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Report Roundup: Federal Survey Tracks Reading Achievement

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Keywords: Parental involvement and the time spent on reading in school are leading factors influencing the literacy of U.S. students, a study from the U.S. Department of Education concludes.

The report also contradicts suggestions that American students lag behind their peers in other countries when it comes to reading.

It says students in the United States scored second only to those in Finland in a recent study that measured reading comprehension of 4th and 9th graders in 32 countries.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley cited the findings on parental involvement as being "the most compelling."

"This is a positive report that tells us that when parents follow the first rule of education and read to their children, they make a tremendous difference in helping their children learn this first basic," Mr. Riley said in releasing the report last month.

The report also examines various types of family structures. The study found that students from one-parent, mother-only families appeared to do as well as students from families where both biological parents were present.

The report notes that the educational attainment of mothers and fathers plays a role in influencing reading comprehension.

Data for the study were drawn from a survey of reading literacy published in 1992 by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

"Reading Literacy in the United States," free from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, Washington D.C. 20402-9328; (800) 424-1616. Ask for publication #NCES 96-258.

State Assessments

Forty-five states have statewide systems for assessing students' academic learning, and the subjects most frequently tested are reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies, according to a survey conducted by the National Education Goals Panel.

The Washington-based panel collected information from states in order to produce a profile of state assessment systems and the results generated by those tests.

The report, released last month and meant as a user's guide for educators and policymakers, covers data from the 1994-95 school year.

"Profile of 1994-95 State Assessment Systems and Reported Results," free while supplies last from the National Education Goals Panel, 1255 22nd St. N.W., Suite 502, Washington, D.C., 20037; (202) 632-0952; fax (202) 632-0957.

Reforms in Philadelphia

The seven-year effort to restructure Philadelphia's 22 neighborhood high schools into smaller, more personal learning environments has brought widely differing results, a report says.

Some of the schools-within-schools are merely new names for old practices, researchers found, while others are making significant progress.

The study was commissioned by the Philadelphia Education Fund, a nonprofit organization that works to improve teaching and learning in the city.

It was conducted by Research for Action, an independent evaluation firm based in Philadelphia.

"The Five School Study: Restructuring Philadelphia's Comprehensive High Schools," $5 each from the Philadelphia Education Fund, 7 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Suite 700, Philadelphia, Pa. 19103-1294; (215) 665-1400.

Students' Views

The majority of the nation's middle and high school students give their schools a B grade on the education they provide and are generally satisfied with their teachers, according to a recent survey.

In the fourth in a series of surveys of students released by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., researchers polled 2,524 students in grades 7-12 about the quality of their schools' resources, the structure of the class day, and the use of computers in the classroom, among other topics.

"Students Voice Their Opinions on: Their Education, Teachers, and Schools--Part II," free from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., The American Teacher Survey, P.O. Box 807, Madison Square Station, New York, N.Y. 10159.

Cities and Their Schools

In Huntsville, Ala., Mayor Steven Hettinger sets aside one day each year to teach in his local schools.

In Topeka, Kan., the city government runs education-related programs ranging from a "second chance" school for expelled students to community policing in the schools.

And in Santa Barbara, Calif., municipal officials have led a crackdown on truancy and devised a 15-week curriculum that seeks to keep children out of gangs.

These and many more examples of city governments' involvement in public schools are described in a 70-page report released last month by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"Best Practices of City Governments: Focus on the Mayor's Role in Education," $15 each from the Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1620 I St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006; (202) 293-7330; fax (202) 293-2352.

Mixed Results

A new study concludes that the school-based governance structure created by the 1988 Chicago school-reform law has had uneven results.

The Chicago Panel on School Policy, a nonprofit research group, found that the local school councils created under the reforms were functioning in most of the schools it studied.

But it also found that many of the councils either served as rubber stamps for their principals or were torn by internal conflicts and that nearly all of them failed to achieve their goals for student performance.

The panel spent six years tracking the councils at 10 elementary schools and four high schools representative of the system as a whole. The councils are composed of the school principal, teachers, parents, community representatives, and, at the high school level, students.

Copies of the full report are $30, a summary is $6, and a highlights package is $2. All are available by calling (312) 346-2202, or by writing The Chicago Panel on School Policy, 200 North Michigan Ave., Suite 501, Chicago, Ill. 60601.

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