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Survey of Urban Districts Paints a Detailed Portrait

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Special education, teacher discipline and dismissal, and student discipline are the most pressing legal concerns facing urban school systems, according to a survey of 52 such districts released last week.

Twenty districts also cited tort liability and insurance coverage, and 17 identified desegregation as legal issues that are demanding their attention.

The study containing these and hundreds of other findings from the survey provides a highly detailed statistical portrait of the responding districts, including data on students, staffing, administration, budgets, and facilities.

For the first time, the triennial survey also explored a host of problems facing urban districts--including aids education, teenage-pregnancy prevention, substance-abuse prevention, early-childhood education, desegregation, and teacher and administrator shortages and recruitment--and the systems' responses.

The 260-page study, "A Survey of Public Education in the Nation's Urban School Districts: 1989," was issued by the National School Boards Association's council of urban boards of education.

Resource for Boards

The study does not offer conclusions or recommendations about its findings. Rather, it is meant to serve as a resource for board members and other officials facing similar problems, n.s.b.a. officials said.

It also does not contain data on such measures of district performance as dropout rates and test scores.

The findings indicate that urban districts have established a myriad of programs to deal with issues that range far from the traditional academic curriculum, n.s.b.a. officials said at a press conference announcing the report's release.

"The things that we are being asked to do, and the things we are being evaluated on are considerably different," noted James R. Oglesby, president of n.s.b.a. and a member of the Columbia, Mo., school board.

Programs and funding for such efforts as pregnancy prevention and asbestos removal "are not going to produce readily apparent results" in indicators that are being considered for inclusion in the set of national goals currently being developed by the White House and the nation's governors, he said.

"We're being asked to make silk purses out of sow's ears," said Jonathan C. Wilson, chairman of cube and a school-board member from Des Moines.

"Opportunistic politicians are perpetrating outright fraud" by demanding that urban districts improve rapidly while failing to provide them with adequate resources and stifling them with bureaucratic regulations, he said.

Among the wide array of new information provided by the survey are listings of teachers' contract provisions and state and federal mandates that district officials believe are impeding the delivery of educational surveys.

Copies of the survey are available for $35 each by writing Special Program Services Department, n.s.b.a., 1680 Duke St., Alexandria, Va. 22314, or by calling (703) 838-6761.

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