States News Roundup
In a rare display of solidarity, six New Jersey education associations have launched an all-out lobbying and media campaign to restore $83-million in state education aid that was promised but then deleted from this year's budget.
The New Jersey Coalition for Public Education, made up of groups representing teachers, school-board members, principals, superintendents, parents, and school business officials, will mount a grassroots, county-by-county campaign to persuade the state legislature and Gov. Thomas H. Kean to agree to a supplemental-aid bill or to increased taxes to support the state's schools.
The group has also warned that if the aid is not restored, it may call for a symbolic one-day shutdown of New Jersey's public schools.
"Closing the schools represents a drastic step," said Bernard Kirshtein, coalition chairman and president of the New Jersey School Boards Association. "However, it is something that might be unavoidable in order to demonstrate the plight of New Jersey's schools."
In an attempt to upgrade the quality of prospective teachers and to get a clearer idea of the academic promise of their applicants, eight college and university education schools have agreed to require candidates for admission to take a series of tests in common.
The schools are Pennsylvania State University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Georgia, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Tennessee, the University of South Dakota, and California State College at Bakersfield.
"We are responding to the demand for better teachers, and we're trying to see, by using the same tests, if we all get applicants with the same level of academic ability," said Edward R. Fagan, the consortium's director and a professor of language education at Penn State.
Beginning this fall, applicants to each of the schools will have to take basic-skills tests in speech, writing, computation, and reading comprehension and vocabulary. The speech test was developed at Penn State; the others are national examinations.
The tests have specified minimum scores, but each school uses them differently. The University of Georgia, according to Mr. Fagan, requires that applicants pass the tests in order to be admitted to the university.
Penn State, on the other hand, uses the cut-off scores as a basis for admission to its secondary-education program, which students usually enter in their sophomore year.
According to Mr. Fagan, students who fail the tests are admitted if they agree to take remedial courses offered by the university, and then pass the tests before they begin student teaching, usually at the end of the junior year.
"If they fail again, they are counseled out of teaching," Mr. Fagan said.