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State Officials Rush To Start Monitoring Chapter 1 Programs

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Washington--As of late last week, officials in 28 states had assured the Education Department that they had developed plans for monitoring the performance of Chapter 1 compensatory-education programs, a department official said.

But educators and policymakers across the country also reported last week that the accountability measures required by the revised federal Chapter 1 law and the regulations for it issued May 19 have them scrambling to forge new state-local agreements, under very tight time constraints, on how to carry out the law's intent.

The new mandates, for the first time in the history of federal compensatory-education programs, call on state and local officials to assess and report on the progress made by Chapter 1 pupils, and to devise improvement plans for schools that show "no gain" over time.

How much authority the provisions would give state officials to intervene in local programs, however, has been a divisive issue since the drafting of the Hawkins Stafford School Improvement Act last year.

The department settled some major issues when it published the final regulations for the law last month. But those interviewed last week said that working out acceptable arrangements between state and local officials in time to meet the rules' specifications posed difficult problems not yet solved in many instances.

The interviews and new surveys reveal that implementation efforts are moving in different ways and at different speeds in each state. And local officials report varying levels of satisfaction with the way state officials have handled the process.

"Some states are doing a fantastic job of involving practitioners," said Stanley McFarland, executive director of the National Association of Federal Program Administrators. "In others, they're going to run things the way they want it and not really involve people the way the law mandates it."

"The final truth is that we don't know how it's really going to work, and we won't know for several years," said Bruce Hunter, an associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.

John F. Jennings, counsel to the House Education and Labor Committee, said that while no apparent illegality had come to light in complaints from local educators, lawmakers were also concerned with the way the law is being implemented, and might hold oversight hearings this summer.

Setting Standards

Under the statute and federal regulations, school districts must set goals by which the success of their Chapter 1 programs will be measured. The department decided that programs where students show either no gain or a decline in test scores must be targeted for improvement, but districts are encouraged to set higher or additional standards, such as decreased dropout rates.

States may add their own requirements as to how success or failure will be judged, or draft rules related to the types of goals districts may set.

The department bowed to pressure from local administrators in requiring states to submit all proposed rules for review by committees of practitioners, which by law must contain a majority of local representatives. But the department declined to require that state officials consult educators' organizations on appointments to the committees.

In schools whose programs do not meet the standards, local officials must implement an improvement plan the following school year. Where a local plan has been in effect for one year and adequate improvement has not occurred, district officials must develop a joint plan with state officials, who can cut off Chapter 1 funds if no agreement is reached.

Strapped for Time

All the state and local Chapter 1 coordinators interviewed last week said they had been working to respond to the new law since it was enacted in April 1988. But because the final rules were not issued until May 19, they said, they will be forced to work quickly in coming months to complete applications for the 1989-90 school year.

Mary Jean LeTendre, director of compensatory-education programs for the Education Department, said she had asked state officials to submit applications by June 2; she noted that "the absolute, drop-dead deadline," after which funding may be delayed or even denied, is July 1.

Those applications must include "assurances" that a state's improvement plan, which must include state standards and regulations, is on file. That means that state officials who wish to set standards must do so soon.

And even if states meet their deadline, state standards might not reach school districts before they prepare their applications, which8are due in June and July in most states. As a result, coordinators in several states said, they will submit applications in two parts.

Ms. LeTendre suggested that many state officials wanted to see how some program-improvement issues were resolved in the final regulations before setting standards and convening their committees of practitioners.

"That certainly could be a problem if there hasn't been communication with the locals," Ms. LeTendre said. "We tried to tell states to give the locals time to amend their applications while they were still in school."

School districts must formulate improvement plans that conform to federal and state rules, submit applications to state officials, and evaluate Chapter 1 students' achievement in the 1988-89 school year in order to identify schools for program improvement.

Improvement Deadlines

There is no specific statutory deadline for identifying schools. But a survey by the National Association of State Chapter 1 Coordinators found that 24 of the 38 states and territories that responded plan to set a September deadline.

Eight states said they would require identification by December, while three planned to set the deadline in the spring or summer of 1990.

Estimates of the percentage of Chapter 1 schools that would be deemed in need of improvement ranged from 5 percent to 25 percent.

"It's going to be difficult to get all the assessment testing material together, identify kids, and discuss with staff how to improve programs, especially when a lot of staff are leaving for summer vacations," said Archie Greenwood, Chapter 1 director in the Long Branch, N.J., public schools.

