Report Cards Issued for Federal Programs

By Salpeter, Judy | Technology & Learning, May 1999 | Go to article overview

Report Cards Issued for Federal Programs


Salpeter, Judy, Technology & Learning


Two mandated evaluations were completed recently to assist Congress as it considers reauthorization of the 1994 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). "Promising Results, Continuing Challenges: Findings From the National Assessment of Title I" reports moderate progress for Title I students. In particular, it states that reading performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has improved for 9-year-olds in the highest-poverty public schools and for lowest-achieving 4th-graders. A substantial achievement gap remains, however, between students in the highest and lowest poverty schools.

The evaluators also offer the following observations, based on preliminary findings from a study of instructional practices in 71 high-poverty elementary schools:

* Students were likely to make better progress in reading if their teacher gave them more total exposure to reading in the content areas and opportunities to talk in small groups about what they had read.

* Teachers who used a curriculum that reflected National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards had students with higher gains in mathematics.

* Students who started the year as low achievers could be helped to gain more skill in problem solving in mathematics when their teachers deliberately emphasized understanding and problem solving with them.

The second report, "Federal Education Legislation Enacted in 1994: An Evaluation of Implementation and Impact," also offers a combination of good and bad news. Based on the NAEP and two international assessments, for example, the evaluators find that "the percentage of all students performing at or above the basic achievement level has improved for most grade levels in reading and mathematics. However, in comparison with their international counterparts, U.S. students' standing in core subjects declines from among the highest in the world at the 4th grade to among the lowest at the 12th grade."

The biggest concern raised by the evaluation was lack of accountability. According to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, when speaking about the findings, "In 1994 Congress gave states unprecedented flexibility for use of federal K-12 education funds. Now we must focus on results--improved achievement for all children. …

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