« PreviousContinue »
Participation by small elementary school districts is also directly related to the size of the staff provided by the office of the county superintendent of schools to develop the applications and to assist the districts in the implementation of the approved projects.
Finding. Participation in Title III of the National Defense Education Act has been inversely proportional to the assessed value per pupil of the districts.
Implication. Incentive programs are not effective in school districts that have sufficient resources to finance the educational aspirations of the community.
Of the approximately 500 school districts in California that receive basic aid only, 190 districts, or 38.2 percent, participated under Title III of NDEA. The percent increased to 43.7 percent for districts receiving equalization aid on the regular formula, and to 62.2 percent for districts receiving equalization aid on the basis of the alternate formula. Among elementary school districts, 61.1 percent of the alternate equalization districts participated, while only 29.8 percent of the basic aid districts submitted project applications; and at the secondary level, the percents were 93.3 percent and 73.7 percent, respectively.
The lack of participation in Title III by wealthy districts may be accounted for by their wealth, and not their opposition to the intent of the NDEA program. A letter written by the superintendent of one of the wealthiest school districts in California to the Department of Education early in the program stated that the district was sympathetic to the intent of NDEA, but did not intend to participate because the district had sufficient funds to finance any improvements it desired.
The 50-50 matching requirement of the law has worked a hardship on some school districts, and 93 indicated a desire for a more flexible form of matching. The study, however, did not support the claim that NDEA makes "the rich richer and the poor poorer." On the contrary, there was evidence in the evaluation documents to support the conclusion that NDEA funds were of significant assistance to the school districts in the state on a simple financial basis. One large district facing severe financial problems received a recommendation from its staff that participation in NDEA be discontinued, but it was the school board's judgment that failure to participate would be detrimental to the educational plans of the district.
Finding. Title III of the National Defense Education Act has helped to educate large numbers of students in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages.
Implication. Financial incentives to school districts in special subject areas help to establish a desire on the part of students to enroll
in these subjects, and assist the districts in providing for the increased enrollment.
The National Defense Education Act has had little influence on enrollments in science and mathematics in the elementary schools of California, for these two subjects have long been part of the required course of study. In foreign languages, however, enrollment in the elementary schools has grown from a very few to 187,294 pupils, 8 percent of the total number of elementary pupils in the state. It may be concluded that money made available under Title III of the National Defense Education Act was a major factor in the rapid growth of programs in foreign languages.
The Bureau of Secondary Education of the California State Department of Education reports a 51.3 percent increase in science enrollments, a 75.1 percent increase in mathematics enrollments, and an 89.6 percent increase in foreign language enrollments during the 1959-61 period when the total enrollment in secondary schools increased only 47.5 percent. Similar figures are not available for the junior colleges.
It was the intent of Congress in passing the National Defense Education Act "to enable more students to be educated in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages." Many factors have been in operation that would result in increased enrollments. The purpose of the NDEA was to help school districts accommodate this increase.
The extent to which the NDEA was successful, in the opinion of the administrators of the public schools of California, is shown by Figure 1.
FIGURE 1. Extent to which Title III of the National Defense Education Act
was effective in enabling California school districts to provide for increased enrollments in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages.
Reports from the school districts submitting completed questionnaires indicated that student enrollments are related not only to current social pressures and vocational aspirations, but also to the richness of the learning environment. There are several reasons why the provision of equipment and materials has an effect on enrollment. In the first place, the initiation of new programs, such as the foreign language program at the elementary level, requires the expenditure of considerable funds to secure the necessary equipment and teaching materials. In the second place, the provision of equipment and materials for student experimentation and use appears to have a motivational influence upon the student. The Bureau of Secondary Education reports that the increase in enrollments in advanced science courses reflects higher educational goals on the part of the students and satisfaction with the beginning courses.
Finding. Title III of the National Defense Education Act has resulted in significant improvement in the quality of instruction offered California students in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages. Implication. The provision of funds for the purchase of equipment and materials stimulates program improvement and provides the motivation for curriculum change on the part of the district and the incentive for change on the part of the teacher.