"It's not brand new to me, and I can deal with it, but many of my colleagues who are not as involved in federal legislation and funding are going to have a hard time," he said.

"We would have liked to have the regulations out earlier, as we understand the schedule," Ms. LeTendre said. "But Chapter 1 regulations have never been out in this record time," she added, noting that it has taken much longer than a year to implement much less significant legislative changes in the program.

Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, the California Democrat who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, has criticized the department for the pace at which it has issued regulations for the many programs reauthorized by the Hawkins-Stafford Act.

But state and local officials noted that the law imposed a significant task on the department and lauded Ms. LeTendre for keeping officials informed.

"It's too bad they're late, but it's for a good reason," said Eugene Barrett, director of ancillary services for the Carteret, N.J., public schools.

Like many other educators, he praised the negotiated-rulemaking process, through which educators and parents were able to negotiate with department officials on the proposed regulations. (See Education Week, Nov. 9, 1988.)

"I'm more than willing to suffer if I have to suffer for that reason," Mr. Barrett said.

Glimpse of State Plans

Of 46 states surveyed by the federal Chapter 1 office in March, 44 reported that they were working on their program-improvement plans. Only Wyoming had completed its plan and only Tennessee had not yet begun developing one. Ten of the states had not yet appointed a committee of practitioners to review regulations.

Of 20 states surveyed by the nafpa between February and8April, eight had not yet appointed committees.

In April, the National Association of State Chapter 1 Coordinators surveyed 36 states, one territory, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and found that only four respondents had distributed improvement plans to local agencies. Two more plans had been approved by practitioners' committees, and 32 were still being drafted, with eight of those in the "final stages" of development.

The April survey also hinted at what state officials intend to include in their improvement plans.

Of the 38 respondents, 33 said they would definitely establish state evaluation standards; 14 said they would simply reiterate the federal "no-improvement" benchmark; 5 said they would set higher test-score standards; and 14 said they had not decided on their standards.

Twenty respondents said their states would allow districts to base their Chapter 1 goals on tests other than the type prescribed by federal regulations; 12 would allow the use of writing samples; and 12 planned to allow use of "other indices of student behavior."

Implementation Pace Varied

One local official reporting a "problem" last week was Joyce Weddington, Chapter 1 director for the Memphis Public Schools.

Her district's application was supposed to be submitted to Tennessee state officials last week, she said, but the officials had not told her whether they planned to add state-level regulations or standards to the federal rules.

"When they say the application has to be in May 30, and they haven't gotten us this information, well, you'd have to be clairvoyant or something," Ms. Weddington said. "They've provided information about the [federal] regulations, but it's not enough."

JoLeta Reynolds, associate commissioner of education and the state official overseeing Chapter 1 programs, said Tennessee officials "know basically what we're going to say" in the improvement plan, but were waiting for the final federal regulations to submit it.

Ms. Reynolds said state officials had "talked about it in meetings" with local officials--an assertion Ms. Weddington, head of the state's largest Chapter 1 program, disputed.

Ms. Reynolds also said state officials planned to have "a more detailed discussion with them to see if what we're proposing will meet their needs."

But she noted that the state had not formally appointed a committee of practitioners, and had relied instead on an existing group of educators that was formed to review the state's Chapter 1 policy manuals.

"We really don't have state-board rules on Chapter 1, so the need [for wide consultation] is not as great here as in some other states," she said.

'Contradicts Intent'

Complaints about a lack of meaningful local involvement also surfaced in states where state officials have disseminated their regulations.

Many states have used existing committees, a practice that Mr. McFarland of the nafpa argued "totally contradicts the intent of the statute and regulations."

And even in states where new panels were named, local officials complain that their organizations were not asked for nominations and contend that the committees are "rubber-stamp boards."

New Jersey administrators, for example, said the state had issued regulatory guidance, but "hand-picked" a review panel that does not contain a majority of local representatives, as the federal rules require.

"There is nothing in the legislation that requires that local organizations be consulted," said Sylvia Roberts, director of compensatory and bilingual education, adding that local officials "were invited to provide input."

But in other states local officials are pleased with the implementation process. Several local coordinators active in the federal-program administrators' group lauded Pennsylvania's approach, for example, as a "model" other states should emulate.

Richard M. Force, director of compensatory education in Wayne, Pa., said local administrators and their organizations had been involved in writing regulations, a draft version had been circulated, and districts had been given adequate guidelines for submitting their applications.

"A lot of people may not like the standards, but the involvement was there and it was honest involvement," Mr. Force said.

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