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Reading Group Assails Use of Untrained Chapter 1 Aides

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Nearly half of all instructors in the federally funded Chapter 1 compensatory-education program are aides with little or no training beyond a high school diploma, according to a report released last week by the International Reading Association.

Created in 1965 to provide remedial help to disadvantaged students, the Chapter 1 program serves 5.5 million children nationwide. Lawmakers are expected to make major changes in the program this year when they reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The association, which represents 93,000 reading educators, urged lawmakers to address the growing use of untrained aides in the program.

"If we're going to serve youngsters most in need, then we need to have the most well-trained staff working with them,'' said Alan E. Farstrup, the executive director of the Newark, Del.-based group.

While schools typically employ aides to supervise recesses or lunch periods or to assist teachers in other noninstructional ways, the aides used in Chapter 1 programs often provide much of the instruction that children get, according to Mr. Farstrup. They work, on average, with 31 children each day.

Moreover, one study cited in the report suggests that 20 percent of those aides are working with no supervision from better-trained Chapter 1 teachers.

The report also says that the use of aides in Chapter 1 classes has grown steadily in response to increasing financial pressures. Between the 1985-86 school year and the 1991-92 school year, for example, the number of full-time Chapter 1 aides increased by 10 percent, growing from 59,000 to 65,000. By comparison, the number of teachers working in those programs increased by less than half as much over the same period.

And schools with high concentrations of poor students, which face the greatest demands and often have the fewest resources, tend to rely most heavily on aides, who are often hired from the local community and sometimes are parents of Chapter 1 pupils.

A Financial Question

The report cites data suggesting that 85 percent of those "high poverty level'' schools rely on aides for instruction.

Nationwide, only 13 percent of Chapter 1 aides hold bachelor's degrees, and 4 percent have earned additional credits. Nearly half of all Chapter 1 teachers, by comparison, have master's degrees.

Because of inadequate training, the association argues, the kind of instruction the untrained aides provide frequently falls short of what students need. Aides may, for example, supervise children while they complete worksheets or other types of "drill and skill'' activities.

Some case studies have also suggested that aides often provide answers to children rather than show them how to find answers on their own.

To raise the quality of the teaching staff, the association has proposed creating a training and certification program for Chapter 1 aides that is based loosely on one used in the federal Head Start program for preschool children.

The program, which would cost about $57 million a year to administer, would include coursework in child development and instructional strategies for aides already working in schools, and training in mentoring for the Chapter 1 teachers who work with them.

Administration Said Opposed

Richard Long, the association's Washington representative, said that the House Education and Labor Committee, which is poised to mark up its E.S.E.A. reauthorization bill, was considering a proposal to mandate that Chapter 1 aides have a high school diploma or its equivalent or be working toward one. Mr. Long said the Clinton Administration opposed that idea.

Due to frigid temperatures here that caused power shortages and forced agencies to close down, Education Department officials were unavailable to comment publicly on the group's plan last week.

However, a department official reached at home said that the Administration favored professional-training efforts that focused more on teachers. The official said that he expects the department and lawmakers to find "a middle ground'' on the issue.

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