City News Roundup
The boards of education in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have approved plans to gradually increase academic requirements for students who take part in extracurricular activities.
The Philadelphia board last month voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of a committee appointed to study academic achievement among many students who take part in activities such as interscholastic athletics, dramatic productions, and music programs.
Starting this fall, students who fail more than two major courses will not be permitted to take part in the after-school activities. Beginning next fall, students must maintain a 1.5 grade-point average on a scale of 4. And starting in 1985, students must maintain a 2.0 average.
The Pittsburgh board voted this month to require students taking part in athletic programs to maintain a C average in at least five subjects, excluding physical education. The regulation will apply to 9th graders this year, 10th graders in 1984, 11th graders in 1985, and all students in 1986.
Spokesmen for the two departments said there are no figures on how many students take part in after-school programs.
Keypunch Error Brings Cleveland $4-Million Deficit
The Cleveland public schools, looking forward to their first balanced budget in five years without a state loan, will lose about $4 million in anticipated revenue because an error in the county auditor's office placed the market value of a $35,500 home at more than $510 million, throwing off the estimates of property-tax revenue for the city government and school district.
The mistake apparently occurred last fall when a keypunch operator in the Cuyahoga County auditor's office inadvertantly typed the code "5100," which denotes residential property, in front of the home's assessed value of $35,500. As a result, the property-tax rate and revenues were computed on the basis of an inflated figure.
The auditor's office caught the mistake before a bill for $3.5 million in property taxes was mailed to the owners of the house, but six months passed before the auditor notified city or school-district officials, who had already planned their budgets for calendar 1983 according to the incorrect revenue estimate.
A spokesman for the school district said the board and administration were making "contingency cutting plans" to make up for the loss in its $254-million budget.
Minneapolis Sets Basic-Skills Tests For Graduation
Joining a growing number of states and school districts that have taken similar action, the Minneapolis Board of Education voted this month to require most high-school students to pass tests in reading, writing, and mathematics before they may receive a diploma.
The tests, which will first be required for the class of 1988, will be given to students in the 9th grade. Those who fail will be required to take remedial classes, and may retake the tests the following summer and any time after that. Some students may be granted waivers; the testing of special education students may vary with their needs.
The new requirement is part of "an overall plan to improve education in Minneapolis, with great emphasis on achievement," according to William Phillips, deputy superintendent for the 38,000-student system. Over the past two years, the district has been involved in long-range planning, and last spring issued a five-year plan of action.
One key characteristic will be a shift from "local autonomy" within each school to "common expectations" of what levels of achievement and understanding it is reasonable to expect of students. Students will also take "benchmark" tests at every grade, and the district will begin phasing in "promotion gates" in kindergarten and grades 2, 5, 7, and 9.
The new plan for system-wide standards was inspired in part by the fact that not all programs within the district were equally good, and not all students appeared to be benefiting equally from them. Minority students in particular were not achieving as well.
"We sincerely believe it doesn't have to be that way and we can address it," Mr. Phillips said. "We would like to go on record in a public way and say to the community, 'Join with us."'
"The community is responding in a very hopeful, supportive manner," Mr. Phillips said.
Boston Compliance In Desegregation Is Progressing
The Massachusetts Department of Education, in its first report on court-ordered desegregation in Boston's public schools, both praised city school officials for their "good-faith effort" and warned them about potential areas of noncompliance.
The report, the first of several to be submitted for review by U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr., noted "significant progress and good-faith efforts in complying" with some 400 remedial orders issued throughout the 10-year old case.
But it also identified several areas of concern among the 12 the department was designated to monitor by the judge, who ended his close supervision of the schools last year.
In the area of student assignment, according to the department report, projected enrollments show that 15 of the system's 124 schools "will most likely not be in compliance with the desegregation objectives ordered by the court," even though the assignment process has been conducted properly. The report nevertheless argued against a different assignment process as a remedy.
Instead, the report suggested that school improvement and recruitment efforts would contribute to desegregation in a number of instances.
Although "racially motivated violence has declined significantly" throughout the system, the report notes, crime and security problems persist "in a limited number" of schools. Such problems create both specific recruitment difficulties and "a general perception of unsafe conditions," according to the report.
Based on the percentage of students who were given their first choice of school assigments (83 percent), the report concluded that less compulsion exists under the desegregation plan than is commonly assumed.
The report also found inadequate support for limited-English-speaking students in vocational and special-education programs; limited progress in hiring more Hispanic and Asian school personnel; and disproportionate suspension rates of black students at several high schools.