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Technical Assistance Found To Have Little Effect on Title I

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A federal effort to provide intensive technical assistance to low-achieving Title I students and schools had little effect, a new study concludes.

While student achievement improved in some participating schools, it stagnated in others, the study found. Similarly, while some teachers adopted new instructional techniques suggested by consultants, others did not.

"A central finding of this evaluation is that the technical assistance had limited impact in these [participating] schools," says the study. Titled "Third-Year Evaluation of the Nine-Site Program Improvement Initiative," it focused on 68 schools in the Title I compensatory-education program, then known as Chapter 1.

Limiting Factors

Researchers listed a variety of factors that may have limited the initiative's efficacy:

  • The schools and districts involved were "not predisposed to use assistance."

All the programs studied had been identified as needing improvement because achievement of their Title I students did not meet federal or state guidelines; many educators were resentful of the designation and resistant to federal help. In urban districts, large bureaucracies were also seen as a hindrance.

  • Only two-thirds of the schools received intensive help through all three years of the study. Schools received varying degrees of aid--from 12 hours in a year to 81 hours, and from monthly visits to two a year.
  • The content of the aid "shifted and evolved over time; a clear, consistent focus was the exception rather than the rule."

But the study also found some benefits from the initiative, including "ambitious efforts tointroduce innovations in the classroom."

The department established the initiative in 1990 to determine how much intensive technical assistance could help schools identified for program improvement. The department provided about $540,000 annually to its Chapter 1 Technical Assistance Centers and Rural Technical Assistance Centers to provide the services.

The assistance consisted primarily of helping improve instructional and administrative practices, parental-involvement efforts, and statewide assessment.

The study, prepared by the Washington-based Policy Studies Associates Inc., suggests that the department "create [a technical-] assistance network organized primarily around themes or topics, rather than categorical programs."

The reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act replaces most program-specific centers with 15 regional centers.

Single copies of the study are free from the Planning and Evaluation Service, 600 Independence Ave., S.W., Room 4162, Washington, D.C. 20202; (202) 401-0590.

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