School program for poor is outdated, 2 studies say

February 23, 1993|By New York Times News Service

The Chapter 1 program, the federal government's main effort to help bolster the basic academic skills of poor children, was called outdated yesterday by two new studies, the second and third reports in three months to criticize the program's effectiveness.

One new report, released by the National Assessment of Chapter 1, concluded that the program did not do enough to help students improve their skills or to properly assess students' progress. It also said some of the program's money was misdirected or poorly spent.

Chapter 1 received $6.1 billion in each of the last two fiscal years and represents the largest component of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Congress will vote on whether to reauthorize that legislation later this year; such reauthorization is required every five years.

As part of the reauthorization process, Congress two years ago created the National Assessment of Chapter 1, composed of Education Department staff members and other education analysts. A separate review panel, created as part of the process, also released its own report yesterday, which came to similar conclusions.

The two groups, which had worked together, proposed similar recommendations, both sets of which will be sent to Congress today. Because the review was commissioned by Congress itself, the recommendations are expected to influence congressional leaders and President Clinton.

Hearings on the reauthorization are scheduled to begin Thursday before the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary and Vocational Education.

The report by the National Assessment of Chapter 1, which is still in draft form, and the one by its affiliated review panel said the program's standard method -- pulling students out of class for 30 minutes for remedial work in basic subjects -- was not effective because these students fell behind in the classes from which they were pulled out.

They also criticized the way the program allocated money, saying that not enough reached enough students and that more money should go to secondary schools rather than elementary schools. About 5.5 million children in two-thirds of the nation's schools are served by Chapter 1, and 70 percent of them are in elementary grades.

"Chapter 1 was a success for years," said Phyllis McClure, the chairwoman of the independent review panel and the director of policy and education for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. "It's not such a great success now, and there is widespread evidence to show it. I hope this convinces Congress that this program really needs to change."

Alan Ginsburg, the Education Department's director of planning and evaluation, added: "Chapter 1 can't continue to work on the margins of the regular school program. It has gone as far as it can."


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