National News Roundup
A nationwide citizens' group has received a $50,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to study public involvement in the allocation of funds under the new federal block grants.
The National Committee for Citizens in Education, a nonprofit organization based in Columbia, Md., has selected eight states for close scrutiny and hopes to encourage similar projects in other states.
"We believe that a primary ingredient in assuring responsiveness at the local level is citizen participation in decisions about how the mon-ey is to be spent," said Stan Salett, a senior associate of the organization. "Without effective citizen participation, education block grants only pay lip service to the concept of local control."
Under Chapter 2 of the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act, states and school districts are required to ensure that parents and other noneducators participate in spending decisions.
The group will examine the effectiveness of these requirements by determining how well state education agencies carry out the recommendations of their advisory committees and how the new programs supported with the block grants differ from the old categorical programs.
"If we find few to no changes in a state, no innovations or new directions, we might conclude that citizen input is having a negligible impact on the process," Mr. Salett said.
In addition, ncce plans to monitor the Education Department's implementation of the block-grant law and to serve as a clearinghouse for information on public involvement in state and local decisions.
This fall, the organization will survey the composition and activities of state advisory committees; it will complete its analysis by next spring, Mr. Salett said.
The Arkansas Board of Education last week voted to require candidates for teaching certificates to meet minimum scores on the National Teacher Examination subject-matter tests.
The cut-off scores are relatively low by national standards. Those seeking a teaching certificate in basic mathematics, for example, have to score at or above the 11th percentile nationally on the mathematics test.
In preparation for the new standards, the department administered the nte to all candidates for teaching certification during the last two years.
The Arkansas Education Association, the major teachers' organization in the state, has called for legislation that would require education schools to provide free remedial help for their graduates who fail to achieve the certification cut-off scores.
"Education schools bear the responsibility for preparing their graduates to pass the test," said Ermalee Boice, the association's assistant executive secretary.