Education Reform:

Initial Effects in Four School Districts

PEMD-89-28: Published: Sep 26, 1989. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the effects of state-mandated educational reforms on the academic achievement, dropout rates, and enrollment patterns of educationally disadvantaged secondary school students in four large school districts.

GAO found that: (1) state-mandated education reforms included additional academic courses for high school graduation, exit examinations, tightened attendance rules, minimum-grade requirements for participation in extracurricular activities, and remedial courses; (2) the reforms resulted in modest gains in educationally disadvantaged students' scores on a mathematics achievement test in two districts and on a reading achievement test in another district; (3) black students showed a similar pattern of modest gains in the two districts, while Hispanic students showed no reform-associated improvements; (4) one of two districts with reliable dropout-rate data showed a modest increase after implementation of reforms, while the other showed a modest decrease; (5) the two districts with reliable data regarding reform effects on enrollment associated reform with small, equivalent declines in disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged students' vocational enrollment; and (6) districts' efforts to help educationally disadvantaged students included screening tests, tutorial help, and increased remedial resources.

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