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Transitional programs designed to retain developmentally slow children in kindergarten an extra year may be doing more harm than good, a Virginia department of education study concludes.

A report released last month shows that children who were held back a year in a transitional program--often called "junior kindergarten"--scored about 20 points lower on cognitive tests than did children of the same sex, race, and socioeconomic status who attended regular kindergarten and who went on to 1st grade.

The report, based on data from 55 school districts throughout the state, also noted that extra-year programs enrolled a disproportionate percentage of boys, minorities, and children from low-income families.

The transitional 1st-grade program was designed to help slow-developing kindergartners by giving them extra time to catch up with their peers before entering the more academically rigorous 1st grade. Such programs proliferated in Virginia and other states throughout the 1980's.

Virginia education officials now say they are considering a new strategy to redesign kindergarten and primary-grade programs to make them less academic and more flexible so that slower-learning children can remain with their peers, according to Assistant Superintendent Callie Shingleton.

The Kentucky Council on Higher Education has set goals for improving minority-student enrollment and faculty hiring at colleges and universities in the state.

The higher-education board also threatened to impose sanctions on institutions that fail to improve their records of recruitment and retention of black students.

Enrollment of resident undergraduate black students at state colleges and universities fell from 3.7 percent of total enrollment in 1982 to 3.5 percent in 1989.

The council's plan, approved May 21, includes percentage goals to be reached by the 1994-95 school year. The council could refuse to approve new academic programs for schools that did not achieve their minority-enrollment or -hiring goals.

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