The California state plan for the administration of the NDEA requires from each applicant district a proposal that contains a detailed description of the proposed program of instruction, including specific descriptions of the use of equipment and materials, the plans of the district for in-service education, and an evaluation program. This requirement is credited by districts as being responsible for the effect of the NDEA on the improvement of instruction.
Altogether, 95 percent of the respondents to the questionnaire reported that the NDEA had been effective in improving instructional programs in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages. The extent to which those responding thought that the NDEA had influenced the programs is shown in Figure 2.
Although school districts reported considerable improvement in their instructional programs, the in-service plans contained in the project applications did not reach fruition, nor were the anticipated evaluations actually carried out. Therefore the question to be answered at this time is not whether the programs improved, but rather by what process the improvement took place. The answer to this question seems to depend upon the number of teachers involved in the program change.
For example, in high schools where only a small number of teachers were involved in a physics program, the process of change was effected by (1) sending one or two teachers to a summer institute or workshop; (2) upon their return having them teach physics under controlled con
ditions; (3) meeting frequently during the year with the other physics teachers; (4) gaining approval from the board of education to continue experimentation for a second year; (5) submitting an NDEA project for equipment and consultant help; (6) holding a workshop of three to seven weeks for physics teachers; and (7) teaching the course during the school year with constant consultant help. While these activities were going on, every aspect of the program was being evaluated. In the total process, staff attitudes were developed that made implementation of the new program fairly easy. Secondary school administrators reported that the fellowships provided by the National Science Foundation had been the greatest single factor in program changes.
Reports from many high school districts in California indicate that when small groups of teachers are involved, this approach to curriculum change is appropriate.
At the elementary level, where the number of teachers involved in a proposed program change may run into the thousands, the approach described has not proven effective. Approximately 50 per cent of the elementary school districts reported that they were having difficulties with their in-service programs and that they needed additional staffing to deal with the problems.
Another stimulus for change comes from the provision of additional equipment and materials. Regardless of the care that may be exercised in the selection of items, the equipment purchased will be subject to some criticism. This criticism may be expressed by rejection of the equipment and new materials or by stated preferences for items other than those furnished. Critical attitudes are generally communicated to
FIGURE 2. Extent to which Title III of the National Defense Education Act was effective in improving instructional programs in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages in California schools.
the school administrators along with recommendations. After a certain amount of intercommunication, additional purchases of equipment and materials are based upon the evaluations and recommendations of the dissident group, within the framework employed in making the original purchases.
Teachers then accept the responsibility for obtaining the skills needed to use the additional equipment and materials. Many teachers obtain these skills on their own time and at their own expense through extension and summer school courses. They introduce the additional equipment and materials to the classroom, make further informal evaluations of equipment needs and instructional techniques, and another cycle of change is begun.
The three main aspects of the process of change appear to be (1) increased depth of involvement by the individual teacher; (2) increased involvement in terms of numbers of teachers; and (3) increased enrichment in the quantity and quality of instructional equipment and materials made available to the teachers.
At this time it is impossible to tell how many years all the teachers in a school district may be involved in such a process, although it appears that the length of time will be in proportion to the number of teachers affected and the amount of change desired. The approach described as appropriate at the high school level involved only a few teachers, but took a three-year period to complete.
Finding. Administrators of school districts report that additional improvement in instructional programs is still necessary.
Implication. Continued assistance in improving instructional programs, and incentives such as provided by the NDEA are desired by most school districts.
More than one-third of the responding school districts reported that they had plans for further improvement of their instructional equipment and materials; one of every five reported plans for additional laboratories for classes in science and modern foreign languages; one of every eight anticipated additional organizational and instructional changes; and one out of two school districts reported need for additional staff to provide in-service education for teachers.
Inasmuch as the districts generally reported that they were unable to finance these additions unless they had financial assistance, the continuation of NDEA programs or other similar legislative programs is necessary if the districts are to achieve their goals.
Finding. Title III of the National Defense Education Act has created a demand for in-service education programs that districts are unable to supply with existing resources.