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Education Progress
Up In South, Study Finds:

Southern states are making progress toward improved student achievement, but not as rapidly as some expected, according to a new report by the Southern Regional Education Board.

Head Start enrollment in the region's 15 states has risen by two-thirds since the mid-1980s, to 260,000 children, but that is just 30 percent of the South's eligible children, the report notes.

The report adds, however, that 4th graders in Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas met or exceeded the "proficient" level on the 1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress in mathematics at a higher rate than the nation. In addition, it says that the regional dropout rate has held steady at 13 percent after declining from 19 percent in 1978.

Preparation of new teachers and professional development for veteran educators are among the region's biggest challenges, the report says.

"Educational Benchmarks 1998," $10 plus shipping, from SREB, 592 10th St. N.W., Atlanta, GA 30318; (404) 875-9211; fax: (404) 872-1477.

Class Size: Initiatives aimed at shrinking class sizes show promise, begins a new research brief by WestEd, a federally funded research center in San Francisco. But designing a successful policy to bring about smaller classes, the researchers add, is no simple matter.

Because it is expensive and complicated to set up small classes, the WestEd researchers recommend targeting such efforts to the groups that research has shown are most likely to benefit from smaller classes: students in the primary grades and minority and low-income children. They also recommend that policymakers ensure that good teachers and adequate facilities are available to accommodate the additional classes.

"Class Size Reduction: Lessons Learned from Experience," free, at

High School Graduation: A higher standard for passing the General Educational Development test has led to fewer people both taking and passing the high-school-equivalency exam, statistics from the program suggest.

The 1997 GED statistical report shows a drop of just over 3 percentage points in the passing rate for the test since the new standards took effect. The rate declined from 71.7 percent in 1996 to 68.6 percent last year. In a widely publicized effort to bring its standards in line with higher secondary education standards, the GED Testing Service last year raised the bar for its test-takers.

Record numbers of adults completed the GED in 1996, in an apparent attempt to qualify for the credential before the increase in the passing score took effect. The total number of people completing the tests last year was 722,461, compared with 758,570 in 1996.

"Who Took the GED?," $20 plus $5 for shipping and handling, from the GED Fulfillment Service, PO Box 261, Annapolis Junction, MD 20171; (301) 604-9073; fax: (301) 604-0158.

Technology: Whole neighborhoods or towns--not just individuals-- can be haves or have nots when it comes to access to technology, a report by the Washington-based Benton Foundation says.

The 54-page report points out barriers to entire communities gaining access to technology and describes public-communications policy that could help to break down some of the barriers.

The report recommends that "universal service"--ensuring access to telecommunications--continue to be provided. Such a policy began under federal law with telephone service more than 60 years ago, but it has become controversial with recent technology advances.

The report also praises community-based initiatives that take into consideration the views and goals of the people who live in the communities.

"Losing Ground Bit by Bit: Low-Income Communities in the Information Age," $10, from the Benton Foundation; (888) 544-5437. It is also available on the World Wide Web at

Higher Education: First-generation students who attend private colleges and universities are much more likely to receive their degrees within five years than those attending state institutions, the U.S. Department of Education found in a recent survey.

The study discovered that 63 percent of students at four-year independent schools who were the first in their families to complete college earned their degrees within that time frame, compared with 46 percent of such students who attended public institutions. Thirty-five percent of first-generation students at community colleges finished their associate's degrees within five years.

"First Generation Students: Undergraduates Whose Parents Never Enrolled in Postsecondary Education," free, (202) 401-3630. The document number is 98082.

Teachers: A federal program designed to retrain retired military personnel to be educators has brought many male and minority teachers to high-demand urban areas, a survey suggests.

The survey found that 90 percent of the U.S. Department of Defense's Troops to Teachers program participants are male, 29 percent are members of minority groups, and 24 percent are working in inner-city schools. In comparison, the report says, teachers overall are predominantly white women, and only 16 percent are working in inner-city classrooms.

The survey also found that retrained teachers have five times the retention rate of traditional teachers within the first five years of teaching. The report, which surveyed 1,170 participants in 1986, 1990, and 1996 and reviewed records for 1,400 participants, was released last month by the National Center for Education Information, a private, for-profit research organization.

"Profile of Troops to Teachers," free, from the National Center for Education Information, 2918 Fessenden St. N.W., Washington, DC 20008; (202) 362-3444.

Child Services: Child-protective-services agencies should improve training and raise qualifications for caseworkers, and caseworkers should work with their counterparts in welfare agencies to help move families out of poverty.

Those are among the recommendations in "Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect," a collection of articles and commentaries on the child-welfare system from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, based in Los Altos, Calif.

"The Future of Children," free, from the Circulation Department, Center for the Future of Children, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 300 Second St., Suite 102, Los Altos, CA 94022; fax: (650) 948-6498; e-mail: [email protected]; or on the Web:

Youths' Attitudes: Many of the nation's teenagers say that crime and violence are the major national problems facing the United States, yet they remain optimistic about their futures, according to a survey conducted by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

Of the 1,195 young people ages14 to 18 who responded to the poll by the Alexandria, Va., nonprofit group, only 44 percent said that they always feel safe in school. But the same proportion also said that teachers and administrators have taken all the necessary steps to make students feel secure.

In the survey of education, family, and social issues, more than 60 percent of students said their schools offer challenging courses to prepare them for the future.

"The State of Our Nation's Youth," free, from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc., 99 Canal Center Plaza, Alexandria, VA 22314; (703) 684-9444; fax: (703) 548-3822; Web site:

Vol. 18, Issue 2, Page 7

Published in Print: September 16, 1998, as Report Roundup
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