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Published in Print: May 19, 1999, as Urban Education

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Urban Education

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High-poverty schools that defy the odds by fostering unusually high academic performance tend to share certain common elements, a report by the Education Trust concludes.

Based on survey results from 366 schools in 21 states, the report identifies six characteristics that are often present in high-performing schools with many poor students.

"These schools--the students, teachers, and administrators--are all myth-busters," said Kati Haycock, the director of the Washington-based nonprofit group, which focuses on helping schools and colleges educate disadvantaged students. "They show it can be done."

The finding the report's authors deemed most significant was the schools' use of state academic standards to guide instruction. Principals in nine out of 10 schools reported using such standards to design curricula and assess student progress, while 59 percent used them to gauge teachers' effectiveness.

Another finding was that 78 percent of the schools offered extended time for core subjects, especially reading and mathematics.

Nearly two-thirds of the schools reported that they had reduced their emphasis on "the routine assignment of ditto sheets" and allowed more time for students to discuss course content.

The schools also tended to spend more on professional development; a third allotted more than 10 percent of their Title I money to that purpose. Other features found in many of the schools were comprehensive systems for monitoring and supporting students; performance-based accountability systems with consequences for adults as well as students; and efforts to inform parents about academic standards and student work.

A theme running through the report is that changes made in 1994 to the federal Title I program for poor students were basically sound.

At that time, the $8 billion program was revamped to emphasize higher academic standards and more flexibility in the use of funds. Congress is again gearing up to reauthorize the program.

The report was based on a survey sent last fall to 1,200 schools that had student poverty rates of at least 50 percent and were identified by their states because of test scores that were either unusually high or greatly improved. Inner-city schools made up about half of those that responded.

Copies of "Dispelling the Myth: High Poverty Schools Exceeding Expectations" may be obtained for $12 from the Education Trust by calling (202) 293-1217.

--Caroline Hendrie

Vol. 18, Issue 36, Page 8

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