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A new study offers evidence that children who attended preschool programs implemented under Kentucky's landmark education-reform law fared better in kindergarten than children who did not.

The Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 required all school districts to offer preschool for low-income 4-year-olds and for 3- and 4-year-olds with disabilities.

In the 1991-92 school year, the program served 12,540 children. During that year, University of Kentucky researchers studied a representative sample of 100 children from 36 school districts who had been in KERA preschool programs the previous year. They compared them with 50 children from diverse backgrounds, some with other preschool experience and some without.

The study showed kindergartners who had attended the KERA preschools scored "significantly better'' than the comparison group on instruments measuring social skills, language development, physical development, and motor skills.

But it cited a need for more extensive research, including identifying a more closely matched control group, conducting pre- and post-tests during the preschool year, and funding longitudinal studies to measure mid- and long-term gains.

Based on program observations, the study also cited a need for more individualized instruction, more emphasis on literacy and gross-motor skills, and better coordination between KERA preschools and other early-childhood programs.

Information on the report, "Third Party Evaluation: Kentucky Education Reform Act Preschool Programs,'' can be obtained from the Kentucky Department of Education, Preschool Division, 21st floor, Capital Plaza, 500 Mero St., Frankfort, Ky. 40601; (502) 564-7056.

The Georgia state board of education this month unanimously approved new sex-education guidelines, ending a contentious five-year battle over the direction of sex education in the state's schools.

The board voted to "emphasize abstinence from sexual activity as an effective method of preventing áéäó and the only sure method of preventing pregnancy.'' It also agreed to establish local advisory committees composed of parents and student representatives to review instructional materials before they are used in the classroom.

The board had given preliminary approval to the changes in February.

Before the vote, both proponents and opponents of the plan supported their cases using a 1991 study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study showed that nearly 67 percent of high school boys in the state had had intercourse, while 54 percent of high school girls were sexually active. In addition, 34 percent of the boys reported having four or more sexual partners.

"We believe that the recommendations approved and the changes made in our program will significantly improve the quality of instruction in sex education and will confirm our longstanding position on abstinence and local decisionmaking,'' State Superintendent of Schools Werner Rogers said after the board's vote.

Last month, the board rejected the most controversial aspects of the curriculum, including beginning áéäó-prevention instruction in the 4th grade rather than the 6th grade and establishing a unit on homosexuality and sex roles.

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