Federal News Roundup
William Allen, a 6-year-old Nez Perce Indian, demonstrates a tribal dance to children from several Head Start programs in Idaho and Washington. The demonstration was part of a day-long program at which children shared aspects of American Indian culture.
Federal News Roundup
The Reagan Administration has filed suit in federal district court charging the Chicago Board of Education with discrimination against female employees in providing sick leave and health insurance for pregnancy and childbirth.
In papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Dec. 9., the Justice Department charged that the school board violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 from its effective date, April 29, 1979, until Nov. 1, 1979, when a new union contract eliminated the situation.
Superintendent of Schools Ruth B. Love and the Chicago Teachers Union Local No. 1 were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
During the six-month period, the government said, pregnancy-related medical expenses of female employees were excluded from major medical coverage, while male employees received comprehensive medical coverage.
In addition, single female employees with no children were prevented from enrolling in the insurance company's family plan, allowing them to enroll only in the single plan that did not cover pregnancy-related conditions. The government also alleged that the school board paid insurance premiums for up to 25 months for disabled men on sick leave, while restricting payments to one month for women disabled by pregnancy-related conditions.
The government asked the court to bar the school board from instituting such insurance policies again and to order the board to compensate women against whom it discriminated.
The Justice Department filed a similar suit against the Buffalo, N.Y., school board last April.
Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee filled the last vacancy on the new U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last week, bypassing two moderate Republicans from the old panel in favor of a moderate black Republican from his home state.
Senator Baker's nomination of Francis F. Guess, Tennessee's commissioner of labor, apparently ended the possibility that the former commissioners, Mary L. Smith and Jill Ruckelshaus, would be seated on the new panel.
The Reagan Administration last week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether a "moment of silence" in public schools violates the First Amendment's separation of church and state.
The Court ruled in 1962 that recitation of prayers by teachers in public schools is unconstitutional, but it never has ruled on the moment-of-silence issue. Some 22 states have enacted laws that provide for some form of meditation at the beginning of the school day.
In its friend-of-the-court brief in the case of Wallace v. Jaffree, the Justice Department said, "To hold that the moment of silence is unconstitutional is to insist that any opportunity for religious practice, even in the unspoken thoughts of schoolchildren, be extirpated from the public sphere."
It added that "moment-of-silence statues are libertarian in the precise spirit of the Bill of Rights: they accommodate those who believe that prayer should be an integral part" of the public schools' activities and "do so in the most neutral and noncoercive spirit possible."
District News Roundup
Two students were killed and five others were injured this month when high winds snapped a flagpole in the schoolyard of a Philadelphia Catholic school.
About 200 St. Barnabas School students who were outside for lunch recess had lined up to re-enter the school, explained Rose Lombardo, assistant director of communications for the school. When the 75-foot flagpole fell in the girls' section of the yard at 12:45 P.M., it hit seven students, she said.
The National Weather Service reported winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour that day.
Maureen Wiseley, a 12-year-old 8th-grade student died of head injuries within an hour, Ms. Lombardo said. Eileen Augustine, a 13-year-old 8th grader, died the next day.
Of the others who were injured, one has been released and four remain in the hospital in good condition, Ms. Lombardo said.
The school, which has 937 students in grades K-8, has had the flagpole since 1942.
A federal judge has declared a mistrial in a $17.3-million lawsuit involving five Maryland schoolchildren who were placed in a storage closet by school administrators as a form of punishment.
U.S. District Judge Walter E. Black Jr. acted late last month after a jury of five men and five women failed to reach a decision on whether administrators at the Germantown Elementary School had violated the children's constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law when they imposed the disciplinary measure.
The children, who were between the ages of 7 and 12 in 1981 when the incident occurred, testified that they had been placed in solitary confinement in closets for up to five consecutive days. Two children testified during the trial that the administrators had turned out the lights in the closets, leaving them in darkness for several hours.
The suit also claims that administrators used the disciplinary measure far more frequently for black children than for others. According to Barbara Mello, a Maryland American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented one of the children in the case, 28 children were placed in the storage rooms in 1981. Of that number, 25 were black, she said.
Attorneys for the administrators claimed that the disciplinary proce-dure was proper and that the children were exaggerating.
Attorneys for the children may ask to have the case retried, Ms. Mello said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision on special-education services, has upheld a lower court's ruling that the Kent City (Ohio) Public Schools had provided a multi-handicapped student with an "appropriate" educational program.
The court of appeals ruled that it would not interfere with the district's implementation of an educational program for Thomas M. Rettig, a student described as mentally retarded with symptoms of autism.
Citing the Supreme Court's decision in Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the appeals court concluded that the courts "are not free to choose between competing educational theories and impose that selection upon the school system."
The student's mother had filed suit in 1980 alleging that the school district had denied her son "a free appropriate education" when it did not provide him with a 12-month educational program and continuous occupational therapy. The lower court disagreed, but ordered the district to provide the student with one hour of extracurricular activities each week. The court of appeals ordered the case, Rettig v. Kent City School District, back to the lower court for reconsideration of the order requiring extracurricular activities for the student.
