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Published in Print: January 13, 1999, as Report Roundup

Report Roundup

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Survey Finds Slowdown Of Students' Drug Use

Illicit-drug use among adolescents remained stable for the second year and even decreased for some age groups, signaling a slowdown in teenage drug use after dramatic increases in the 1980s, an annual study has found.

While the overall rate of drug use--from marijuana to crack cocaine to heroin--among high school seniors remained stable last year, researchers found drug use among 8th and 10th graders continued to drop. For the study, underwritten by the National Institutes of Health, researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed 49,866 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from a nationally representative sample of 422 public and private schools.

The percentage of 8th graders who reported using any illegal drugs during the past year decreased from 23 percent in 1996 to 21 percent in 1998. Also in 1998, 35 percent of 10th graders reported they had used drugs at least once in the past year, down from 38 percent in 1997.

"Monitoring the Future," free, from the University of Michigan World Wide Web site at:; or beginning in May, from the National Institutes on Drug Abuse Clearinghouse, PO Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20847-2345; (800) 729-6686.

--Jessica Portner

State Policies: Twenty-two states administer high school exit exams, and seven others were designing such tests as of last year, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers' latest update on state policies.

The council surveyed state education departments about academic-content standards, student assessments, graduation requirements, and teacher licensure.

In addition to adding high-stakes tests, states are adding course requirements, the council reports.

In a similar survey from 1995, 38 states reported they required four years of English for graduation, and seven others demanded three years.

By last year, 40 states mandated four years of English and eight required three credits in the subject.

"Key State Education Policies on K-12 Education," $10, from the Council of Chief State School Officers, Publications Department, 1 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20001; (202) 336-7016.

--David J. Hoff

Special Education: North Carolina spends a disproportionate amount of money on institutions for special education students, even though most disabled children are educated in community-based programs, a report contends.

The report, released last month by the Raleigh-based North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, recommends that the state examine its spending formulas and the effectiveness of the institutions.

For instance, the study found that 78 percent of state funding for deaf students goes to three residential institutions, although the facilities serve fewer than one-third of the deaf students in the state.

In a separate study, the group concluded that the state's office of administrative hearings takes too long to settle special education-related disputes between parents and schools. The group claims that 90 percent of all cases exceed the 45-day limit mandated by federal law.

"Red Tape and Raw Nerves: Special Education Disputes in North Carolina" and "From Institutions to Communities: Will More Dollars Finally Follow Special Needs Children to the Local Level?" are both included in the November issue of North Carolina Insight, $20, from the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, PO Box 430, Raleigh, NC 27602; (919) 832-2839.

--Joetta L. Sack

Low-Income Children: Spending on programs for low-income children constitutes a small amount of a state's total budget, and most of the funding comes from federal sources, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute.

The Washington-based nonprofit organization found that most state-level spending on low-income children falls into the areas of health and cash assistance and training. And of the 13 states surveyed, none spent more than 14.5 percent of the general fund on children in low-income programs.

On average, the states spent $3,153 per poor child during the 1994-95 fiscal year. When federal funding was added, the amount tripled to $10,111.

Part of the federal government's funding provides for child care, early-childhood development, cash assistance and training, and food and nutrition.

The states surveyed were chosen to represent about half of the nation's population and to depict geographic, political, and economic diversity.

"The Children's Budget Report: A Detailed Analysis of Spending on Low-Income Children's Programs in 13 States," free, from the Urban Institute, Publications Office, 2100 M St. N.W., Washington, DC 20037; 202-261-5687.

--Karen L. Abercrombie

School Funding: Community-based groups hoping to influence how districts allocate resources must first help local residents understand the basic mechanics of school budgets, says a guide released last month by the Public Education Network.

The booklet from the Washington-based coalition of local education foundations includes a step-by-step plan designed to help organizations engage the public in the school budgeting process.

By understanding the numbers, the report says, residents will be better prepared to fight school budget cuts or the misallocation of public funds.

"How To Create a Community Guide to Your School District's Budget," $10, from PEN, 601 13th St. N.W., Suite 900N, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 628-7460.

