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Published in Print: June 23, 1999, as Report Roundup

Report Roundup

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Study: Voucher Parents Satisfied With Schools



Parents participating in Cleveland's voucher program tend to be much more satisfied with their children's schools than those whose children remain in the city's public schools, according to an analysis by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Led by Paul E. Peterson, the director of the school's Program on Education Policy and Governance, the study surveyed random samples of Cleveland parents during summer and fall 1998, after the second year of the private-school-voucher program.

Among the findings: Of those parents participating in the initiative, nearly half said they were "very satisfied," with the academic program at their children's schools, compared with less than 30 percent for those with children attending public schools.

The survey also shows voucher families are happier with discipline and safety at their schools. In addition, an analysis of family characteristics included in the survey shows that the mothers of voucher recipients had more education and were more likely to attend church than mothers of the public school pupils.

The study also examined the performance of children attending two Hope Academies--schools set up specifically to serve voucher students--and found that those students had made better-than-average gains in their first year and that those gains were maintained in the second year.

The report is available on the World Wide Web at: http://data.fas.harvard.edu/PEPG/clv2jn99.pdf. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.) Free copies may be ordered by calling (617) 495-7976.

--Jeff Archer

Growth in Testing: A new critique of the growing use of standardized tests in schools comes from an unlikely source: the Educational Testing Service. In a recently released report, Paul E. Barton, the director of the Policy Information Center at the giant nonprofit testing company, traces the development of standardized testing over the past quarter of a century. Because tests are inexpensive and quick to put in place, he concludes, political leaders are increasingly overusing--and misusing--them.

"Testing is becoming a means of reform, rather than one way of finding out whether reforms are working," Mr. Barton writes in the report.

And he suggests some less intrusive ways in which states and districts can use tests as a measure of accountability.

The report, "Too Much Testing of the Wrong Kind; Too Little of the Right Kind in K-12 Education," is available free on the World Wide Web at: www.ets.org/research/pic/testing/tmtoc.html, or send $9.50 to the Policy Information Center, Mail Stop 04-R, Educational Testing Service, Rosedale Road, Princeton, NJ 08541-0001; (609) 734-5694.

--Debra Viadero

Civil Rights: The Clinton administration continues to lack policies that offer help to those who are mired in poverty, a report from the Washington-based Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights contends.

While President Clinton "continues to speak with understanding and empathy about the plight of people trapped in racial and economic isolation, he and his administration have yet to provide clear direction with respect to civil rights policy," the commission says in its sixth biennial report. Its report examines the civil rights record of the presidential administration in power.

The recently released report urges the administration and Congress to bring about a renewed commitment to comprehensive efforts aimed at providing opportunity to those facing poverty and discrimination.

The roughly 300-page report includes chapters on a host of civil-rights-related matters, such as desegregation, affirmative action, judicial nominations and confirmations, welfare changes, voting rights, and Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which focuses on disadvantaged children.

"The Test of Our Progress: The Clinton Record on Civil Rights" is available free from the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights. Call William Taylor at (202) 659-5565 or write the commission at 2000 M St. N.W., Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036.

--Erik W. Robelen

Achievement and Charters: As the number of charter schools grows, so too does interest in how--or whether--those schools will improve student achievement.

In Chicago, where the school board has authorized 10 operating charter schools, a preliminary analysis released recently shows that all six schools in their second year of operation posted gains in either reading or mathematics; two of the charter schools improved in both subjects. And three of the five charter high schools performed better than their neighboring traditional high schools in both math and reading.

Yet two of the charter schools showed fewer than 15 percent of their students reading at national norms, the district's standard for placing schools on academic probation.

The achievement data should serve as just a starting point in determining a charter school's success, said John S. Ayers, the executive director of Leadership for Quality Education, a nonprofit, business-backed school reform group in Chicago that released the test-score analysis. The charter schools hold five-year contracts with the district; after the expiration, the schools will be evaluated to see whether they met their goals and should remain open.

"It's far too early to talk about drawing conclusions," Mr. Ayers said. "The question for authorizers will become 'How good is good enough and how bad is bad enough?' " to allow a school to continue or shut it down.

Free copies of the school-by-school analysis are available from Leadership for Quality Education by calling (773) 342-7182.

--Lynn Schnaiberg

Literacy Evaluation: The most successful family-literacy programs have harnessed support from legislators, business leaders, and the public and have proved their effectiveness over time, according to a report from the National Center for Family Literacy.

The Louisville, Ky.-based group evaluated state-financed family-literacy initiatives and legislation in 11 states to determine what works in sustaining effective programs. Seven of the states have passed or attempted to pass legislation in support of such initiatives, says the report, "Family Literacy Legislation and Initiatives in Seven States."

Comprehensive programs provide training for parents and suggest activities for them to prepare their children for success in school, it says. Such programs also work with at-risk families, have broad goals, provide a variety of educational services, and provide long-term guidance and support.

The report is available on the World Wide Web at www.famlit.org/states.html or for $5 by calling the National Center for Family Literacy at (502) 584-1133.

--Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Charter Directory: To keep tabs on the fast-growing charter school movement, a Washington research and advocacy group has released the fifth edition of its national charter school directory.

The 185-page directory from the Center for Education Reform includes school addresses, telephone numbers, contact names, enrollment data, and a description of the school's mission and program. During the 1998-99 academic year, roughly 470 additional charter schools opened nationwide, bringing the total number of charter schools in operation to more than 1,200.

Under the charter concept, the taxpayer-financed, largely independent public schools get greater freedom from rules and regulations in exchange for being held directly accountable for results.

Copies of the "1998-1999 National Charter School Directory" are available for $15 plus $3 shipping and handling by calling (202) 822-9000.

--Lynn Schnaiberg

Youth Programs: The American Youth Policy Forum has released a compendium of evaluations of youth programs and practices in an effort to provide an easy reference for kinds of interventions that work with young people. The compendium is a sequel to a similar summary of evaluations published two years ago, called "Some Things Do Make A Difference for Youth."

The new 176-page report is titled "More Things That Do Make A Difference for Youth." The report uses a standard format to feature evaluations of 46 youth programs, noting for all programs aspects such as "key components" and "evidence of effectiveness."

For some of the programs, such as the ProTech school-to-work program in Boston, the report updates information that appeared in the earlier report. But other programs, including several English-language-development programs, are described for the first time.

The American Youth Forum is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that strives to provide learning opportunities for practitioners and policymakers working on youth issues.

Copies of the report are available for $10, including postage, from the American Youth Policy Forum, 1836 Jefferson Place N.W., Washington, DC 20036-2505. Call (202) 775-9731 for information on bulk rates.

--Mary Ann Zehr

Vol. 18, Issue 41, Page 11

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