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Test results show that preschool programs for at-risk 4-year-olds that began as part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act are closing the learning gap between such youngsters and their peers, a University of Kentucky study concludes.

The study, financed by the Kentucky Department of Education, compared the performance of approximately 1,300 participants in kera preschools with that of a randomly selected group of nonparticipants. The tests measured their developmental, social, and early literacy skills.

The researchers found that children enrolled in the programs in 1993-94 showed significant gains. Children who completed the program in previous years and went on to regular classrooms demonstrated achievement levels similar to those of other children, many of whom came from more advantaged backgrounds.

"This study is important because it shows progress in reaching the goal of the preschool program--to help at-risk children to achieve at least as well as their peers," said Connie Bridge, the director of the University of Kentucky Institute on Education Reform.

Students who take the Scholastic Assessment Test this month will be the first to do so under a revised scoring system that automatically adjusts their scores upward. The College Board announced the "recentering" of scores on the nation's most widely used college-entrance test last June.

Critics have charged that the changes will inflate scores artificially. But College Board officials said the adjustments are needed to reflect the changing population of test-takers. (See Education Week, 6/22/94.)

Today, there are some 1.8 million test-takers annually from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Both the verbal and mathematics portions of the test are scored on a scale of 200 to 800. The changes will return the national averages to 500; currently, the average verbal score is about 425 and math scores average 480. The adjustments will not alter the standing of test-takers relative to each other.

In November, the College Board will introduce the S.A.T. II: English Language Proficiency Test.

The test, to be used for college admissions and placement, is for non-native speakers of English who have attended a U.S. high school for two to four years.

It will measure their ability to function in classrooms where English is spoken, regardless of subject matter.

--Lynn Olson

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