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Program Found To Boost Youths' College Attendance

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Intervention programs aimed at raising the expectations of disadvantaged youths can succeed in boosting college-attendance rates and can encourage success, but often are handicapped by a lack of information on successful tactics or are overwhelmed by the continuing pressures to raise funds, a new study concludes.

The longitudinal study, released this week by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, found that five years after completing the group's monthlong residential training program, participants were more likely than their peers to have attended college or joined the military.

In addition, the study found that, among low to moderate achievers in high school, twice as many participants as nonparticipants attended college.

The study compared 92 graduates of the program with 104 nonparticipants.

The study, which also examined 12 other intervention programs aimed at improving disadvantaged students' skills in science and mathematics, concludes that, by observing exemplary practices, intervention programs can quickly improve the outlook for students who often are overlooked by schools.

"These kids are really an extraordinary pool of talent for the nation,'' said David P. Weikart, the president of the foundation. "When given the opportunity, they will respond.''

In the new report, "Challenging the Potential: Programs for Talented Disadvantaged Youth,'' researchers, including Mr. Weikart, conclude that five years after completing the course at the nonprofit group's Institute for Initiative, Diversity, Expectations, Achievement, and Service in Michigan, 73 percent of the participants had gone on to postsecondary education, compared with 55 percent of a comparison group.

Considering only students who were identified as low or moderate achievers, 65 percent of the participants enrolled in college, compared with 29 percent of their peers.

High/Scope's Michigan institute, initially financed through the federal Job Training Partnership Act, is being expanded into other states with funding from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund.

Mr. Weikart noted, however, that by using the information on proven intervention strategies, stronger programs could be initiated by a host of sponsors.

"We have the resources in J.T.P.A.; there are literally thousands of facilities that could be opened to programs like this, and the kids exist,'' he said. "We just have to bring all of this together and make it go.''

A 'Significant Report'

In studying the math and science programs, Mario A. Kelley of Hunter College of the City University of New York found that the common skills necessary for academic achievement are knowledge of one or more specific fields, problem-solving abilities, motivation, and communications skills.

To help students master those areas, he found, successful programs offer such strategies as advanced courses, hands-on exercises, exposure to work settings, involvement with role models, study coaching, personal counseling, and strong teacher training and parent involvement.

And while finding exemplary practices in many programs, the report notes that a lack of comprehensive program evaluations means that, even among model programs, few have designed strategies that incorporate all of the proven tactics.

"Programs are caught in a vicious circle,'' the report notes. "To secure funding, they must prove they are effective, and to prove they are effective, they must secure funding.''

The research points to improvements needed to ensure greater success among intervention programs, and the report urges that more residential programs be established to remove students from surroundings that have provided obstacles.

But, the authors add, the findings suggest changes for schools as well.

Schools should incorporate more active learning and cooperative projects, and encourage more informal contact between teachers and students, the study says.

Educators should also gauge student abilities in ways other than test scores, which often hide the potential of disadvantaged youths.

"We must change our view of talented disadvantaged and minority students' potential for achievement, with the firm belief that our higher expectations will enhance their achievement,'' the report concludes.

Educators who have reviewed the 390-page report said the research on High/Scope participants will interest other researchers.

"It is a significant report,'' said Karen Pittman, a vice president of the Academy for Educational Development and the director of its center for youth development and policy research. "The rigorous evaluation and longitudinal work they've done gives us a strong base for making policy recommendations on what works and what doesn't.''

Copies of the report are available for $29 each from the High/Scope Press, 600 North River St., Ypsilanti, Mich. 48198.

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