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AFT Praises States' Standards Progress

States are continuing to strengthen their academic standards to make them clear, specific, and useful as a basis for curricula, according to the American Federation of Teachers.

Since 1995, when the 1 million-member union began tracking states' efforts to set standards for student learning, the number of states meeting the union's criteria for solid standards has increased from 13 to 22.

States also have moved to link student promotion or graduation to meeting standards; the number of states pursuing such policies has increased from three in 1996 to 13 in 1999, the AFT found.

"Making Standards Matter 1999" is available only on the AFT's World Wide Web site at dards99/toc.htm.

—Ann Bradley

Ability Grouping: Schools' longtime practice of separating students by ability increases the potential for discrimination against students who belong to racial or ethnic minorities, a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says.

The report, which is the first by the commission in 22 years to focus on school discrimination, raises questions about the legitimacy and efficacy of ability grouping and cites recent data indicating that racial-minority students are overrepresented in lower-level ability groups and underrepresented in higher-ability groups. Many students in lower-ability groups, the report says, are isolated and afforded unequal educational opportunity.

The commission's report summarizes the history of segregation in education; evaluates the enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights; offers schools guidelines on ability grouping; and puts forth specific recommendations on the subject to the OCR and the broader education community.

"Equal Educational Opportunity and Nondiscrimination for Minority Students: Federal Enforcement of Title VI in Ability Grouping Practices," free, from the Publications Office, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 624 Ninth St. N.W., Room 600, Washington, DC 20425; (202) 376- 8128.

—Kerry A. White

Road to College: Collaboration does work between colleges and community groups in the effort to aid low-income students in their pursuit of higher education, a new report says. And such collaboration can be duplicated, it says, if defined by specific principles and practices.

The formula for success includes, in part, assessing the needs of the community, stating a clear, shared mission, and maintaining communication, according to the report. The approaches that work provide students with high standards and academic- support programs and hold students accountable for their own progress. Mentors are also key in student achievement.

Completed by the Council of Independent Colleges, a Washington- based membership organization, the report results from a six-year project funded by DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund and carried out through programs of Citizen's Scholarship Foundation of America and CIC. It looks at partnerships between 25 private colleges and universities and some 30 community groups.

"The Intentional Community: Colleges and Community Groups Helping Low- Income Youth Prepare for College," free from the Council for Independent Colleges, (202) 466- 7230; or online at /ccpp.pdf (requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader).

—Julie Blair

Financial Lesson: The national debt, higher interest rates, and trade imbalances are economic threats, but none is quite as menacing as the fact that America's children don't understand the value of money, according to a report from the John Nuveen Co., an investment firm.

The Nuveen Kid$ense Money Survey, a nationwide look at 1,000 children ages 12 to 17, shows that one in two has never been taught about money in school. Other key findings indicate that the 12-to-13 age segment scores the lowest on financial education, that 60 percent of those surveyed don't get an allowance, that 32 percent wouldn't stop to pick up money on the street unless it was more than a dollar, and that 65 percent think they will be better off than their parents.

"Understanding the value of money is a critical component of our children's preparation for the future," said Tim Schwertfeger, Nuveen's chairman and chief executive officer.

In response to what the company calls the report's "alarming results," it created "Kid$ense," a financial education program aimed at helping youngsters in grades K-6 develop money skills, including the meaning of buying, selling, trading, earning, saving, and investing.

For more information on the Nuveen Kid$ense report and curriculum, call (877) 543- 8316.

—Patrician Lenihan

Competitive Coalition: Students who attend member institutions of the Coalition of Essential Schools—a network of more than 1,200 schools that promotes higher student achievement— tend to do better than students overall on standardized tests, according to a report from the comprehensive school reform organization.

Coalition students in the high schools surveyed earned an average combined SAT score of 1048, out of a possible 1600, in the 1998-1999 academic year compared with a national average of 1016, the network's annual progress report says. And 74 percent of graduating students in the CES high schools entered college this fall, compared with 65 percent of new high school graduates overall.

The Coalition of Essential Schools began with 12 schools in 1984 and has grown to include elementary, middle, and high schools in 39 states, 97 percent of which are public and 42 percent of which are urban. The annual report is based on a survey of 49 schools that implement all 10 of the coalition's common principles.

Other CES schools implement certain, but not all, of these principles, which emphasize learning to use one's mind well; depth over coverage; applying the same goals to all students; personalization; student as worker, teacher as coach; demonstration of mastery; decency and trust; commitment to entire school; resources dedicated to teaching and learning; and democracy and equity.

"Principles at Work: The Success of a Coalition of Essential Schools," $1.50, from the Coalition of Essential Schools, (510) 433-1451; or online at www.essentials ures/success.html.

—John Gehring

Vol. 19, Issue 14, Page 10

Published in Print: December 1, 1999, as Report Roundup
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