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A new report examining successful programs aimed at improving families' capacity to bolster their children's achievement finds that most are held at convenient locations, stress educational or employment opportunities for parents, offer social support, provide concrete rewards, and maintain close contact with other agencies.

The study, conducted by Abt Associates for the U.S. Education Department, examines 17 "family education" programs identified in a national search as "promising and innovative."

All the programs are linked with public schools and target primarily low-income families with children between ages 3 and 8. Most use several approaches, including home visits, group programs, and classes in which parents and young children participate together.

Besides noting how the programs sustained parents' interest, the report highlights the strategies they used to recruit parents and staff members and build positive relationships with schools.

The biggest challenges, it notes, include conducting "rigorous" evaluations, developing stable funding, designing staff training programs, and integrating programs into the K-12 curriculum.

Copies of the report, "Working with Families: Promising Programs to Help Parents Support Young Children's Learning," are available from the U.S. Education Department, Office of Planning, Budget, and Evaluation, Room 4049, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202.


Americans who have earned a General Educational Development diploma are likely to have better literacy skills than high-school graduates, according to a study by the American Council on Education, which administers the test.

The study, released last month, found that ged certificate earners typically scored better than high-school graduates on tests of social studies, science, and literature and art interpretation, all of which tend to measure reading in context, according to Janet Baldwin, assistant director for policy research at the ged Testing Service.

Over all, ged candidates, including those who did not pass the test, scored slightly lower than did high-school seniors, the study said.

More than 200,000 ged candidates took each test and their scores were compared with those of more than 6,000 high-school graduates who took each test, Ms. Baldwin said. High-school graduates take the tests annually, she said, to norm the tests for the adults seeking the ged certificate.

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