The unanticipated large number of students seeking to enroll in New York City's new all-day kindergar-ten programs has caused two problems for the city's school department: how to cut down long waiting lists and how to pay for the program, which will cost nearly twice the amount projected.
According to Robert Terte, spokesman for the New York City Public Schools, the cost for converting the half-day programs into all-day kindergartens has risen to $39 million from the $22 million anticipated by Chancellor Anthony J. Alvarado and from the $15 million allocated by the city council.
No one anticipated the "overwhelming" number of students who signed up, Mr. Terte said. Last year, there were 8,000 children in all-day programs and 44,000 in half-day programs. Today, there are more than 55,000 in full-day programs and 2,500 in half-day programs.
Although school officials cite the unanticipated demand as a reason for the lack of spaces this year, the city's Legal Aid Society has said that the city, over the last several years, has never had enough spaces, even for part-time students. It filed suit against the district in September, claiming that--with its long waiting lists for kindergarten--the school board was violating the state law that says a person over age 5 is "entitled to attend public schools maintained in the district in which such person resides without the payment of tuition." The suit also charged that the fact that all students who wished to attend kindergarten could not attend violated equal-protection and due-process rights, according to Frances Pantaleo, Legal Aid Society laywer.
The city board of education has worked with the Legal Aid Society, agreeing to implement a timetable for enrolling all students.
Waiting lists, which numbered 4,400 students in September and 3,000 students in October, have gradually been whittled down, Mr. Terte said. Now, about 1,300 students requesting to be enrolled in all-day kindergartens have yet to be placed. The timetable requires that all students be enrolled by Jan. 2, and that students from the overcrowded districts that could not otherwise enroll be bused to schools in nearby areas.
States News Roundup
The National Education Association (nea) has condemned an Arkansas law requiring the state's on-the-job teachers to take competency tests, saying it "demeans" teachers and "deceives" the public.
At its meeting last week, the nea board of directors also voted to send a team of board members to Arkansas to lobby against the law through a media campaign and to meet with education and civil-rights groups, legislators, and with the Governor, said Linley Stafford, an nea spokesman. The biennial state legislature meets again in 1985; testing is scheduled to begin during the 1984-85 school year.
Mr. Stafford said the action to rescind the law, passed last September, was the first of the kind taken by the nea in the field of teacher testing. Earlier this month, Gregory Anrig, president of the Educational Testing Service, announced his organization's opposition to the law and said ets will not permit Arkansas to use its National Teacher Exam in the new program.
The law, strongly supported by Gov. Bill Clinton, requires all certified teachers and administrators to pass a basic-skills test by 1987. They also must pass a subject-area test or take six credit-hours in their field.
Gov. Clinton also pushed through a 1-percent sales-tax increase in the same September school-reform package. He argues that teacher-testing is necessary to restore public confidence in the public schools.
The New Jersey Board of Education has endorsed, "in principal," Gov. Thomas H. Kean's controversial teacher-licensing reforms.
In addition, Saul Cooperman, the state commissioner of education, has announced the formation of a panel of 11 nationally known experts to help the state implement the Governor's proposals.
The proposals, announced this fall, would abolish the current regulation requiring New Jersey teachers to have earned college credits from an education school. Governor Kean's plan would allow certification of college graduates who hold a bachelor's degree, demonstrate knowledge of their subject area on an examination, and successfully complete a one-year internship.
The panel, chaired by Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and author of a recent, report on schooling, will recommend characteristics of the internship and study teacher training and "effective teaching" as part of an effort to upgrade and standardize the curricula of New Jersey's education schools.
Mr. Cooperman will appoint another advisory panel of New Jersey educators and citizens in February. It will make its recommendations on the Governor's reforms to Mr. Cooperman by April 30. The commissioner will report to the state board by May 9. The board will take final action on the proposed reforms in September.
Meanwhile, the politically powerful New Jersey Education Association has called for modifications in the Governor's plan in order to "plug loopholes and correct deficiencies" in it. The 120,000-member teachers' organization claims that the proposed changes in the state certification regulations would lower existing standards.
The njea is proposing that non-education majors be eligible for teaching licenses only if they have a 2.8 grade-point average during college and take 12 hours of pedagogy courses during the summer before they begin teaching and an additional six hours of courses or in-service training during their first year of teaching.
A committee appointed by Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. of North Carolina has recommended that all high-school students in the state be re-quired to take at least one course in vocational education.
The North Carolina Advisory Council on Education, a permanent body established in 1978 to advise state officials on vocational education and skills training, said in an annual report that at least 70 percent of all students could "immediately" benefit from vocational education.
The state board of education is expected to respond to the recommendation by next spring.
E. Michael Latta, executive director of the council, said about 70 percent of the state's high-school graduates do not complete college and therefore need technical training. An increasing number of college graduates, he added, return to college for technical training.
An official for the state department of education said half of North Carolina's high-school students now take at least one course in vocational education. The courses offered include agriculture, health care, home economics, industrial arts, and marketing.
