Teachers don't think students college -ready

U. S. cities' schools earn poor grade

The analysis of the schools that teach a quarter of American students presents a bleak picture.

THE WASHINGTON POST

Most students in urban public schools around the country are failing to master even basic skills in reading, math and science, a new report concludes.

In all three subjects, only about 40 percent of fourth- and eighth-graders in urban schools scored what educators consider a "basic" level of achievement in recent years on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam given regularly to a sampling of students nationwide and known for its rigor. About two-thirds of students in suburban or rural schools met or exceeded that standard.

The 270-page report, to be published today by the journal Education Week, is one of the most comprehensive assessments ever of urban public schools. It presents a bleak portrait of abundant, chronic problems facing those schools, which educate one. fourth of the nation's students.

The report attributes some academic problems to the growing concentrations of poverty in many cities and cities' dwindling financial resources. Urban districts spend about $4,500 per student annually, compared with $5,066 per student in non-urban districts, the study found. An urban district was defined as one in which at least 75 percent of the households served were in the central city of a metropolitan area.

But the report also cites "unstable leadership, huge bureaucracies, and special-interest groups" as a cause of trouble. Nearly one-third of urban school superintendents last only a year in the job. Urban districts also are twice as likely as non-urban ones to hire new teachers with temporary licenses.

A national survey of urban teachers also was included and illustrates another crisis: low expectations for students. Only 19-percent of the teachers polled said they believed all or most of their students had the skills needed to do well in college, compared with 47 percent of non-urban teachers. Nearly half of urban teachers, and nearly 40 percent of those in non-urban areas, said their schools promote students from one grade to the next even if they lack necessary academic skills.