--Jessica L. Sandham

Youth Survey: The "echo boom" generation--now teenagers and the largest generation ever--is made up of independent thinkers who believe in taking responsibility for themselves, understand the significance of family, and stress the value of education, a recent survey concludes.

The study of 3,000 students between the ages of 12 and 19 found that teenagers blame themselves for crime and violence in school, teen pregnancy, smoking, and drinking, but point to the federal government and the media as causing societal ills.

More than 80 percent of the adolescents identified a well-paying job as a goal, according to the study. It was released last month by Primedia Inc., a New York City publishing company, and Roper Starch Worldwide Inc., a New York City-based opinion-research firm.

More than 75 percent of the teenagers said "having people's respect" and solid relationships with their parents were very important.

The youths said that their parents have the most influence over their academic performance and future plans, but that their peers swayed their choices of personal style, personality, and friends.

"National Youth Opinion Survey," free, from Primedia; (212) 407-9700.

--Julie Blair

Government Involvement: One in four Americans would like government to get out of the business of educating the country's children, according to a recent poll.

The survey was commissioned by the Separation of School & State Alliance, a Fresno, Calif., group that favors ending government involvement in K-12 education.

The poll described for a random, national sample of respondents two sets of opinions: one favoring the sponsoring of schools by private groups and individuals over the current system of mostly publicly supported education, and the other opposing that idea as too risky because private philanthropy would not likely be enough to ensure that all children received a good education.

Twenty-seven percent of the 1,012 respondents either "strongly" or "somewhat" liked the first scenario, compared with 70 percent who agreed with the second view.

Pollsters then asked those who opposed eliminating government involvement if they would reconsider if they knew there were "enough private scholarships available for poor students to go to better schools than today." Of that subgroup, 43 percent then said they liked the idea of abolishing the current system.

Results of the survey--including breakdowns by respondents' family income, race, and region--are available for free by calling the Separation of School & State Alliance; (209) 292-1776.

--Jeff Archer

Vocational Education: The National Center for Research in Vocational Education brought together educators from some of the nation's largest cities in 1992 in an effort to improve academic preparation and technological training for disadvantaged high school students.

The five-year collaboration eventually became known as the Urban Schools Network and involved high schools, community colleges, and other institutions in 27 cities.

The experiences of the 30 schools that embarked on those school-to-work reforms are now the subject of a capstone report published by the center.

"Lessons Learned: Five Years in the Urban Schools Network," $27.95, from NCRVE, Distribution Service Center; (800) 637-7652.

--Debra Viadero

Literacy: As the 21st century approaches, nearly a billion people will be unable to read a book or sign their names, much less fill out a form or operate a computer, an international study warns.

The annual survey by the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, notes that those functional illiterates will live, as now, in more desperate poverty and poorer health and will find it harder to sustain themselves and their families.

An estimated 855 million people will be functionally illiterate at the end of this century.

At the same time, 130 million children of primary school age in developing countries, including 73 million girls, are growing up without access to basic education.

Education is the single most important intervention in ending child labor, the report says.

It suggests that by spending an additional $7 billion on education each year for the next 10 years, educating all children could become a reality.

"The State of the World's Children 1999," free from UNICEF, 333 E. 38th St., New York, NY 10016; (212) 686-5522; fax: (212) 779-1679.

--Adrienne D. Coles

International Trends: A high school education is fast becoming a rite of passage in industrialized nations. But in the developing world, an average of one out of four students drops out of school before 5th grade and 84 million children of primary school age never get a chance to attend school at all.

Those numbers come from a report published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or unesco. The report is the fourth in a series on educational trends by the Paris-based branch of the UN.

The report documents the extent of "school wastage" in 131 developing countries and territories.

It also offers examples of the efforts some countries are making to make their schools accessible to all children and to keep students from dropping out of school once they begin.

"Wasted Opportunities: When Schools Fail," free, from Education For All Forum Secretariat, UNESCO, 7 Place de Fonenoy, 7532 Paris 07 SP France; e-mail:

--Debra Viadero

Vol. 18, Issue 18, Pages 12-13

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