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More Chapter 1 Schools Said Falling Short of Goals

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Washington--Almost a sixth of all Chapter 1 schools failed to meet achievement criteria in the second year the standards were applied, according to preliminary data from a survey of state Chapter 1 coordinators.

The share of schools failing to meet standards in the 1989-90 school year represented a substantial increase from the level found the previous year.

Of 36 state officials responding to the recent survey, which was was conducted by the state coordinators' association, 27 said their schools' 1989-90 data had been analyzed. In those states, 2,907 schools--15.8 percent of their Chapter 1 schools--were identified for improvement, including some that had already been identified the previous year.

Data for 1988-89 showed that about 10 percent of all schools participating in the compensatory-education program were identified as in need of improvement. Those schools could take a year to draft improvement plans and another year to implement them, and schools that posted sufficient test-score gains during that time could escape the "program improvement" process.

Two coordinators said schools in their states had moved quickly enough to have entered the second phase of the process--a plan, developed jointly with state officials, that is required after one year of failed local improvement efforts.

Gordon M. Ambach, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, told a Congressional panel last month that the data from the 1989-90 survey show that states are beginning to raise the standards by which they judge Chapter 1 programs.

He defended state officials' implementation of the 1988 law that created the program-improvement process, noting that educators need time to adapt to such a change and that only $5.7 million in federal funding was available in fiscal 1989 for technical assistance to identified schools.

The number of schools identified "had to be played off against the amount of resources available," Mr. Ambach said.

He also noted that many state coordinators had expressed concern about making these decisions based on year-to-year improvement in test scores when some schools experience significant mobility among Chapter 1 students. If only a few students tested were also counted in the previous year's score, many educators argue, it is invalid to use aggregates to judge a school's performance.

The 1988 Chapter 1 amendments and accompanying regulations set a minimum federal standard that taps for program improvement those schools in which aggregate achievement by Chapter 1 students declines or stagnates. While the rules allow states and districts to set higher standards, the vast majority of states used only the minimum benchmark in the first year.

Such decisions have been repeatedly criticized by federal officials and lawmakers.

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