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E.D. To Identify Targeted Chapter 1 Programs

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Washington--Education Department officials plan to report at a Congressional hearing next week on how states and school districts are implementing controversial program-improvement requirements added to the Chapter 1 program in 1988.

This year, for the first time, state education agencies and school districts receiving federal aid under the compensatory-education program must establish standards for measuring the success of Chapter 1 efforts and identify schools where the program has not sufficiently improved student achievement. (See Education Week, June 7, 1989.)

A department spokesman said Mary Jean LeTendre, director of compensatory-education programs, is to report on the number of schools that have been targeted for improvement and on the extent to which state officials and local educators have set standards beyond the minimum prescribed in federal regulations.

At a meeting here this month, one of eight regional conferences the department has scheduled on the subject, Ms. LeTendre noted that "there are higher expectations for this program than we have had in the past." She urged educators to set high standards, even at the risk of being forced into a program-improvement plan.

"Setting low goals might be worse than setting no goals," Ms. LeTendre said, if the result is "to lower expectations."

Improvement plans, she argued, "should not be viewed as negative, should not be viewed as stigmas, should not be viewed as labeling poor schools."

Report Counters 'Myths'

Ms. LeTendre also attempted to debunk what she described as "myths" about Chapter 1, such as the idea that the program must be totally separate from the regular curriculum and that disadvantaged students can master only the most basic skills.

"The conventional wisdom involving the education of disadvantaged children is out of date," she said.

At the meeting, the department released a report buttressing that opinion. The report, "Better Schooling for the Children of Poverty: Alternatives to Conventional Wisdom," concludes that:

Attitudes that focus on children's educational "deficits" and cultural disadvantages lead to low expectations. An approach that "respects" and builds on children's background may be more successful, it says.

Teachers should mix more interesting, complex tasks with routine-skill learning, rather than requiring mastery of basic skills before pupils can attempt more advanced work.

Children should be allowed to do more learning on their own and in cooperation with their peers.

Teachers should replace rigid be8havior policies with classroom rules related to the work being done.

Chapter 1 instruction should be integrated with the regular school program as much as possible, and all work should not be done in ability-based groups. The report says, however, that research on ability grouping is "mixed," and "does not warrant" doing away with the practice entirely.

The report is the first to emerge from a federally funded, three-year study on the instruction of disadvantaged students. The researchers are studying 15 elementary schools in California, Maryland, and Ohio.

Panel Seeks Review

In a related development, the House Education and Labor Committee last week unanimously approved legislation that would require the Education Department to study implementation of the 1988 Chapter 1 amendments.

The study would examine how program improvement was implemented and whether targeted schools improved; how districts have used more relaxed rules for schoolwide projects; how districts decide which schools and students to serve with their Chapter 1 grants; and the effectiveness of the Even Start and migrant-education programs.

The report would also estimate how many students are eligible for Chapter 1 and how much money would be needed to serve them all.

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