State News Roundup
The New York City board of education endorsed a new policy last week requiring daily homework assignments for all students in the school system.
Under the new policy, daily homework assignments must be a minimum of 20 minutes for 1st and 2nd graders, 30 minutes for 3rd and 4th graders, 45 minutes for 5th and 6th graders, and one hour for 7th and 8th graders. For high-school students, the minimum is two hours.
Until the measure went into effect, principals at each school could establish their own polices on homework. Now, they will be required to monitor teachers and the way they carry out the new policy.
School officials believe the new policy will reinforce materials
taught in classroom, stimulate interest in topics discussed during the
day, and develop independent study skills.
Boston school officials have increased security and begun installing anti-theft devices after discovering that more than 13,000 gallons of No. 2 home heating oil was siphoned from storage tanks at two schools.
Paul Mooney, director of planning and engineering, said the heating oil was valued at more than $16,000. He said one of the storage tanks was buried underground at the school, and the other was located inside the school.
School officials had been told about a suspicious oil truck making a delivery at one of the schools last fall, Mr. Mooney said. But no arrests have been made because officials could not locate the company whose name was seen on the truck, he said.
In the meantime, according to Mr. Mooney, security guards are increasing their surveillance of the schools and special vandal-proof caps and fuel-line bolts are being installed.
The Coloma, Mich., school board has decided to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court's ruling requiring the predominantly white, suburban school district to participate in a desegregation plan with the predominantly black public schools in nearby Benton Harbor.
Late last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld, in part, an earlier ruling by a federal district judge requiring the Coloma schools to participate in the plan because their acceptance of white students from Benton Harbor contributed to segregation in that city's schools.
The court's decision also affected the predominantly white Eau Claire school district, but school officials there have announced that they will not contest the ruling.
An anonymous donor has offered $25,000 to the Alexandria, Va., public schools to improve instruction in elementary-school classrooms.
The donor, acting through the local parent-teacher association president, asked the school district to use the funds to pay the salary of a teacher who would "spend a year working on a project" to raise the quality of instruction, according to a district spokesman, Mel V. Alba.
The school board of the district, located in a suburb of Washington, D.C., will decide on criteria for selecting the teacher.
The South Carolina State Board of Education last week invalidated the results of a writing test taken by 132,000 students last year, after state officials found that the test papers were graded incorrectly.
The statewide test, in its second year, was administered to 6th, 8th, and 11th graders and scored by Westinghouse Information Systems under a contract with the state, according to Paul Sandifer, the state education department's director of research.
When test results, distributed throughout the state, were found to be "exceptionally low," officials re-scored a sample of the tests, Mr. Sandifer said. They subsequently found that a state employee was responsible for "inadequately communicating" the scoring criteria to the contractor, he said.
"The immediate reaction was that the state wasted money," Mr. Sandifer added. "But a writing assessment of this type is in the developmental stage; when you're dealing with papers that have to be hand-scored, there is not a well-developed scoring method, such as for multiple-choice tests."
The state board of education has decided against re-scoring all the tests, he said. "The purpose of the test was to provide feedback for remediation purposes. The worst thing that has happened as a result is that kids got more extra attention than they otherwise might have."
Arizona is forming a tax-exempt foundation to raise money from private sources for use by public schools in the state.
The Arizona Education Foundation, which should be incorporated within 60 to 90 days, will solicit funds from private, corporate, and foundation sources, according to David Bolger, an assistant to the state superintendent of public instruction.
To date, West Virginia is the only state that has established a similar foundation, although numerous community foundations for education are springing up around the country.
Mr. Bolger said the money, paid to districts in the form of grants for special projects, will "help deal with the tremendous decrease in discretionary funding that has hit the schools."
The board of directors for the new foundation will probably have about 15 members, Mr. Bolger said, the majority of them from private business and industry.
A major oil company and California's largest bank have joined in the creation of a fund to aid California public schools.
The BankAmerica Foundation and Chevron U.S.A., Inc. announced the establishment of the California Educational Initiatives Fund earlier this month.
At the same time, the two major corporations announced the first grants--$588,509 to be given to 67 school systems. These and future funds will support "innovative educational programs developed by California's public elementary and secondary schools," according to a BankAmerica spokesman.
Projects will be selected by a statewide committee composed of school superintendents and individuals concerned with the quality of education, the spokesman said.
The new fund, which will operate independently from both corporations, replaces a similar fund--the Educational Initiatives Program--which was operated by BankAmerica as a pilot project during the past three years. California school systems received 281 grants worth $3 million under that program.
BankAmerica officials view the new fund as a vehicle for other members of the corporate sector to support public education.
Schoolchildren will be one of the three main target groups of a New Jersey program to treat the state's estimated 150,000 compulsive gamblers and prevent others from becoming addicted to the habit, state officials said this month.
The $330,000 effort, which will continue into the next fiscal year, will include studies of the problem, establishment of a hotline, and a public-relations program.
Riley W. Regan, the director of the alcoholism division of the state's department of health, said that in the early phases of the program, no state-run centers would be established for treating compulsive gamblers.
Children, women, and the elderly will receive special attention in the program, said Mr. Regan, because all three groups are normally ignored in efforts to combat the problem.
A survey of 700 New York City students showed that one-third had gambled on horse-racing, cards, numbers or games, Mr. Regan said. "I don't know if that means it's a problem, but we have to at least educate the kids that it can be a problem," he added.