restoring the financial support for education that eroded during the era of Proposition 13 and on addressing the needs of the growing limited-English-proficient population. Compliance review procedures require districts to demonstrate progress toward achieving reform goals and to structure extra services for special-needs students for mastery of core academic subjects; 28 indicators such as enrollment and dropout rates and test scores are used to track success.

Although the state provides $36 million for preschool programs that serve 19,000 low-income 4-year-olds, the bulk of at-risk initiatives are targeted toincluded provisions which resulted in most districts offering a 10th-grade counseling program to focus guidance services on at-risk students. Senate Bill 65, passed in 1985, provides an extra $12 million for dropout-prevention activities under a "motivation and maintenance" program. Funds are targeted to the 50 high schools with the highest dropout rates and their approximately 150 elementary and junior high "feeder" schools. Eligible districts may file a single application for several educational grants if they develop an acceptable proposal for a set of coordinated prevention efforts. Once the plan is accepted, funding is received in a block grant.


Connecticut has enacted dropout-prevention legislation, adopted state policy on dropout prevention, established an interagency task force on at-risk youth, and begun work on a state education department position paper on at-risk students. In 1988, the state adopted new distribution procedures to direct more state aid to poor districts and districts producing the lowest scores on statewide mastery tests. In addition, for the past eight years Connecticut has supported a school-effectiveness project, providing consultants to districts volunteering to participate.

Substitute Senate Bill 882, passed in 1987, targets annual dropout-prevention grants for up to three years to the 25 school districts in greatest need. The bill reserves funds for a few competitive grants to other districts and requires each grant recipient to identify at-risk students, collect dropout data using a common definition and uniform methodology, and engage in a comprehensive planning process and needs assessment. State-board policy encourages all districts, not only grant recipients, to engage in similar activities.

A dropout-need index was developed to identify those 25 districts most in need of funds from the state's 117 school districts. The index factors enrollment-loss data; 4th-, 6th-, and 8th-grade mastery-test data; and the concentration of poverty based on counts of recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The size of the grants, which ranged from $10,000 to $75,000 in school year 1987-88, is based on the dropout-need index, relative wealth of the district, and district enrollment.

While the dropout legislation added $750,000 to 1987-88 school funding, a variety of other state-funded programs are in place. A "priority school districts" project provides help in diagnostic skills testing, teacher training, and curriculum development to the 15 districts with the lowest basic-skills test scores. Other funds, often available on a competitive basis, support:

Eight to 10 summer-school grants ($1 million).

A demonstration project for high-risk babies with handicaps or developmental delays ($350,000).

Fifteen extended-day kindergarten projects ($1 million).

Eight adolescent-parents programs and several school-based health clinics (approximately $0.5 million).

Breakfast programs for 2-year-olds ($364,000).


Early-intervention and prevention programs dominate Illinois' strategies for meeting the needs of at-risk youth. In 1983, the state created Parents Too Soon, a comprehensive teen-pregnancy initiative that now operates in 125 areas with an annual budget of $12 million. The state also funds a $37-million reading program for kindergarten through 6th-grade students and a $45-million preschool program. In 1988, the state joined the State Policy Academy on Dropout Prevention directed by the Council of State Policy and Planning Agencies.

Illinois' 1985 educational-reform package earmarked over two-thirds ($59 million) of its $90-million budget for activities directly affecting at-risk youth. In addition to the reading and preschool programs, the package provided for a $10-million Truant's Alternative and Optional Education Program, which provides optional educational services for 20,000 youth. The preschool effort, first funded at $12 million, is expected to grow to $122 million by fiscal year 1990. It targets at-risk 3- and 4 year-olds using classroom and home-based formats. Reading funds are based on district size and need; districts may use the funds to create special classes or lower pupil-teacher ratios.

The state has made extensive use of advisory groups. In 1986, the state received a Clark Foundation grant to develop state policy for school dropout prevention and employment readiness for disadvantaged youth. The governor established the Illinois State Task Force on At-Risk Youth and designated four regional coalitions from areas having the highest student attrition rates. The coalitions were charged with developing a catalog of effective programs and with making policy recommendations to the task force. There also is an ad hoc Youth Employment Task Force representing state youth-service agencies, community-based groups, and program providers that has recommended adoption of a comprehensive state youth policy. Other groups include a Working Group on Bilingual Training, private citizens' commissions, and an urban-dropout legislative task force.

In 1987, Governor James R. Thompson initiated a "Class of 1999" project, which serves as an umbrella for activities aimed at educating a higher percentage of Illinois' youth. One goal of the project is to eliminate youth unemployment by guaranteeing a job to all youth after high school.

The state jpta office has attempted to increase services to at-risk youth by modifying program performance standards to encourage longer-term remedial education activities. [J.tpa] funds support a Work Experience and Career Exploration Program for 14- to 15-year-olds in the 25 districts with the greatest dropout rates.


In 1986, the Intercultural Development Research Association reported that only 12 percent of Texas's 1,080 school districts had a dropout program (despite a state dropout rate of 33 percent) and that dropouts were costing the state $17.12 billion in lost tax revenue and increased costs in welfare, crime, and incarceration. The Texas legislature responded in 1987 with House Bill 1010, which mandates the assignment of an at-risk youth coordinator in each school district and provision of a remedial and support program for any student in grades 7-12 testing below state achievement levels or at risk of dropping out of school.

Other provisions of the bill require the state education agency to develop a plan for reducing the projected cross-sectional and longitudinal dropout rates for the state to not more than 5 percent by 1997-98, and to establish a statewide dropout-information clearinghouse. The bill also created an Interagency Coordinating Council to coordinate policies and services for students who drop out of school or who are at risk of dropping out of school.

Earlier in 1987, the state education agency presented its long-range plan for 1986-1990. With at-risk students as one of its focal points, the plan calls for closing of the achievement gap between educationally disadvantaged students and other populations and for programs to reduce the dropout rate. The plan also emphasizes parental involvement, increased community-school partnerships, and development of methods to accurately identify and assist the slower learner. Two other objectives are to continue efforts to realize equalization and equity in the distribution of state funds and to increase public awareness of the relationship between changes in Texas' economic base and the concomitant need for students to succeed in school.

The Texas legislature has created a joint interim study committee to study the dropout problem and to present its recommendations to the 71st legislature in January 1989. There is also a state education task force on dropouts, which is developing a resource directory, a program evaluation model, and standards for dropout data collection.

Dropout-retrieval efforts have been promoted through the state jtpa organization, which made $1.1 million available in 1987-88 for the operation and evaluation of comprehensive alternative model programs for dropout and low-functioning out-of-school youth. The jtpa is a major source of support as well for 50 comprehensive competencies program centers, which provide individualized, self-paced instruction in basic skills for both in-school and out-of-school youth.

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