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Ky. Research Group Issues Reports on Impact of Reforms

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A research center set up to monitor local practices under Kentucky's 1990 school-reform law is releasing a series of reports designed to set the agenda for next year's legislative session.

The Kentucky Institute for Education Research, based in Frankfort, has issued four reports detailing what is needed to improve school councils, performance tests, ungraded primary classrooms, and teacher training.

In the next few weeks, additional reports will be released on high school restructuring and the state's technology program.

The reports provide a snapshot of how the state's teachers and schools are handling major reform programs. They also come at a time when activists and politicians in the state are intensifying lobbying in advance of the next biennial legislative session, which begins in January.

"We are turning the corner, but we are also uncovering areas where we really need some work," said Roger S. Pankratz, the ex~ecutive director of the research in~stitute. "There are a lot of different experiences out there. We're trying to make some sense of everything and at the same time be supportive of what is working."

Findings From Reports

In a report on school-based decisionmaking, researchers at the University of Kentucky in Lexington say they found that members of school councils are becoming more comfortable with the decisionmaking that has been delegated from school boards and superintendents to each building.

The councils' chief work, however, has been in deciding school-operations questions rather than confronting school policy.

After looking at 31 randomly chosen councils, the researchers found a widespread lack of parent and community interest--an area they recommend lawmakers and state education officials look into.

The report also suggests using the state's training and assistance funds for individual council needs rather than blanket improvement efforts.

Researchers from the University of Louisville visited 32 schools and found that the state's move from standardized tests is having a ripple effect. Portfolios and performance testing are increasingly used in classrooms but are most likely to be found in the grade levels that the state tests. The researchers found that teachers with less than five years of experience are more likely than veteran teachers to try the new testing strategies.

A report on the state's ungraded-primary program concludes that little has changed since a similar survey last year. University of Kentucky researchers studied 24 randomly chosen schools and discovered that the success of the program varies widely.

Teachers are doing well in stocking classrooms with more reading materials; planning with other teachers; and trying new reading, writing, and math teaching materials. They are less ambitious about new science and social-studies teaching strategies, integrating art into other subjects, and finding successful ways to group students to increase achievement.

A report on teacher training, in which researchers from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green studied 44 schools, found that professional development has expanded under the Kentucky reform law but that many schools and districts have yet to see continuous and structured training as part of their improvement plans.

Few schools used evaluations of training workshops as a way to plan training activities.

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