Impacts of Education Reform

T-PEMD-89-2: Published: Mar 7, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 7, 1989.

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GAO discussed the effects of four urban school districts' education reforms on disadvantaged students': (1) academic achievement; (2) dropout rates; and (3) enrollment in vocational education courses. GAO noted that the urban school districts: (1) each had majority populations of black or Hispanic students; (2) implemented, in response to state legislative mandates, reforms involving graduation tests, course requirements, attendance rules, extracurricular activity participation, and remedial instruction; and (3) focused reforms on the needs of those students most at risk of failure under the tougher requirements. GAO also noted that: (1) the reforms did not result in either marked losses or substantial gains in academic achievement for low-achieving, at-risk students, or black students in general; (2) Hispanic students showed the least favorable trends in reading and mathematics scores and did not share in the modest gains associated with some of the reforms; (3) the reforms had no significant effects on dropout rates of at-risk or other students; and (4) the overall student population, including at-risk students, generally took more academic and fewer vocational courses after reform implementation. GAO believes that, while the school districts' reforms did not have damaging effects on low-achieving students, the reforms did not produce the intended achievement advances.

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