Column One: Research

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Financial problems and the complexities of improving schools may hamper a revival of the school-reform movement that flourished in the mid-1980's, a report by the Consortium on Policy Research in Education concludes.

The report by the Rutgers University-based consortium, which examined reform activity in six states--Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania--notes that the flurry of reform activity from 1983 to 1987 produced little improvement in student achievement.

Moreover, it states, although states and districts are taking steps to solve some of the more serious problems, several critical areas, such as ways to develop students' higher-order thinking skills and the problems of at-risk youths, still need to be addressed.

A separate report by the consortium, meanwhile, found that schools' efforts to increase their academic course-taking rates were "at least a moderate success."

The study, which examined random transcripts from graduating seniors in four states, found that average credits per student increased from 1982 to 1988 in all academic subjects, and that the level of difficulty of the courses also increased.

Contrary to fears, the report notes, such increases in academic coursetaking did not result in higher dropout rates or the "watering down" of courses.

Yet, it found, many lower performing schools, primarily in urban areas, still lag in enrollments in college-preparatory courses.

Copies of the C.P.R.E. reports, "Education Reform From 1983 to 1990: State Action and District Response," and "Changes in High School Course-Taking, 1982 to 1988," are available for $12 each from: C.P.R.E., Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. 08901.

While the recent international study of student achievement in mathematics and science has focused attention on the success of Asian students, a group of American students--the children of the Southeast Asian "boat people"-present an equally impressive success story, University of Michigan researchers have found.

Writing in the February 1992 Scientific American, the researchers report that such children have relatively high grades and test scores in math and science. And, they found, unlike other students, the Indochinese students' performance tended to increase along with the size of their families.

On closer examination, the researchers found that the children's families played a "pivotal role" in their academic performance. --R.R.

Vol. 11, Issue 22

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