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migrant students be measured. This is a very limited definition of “special educational needs.”
A broader definition would be based on recognition that a school setting, while attempting to combat the effects of poverty, can help to build and reinforce a positive self-image and to emphasize individual and group strengths. Yet all over the country migrant children are in classrooms where teachers do not speak their language or understand their culture, and where the walls are decorated with pictures of blonde, fashionably dressed, briefcase-carrying models. The Exotech study found there was little or no attempt to explore the migrant culture with students in migrant education programs to show them how their culture fits into the economic and social life of the United States."
Another element in a broader definition would be a more sympathetic recognition that more than 65 percent of migrant students need a bilingual educational experience. In addition to the practical benefits of fluency in two languages, bilingual education is an invaluable tool for helping a child develop a sense of identity and self-worth, a particularly pressing need among migrant children. However, many school systems now segregate the Spanish-speaking children, placing them in "slow-learner” tracks. Other schools teach English-as-a-Second-Language, but expect the Spanishspeaking child to attend regular classes conducted in English. In many programs for bilingual migrant children, where the mandate to recognize special needs can easily be subverted to justify such segregation, these practices are too easily countenanced.
In a truly bilingual setting the child should be taught by teachers and aides who speak English and Spanish, with courses taught in Spanish while English skills are being improved. But in many programs, like one NCLC observed in Collier County, Florida, 70 percent of the students were Spanish-speaking while only 20 percent of the staff could speak Spanish. The school was forcing the children to adjust to its needs, while it should have been adapting its program to meet the needs of the children.
Another significant and fairly obvious special educational need of migrant children is for programs designed to mitigate the effects of constant travel. The lack of national standards, compatible program models, and coordination of programs will be discussed in more detail later in this report. One aspect of this general need, the transfer of credits and other information, has received considerable attention and progress is being made, although the system in use is still far from adequate.
Exotech Systems Inc., Vol. III, p. 56.
Overall, it is fair to say that the Congressional intent that recognition be given to the special educational needs of migrant children has fallen victim to an insufficiency of leadership in the implementation of the legislation. The gaps exist from the Office of Education, down through the state agencies, and into the individual programs. Stronger measures than simply stating that programs receiving funding should be designed to meet special needs appear necessary if both the intent of the Congress and the requirements of migrant children are to be met.
Number of Migrant Children
122.(a)(3)(b) (In determining the number of
The Migrant Student Record Transfer System (MSRTS) is a computer system with a data base/headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, and teletype terminals scattered in more than 130 locations nationwide. Its principal intent is to contribute to the continuity of the migrant child's education by maintaining accurate school and health records and transmitting them to each new program the child enrolls in. Operating expenses for the MSRTS are covered by contributions of migrant education funds from all the states, proportional to each state's allocation.
The data base, in 1975, stored information for about 453,000 migrant students. Since reliable figures on the number of migrant children are simply unavailable from other sources, the MSRTS total number of schoolage migrant children is generally used. However, because of failures in recruitment and identification there are probably a great many eligible children who are not listed by MSRTS.
The system became fully operational in 1972 and the Education Amendments of 1974 (Public Law 93-380, enacted August 21, 1974) required that MSRTS be used in determining the number of migrant children for purposes of allocating migrant education funds. The data bank provides statistics on numbers and projected locations of enrolled children, and each state's migrant education budget is contingent on the number of children the state expects to serve. The amount of allocated funds, therefore, depends largely on the state's aggressiveness in recruiting and enrolling migrant children. While this can be construed as an incentive to engage in more active recruitment, it has not always had that effect: A General Accounting Office audit found, in 1975, that many schools were not enrolling as many migrant students as they could.?
Even the most conscientious local administrators have conflicts about
U.S. Office of Education. 2 United States General Accounting Office, Evaluation of the Migrant Student Record Transfer System, Sept. 16, 1975, p. 7.
aggressive recruitment because of the inflexibility of the funding process. If children are recruited after the funding has been determined for the year, programs can receive no more money for the new enrollees and the money they have already received will have to be spread more thinly. Thus, in the eyes of the program administrator, although more children will be served, each one of them will be served less effectively. On the other hand, if more children are enrolled and added to the MSRTS list, they will be counted in computing the next fiscal year's allocation, thereby increasing future budgets.
A 1974 study of Title I Migrant programs found that many eligible children were not being identified, therefore not served; two states studied by HEW's own audit agency were found to be unaware of numerous migrant children enrolled in local schools, 2 an administrative assistant with the Texas Education Agency, after working with MSRTS for six months, estimated that there were approximately 300,000 migrants in the state, although only 60,000 were listed in the data bank.
It is also true that being identified as eligible, and listed on the MSRTS, is no guarantee of receiving services. Many local administrators undertake no recruitment or outreach efforts, even when they know from MSRTS records that there are large numbers of eligible children in the area. In Texas, in 1974, more than 20,000 eligible migrant children listed on the MSRTS were not enrolled in migrant education projects, in 1976, two Florida counties with more than 10,000 eligible children listed on the MSRTS were serving fewer than 3,000,“ in New Jersey, a local principal decided not to apply for funds to serve the identified migrants in his district because there were too many forms to fill out."
Exotech Systems Inc. ? Audit Agency of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Report on Audit of the Administration of the Migrant Children Education Program (Audit Control No. 13-33700) July 21, 1972, Appendix, p. 2. Audit Agency of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Report on Follow-Up Review of the Migrant Children Program, 1974. 4Information from NCLC field investigations, 1976.
Transmittal of Records
122.(a)(1)(A) The Commissioner may approve ...
MSRTS entries are designed to include a child's name, birthplace, student number, school history, parental relationships, special interests, special programs attended, academic test scores, medical history and health problems. The school receiving a migrant child alerts the computer data base, and that child's record is then transmitted to the school through a local telety pe terminal or by mail. In turn, the school adds any new information it has to the record when the child leaves or completes a program.
Experience thus far with MSRTS has revealed a number of major problems. First, there are no standard instructions as to what data is to be fed into the system, so each school enters data on whatever tests it normally uses. Because no standardized (statewide or nationwide) tests are used, results from one school or program may not be usable by the next school. In order to diagnose the child's academic progress and needs, each new school must retest the child, using its own preferred evaluation instrument."
As a result, although one of the primary purposes of MSRTS is to avoid duplication of services, the records of a single child may contain data from ten or twelve tests given over a brief period-all of which measure reading level. The wide variety of testing instruments and procedures in use, as well as frequent gaps in MSRTS records, lead to a situation where “some migrant students are pre-tested only, some are post-tested only, some are
The following is a partial list of tests currently or recently in use for migrant children: Otis-Lennon I.Q. Tests, Slossen Intelligence Test, Cooperative Tests of Basic Skills, Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration, General Information Test of the Peabody Individual Achievement Test, McMillan Readiness Test, Wide Range Achievement Test, Clymer-Barrett Test, Inventory of Readiness Skills, Scholastic Aptitude Test, Harper-Row Reading Test, Metropolitan Reading Test, California Achievement Test, Lee Clark Reading Readiness Test, Stanford Achievement Test, California Test of Basic Skills, Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Mental Ability Figure, Cooperation Sequential Test of Educational Progress, Peabody Picture Vocabulary, Virginia Criterion Reference Test.