State News Roundup
The Pennsylvania State Senate will soon take up a controversial measure that would give local school boards virtually unlimited authority to fire teachers.
Under an amendment to the state education code approved by the House of Representatives late last month, local districts would no longer need the approval of the state Department of Education to furlough teachers. Another House amendment extended the range of possible grounds on which districts may fire teachers.
Under current law, teachers may be furloughed only if enrollment has declined in the district in which they teach.
Gregory A. White, a staff assistant to the House education committee, said there is "considerable" opposition to the amendments in the Senate.
Florida students give passing grades to most aspects of their education, according to a survey of 16,363 high-school students.
The students, in taking the American College Testing Program's 1980-81 college-entrance examination, were asked a series of questions about their education and feelings about the schools.
Of their high-school education, 19 percent said that it was "excellent"; 45 percent rated it "good"; 24 percent3called it "average"; 4 percent labeled it "below average"; and 8 percent gave it a thumbs-down--"very inadequate."
The students were not equally satisfied with all aspects of their education. More than 60 percent were satisfied with the instruction they had received, but only 40 percent were satisfied with the laboratories in the schools. Forty-three percent of the students said they were satisfied with school policies; 34 percent were dissatisfied. The "typical student" in this group had an act composite score of 18.9 out of a possible 36 and a high-school grade-point average of 2.9 out of 4.0.
Students and teachers in 115 Tennessee schools this fall began participating in a pilot project that will lead to the development of a "goal-oriented" curriculum in reading and mathematics for kindergarten through eighth grade. The project marks the start of the second phase of the Tennessee Assessment of Basic Skills (tabs).
Under the guidance of an "implementation team"--composed of the school principal, the local school superintendent, representatives of the state department of education's elementary-education staff, and a higher-education adviser--teachers are to use new instructional materials in mathematics and reading. The teachers' guide includes a list of the "basic skills" to be mastered, as well as texts, a mastery test, and record-keeping forms to keep track of students' progress.
State Commissioner of Education Robert L. McElrath said of the project: "This will give us a comprehensive set of specific educational objectives that should be met at each grade level, so that students, their teachers, and parents will know what is expected."
A survey ranking Massachusetts among those states with the most expensive public school systems has led a state taxpayers' organization to conclude that the schools had "room to shrink" during the first year of Proposition 2, the state law that lowered property taxes.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Inc., using statistics compiled by the the National Education Association, said in a release to its members that "the state's public schools had room to shrink in this first year of Proposition 2 without serious threat to their status as one of the highest-cost local school systems."
The nea survey reported that Massachusetts schools had the smallest classes in the nation, ranked fifth in per-pupil spending, and paid salaries among the highest in the nation.
In the fall of 1980, there were, on average, 13.6 pupils per classroom teacher in Massachusetts, while the national average was 17.1. In addition, the average salary for classroom teachers was $18,712, eight percent6above the national average of $17,264, according to estimates in the nea report.
Carol Doherty, president of the state's nea affiliate, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, disputed the organization's conclusions, saying the figures were taken out of context. Special-education costs and inflation should also be considered in interpreting the statistics, she said.
The Nevada Department of Education has asked the state Board of Education to authorize stricter requirements for high-school graduation.
Under the department's proposal, the mathematics requirement would be increased from one to two units. Juniors who fail the mathematics portion of the state's minimum-proficiency exam would be required to take and pass a third unit in math during their senior year in order to receive diplomas, explained Myrna M. Macdonald, deputy superintendent of education.
The department also recommended that the state keep its minimum standard of three credits in English, but that it require a fourth year for students who fail that portion of the minimum-competency exam in their junior year, she said.
The department recommended that the state board retain its current two-credit requirement in physical education, Ms. Macdonald said. Several board members, however, suggested that the department consider exempting students enrolled in certain courses, such as Reserve Officer Training Corps, from the requirements.
If vocational education in Bloomington, Ill., shows dramatic improvement in the next few years, students can thank a man who died in 1898.
The estate of the late Judge John Scott will provide an endowment to finance experimental occupational pro
grams in the local public schools.
Judge Scott's will directed that his estate stay in the family until the death of his last descendant--which occurred in 1977--then be put to public use.
After three years of negotiations and litigation, Bloomington School District 87 ended up with a $1.5-million share of the estate. The $200,000 in annual interest will be "seed money" for new programs in vocational and career education.
"It's kind of thrilling to think that money will be there for us to try our own approaches and ideas," said school Superintendent George C. Stimeling. "We won't have to wait for the bureaucracy involved in federal grantsmanship."
It was worth the wait, the superintendent concluded: "We've got staff members with a gleam in their eye and a bounce in their step that we haven't seen in a long time."