Merit-pay proposals threaten academic freedom, teachers' right to teach, and students' right to learn, according to the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union. The group plans to start a program of education, lobbying, and litigation to oppose the adoption of merit pay in Minnesota.
The organization's board last month approved a statement arguing that merit-pay plans infringe upon society's right to prohibit the use of unconstitutional standards to determine the remuneration of public-school teachers and open a "Pandora's box" of threats to teachers' rights.
"The burden of proof is on those who propose merit-pay plans to show that only constitutionally protected criteria will be used and that, in fact, a merit-pay plan will not destroy years of hard work by aclu and mclu and others in protecting and expanding academic freedom," the position paper states.
The organization rejects merit-pay proposals, according to the statement, because of the potential for the use of non-educational standards--such as race, religion, and political affiliation--in teacher-evaluation procedures. In addition, such plans "will have a chilling effect" on teachers' freedoms, it contends.
"It is naive to think that school administrators are able to use objective standards in evaluating public-school teachers' effectiveness and then objectively to determine salary increments based on these judgments, without rewarding those teachers and those teaching techniques which they prefer," the statement says.
In the final weeks before a new law takes effect requiring school and college administrators to bargain with employees, both major teacher unions in Illinois have launched extensive campaigns to recruit some 100,000 non-union employees.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that both the Illinois Education As-sociation and the Illinois Federation of Teachers have increased the size of their staffs to take advantage of the new law.
About 300 of the state's 1,000 districts do not now "firmly recognize" a union, an official for the ift said. In those districts, the unions will either petition the school board to be recognized or compete in an election to gain recognition as representative of the teachers.
About 90 percent of all teachers and 65 percent of other school employees already are represented by unions.
The Michigan Commission on High Schools recommended to the state Board of Education last week that the school year be extended from 180 to 185 days, that high-school students take more difficult courses and a heavier course load, and that high-school teachers be certified in a subject area before they are assigned to teach it.
In their final report, the commission, which was jointly sponsored by the state board and the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, also urged that students be required to pass reading and mathematics examinations each year to be promoted and to graduate.
"We just feel that there's a great amount of learning that needs to take place today for a person to compete in this society," said William Pappas, chairman of the commission and principal of Northview High School in suburban Grand Rapids.
The commission's report also calls for school days of at least six academic periods and a homework policy in every district, and recommends that state colleges and universities require applicants to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, math, science, and a foreign language.
A high-school student, the panel said, should earn at least 24 credits--four more than most districts now require--with at least 60 percent of the credits in the following areas: four years of English; two years of science; three years of social studies; one year of health or physical education; one-half year of computer education; and two years in either foreign languages, fine or performing arts, or vocational education.
In addition, the commission recommended restricting the number of days a district may close down because of inclement weather. It also asked local school boards to establish strong absenteeism policies and maintain student-discipline codes that are "enforced consistently."
No information on how the recommendations would be funded was provided at the meeting, but the commission urged Gov. James J. Blanchard and the legislature to address finance concerns.
Starting in 1985, new teachers in Oregon will have to pass a basic-skills test before receiving their certificates. The state's Teacher Stan-dards and Practices Commission unanimously approved the new regulation earlier this month.
But the 17-member board, which includes eight teachers, could not agree on some related issues, such as the cut-off scores to be used and the appeals procedures to be set up for those failing the test, said Richard Jones, the board's executive secretary.
Mr. Jones said the commission has not decided which test to use, but is considering the California Basic Skills Test. California law already requires new teachers to pass a competency test.
The commission's vote on the testing issue is final, because it has been authorized by the state legislature to establish teacher-licensing rules, Mr. Jones said.
Ninety percent of the Alabama students required to pass the state's basic-skills test to receive their diplomas in 1985 have passed the reading section of the test, the Alabama Department of Education announced this month.
Passing rates were also high on the mathematics and language sections of the test--85 percent and 82 percent, respectively. The rates include the scores of special-education students; when those scores are excluded, the passing rate increases.
In announcing the results, Wayne Teague, the state superintendent of education, noted that the test results revealed the major problem areas for students. In mathematics, they seemed to have the most trouble with questions on which they needed to apply skills--figuring taxes, discounts, and interest, for example. They also showed low rates of mastery on calculating the area of a rectangle and converting units of measure, Mr. Teague said.
On the language test, students had difficulty setting up the format for a business letter, using quotation marks, and completing application forms.
Those students who failed any section of the test will have at least three more chances to pass it.
A Wisconsin legislative panel has approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would make Wisconsin the first state to abolish property taxes as a basis for support of public schools. The measure, sponsored by state Senator Mordecai Lee of Milwaukee, emerged from the Senate Urban Affairs and Government Operations Committee this month and will go to the full Senate during the session beginning in January.
"Some of my colleagues are squirming," Senator Lee said. "This forces them to think through whether they really believe in taking government services off the property tax. It is also bringing out of the woodwork people who are happy with the property tax notwithstanding its inequities, like school boards and teachers' groups. While in the abstract they may understand the unfairness of the property tax, they want to preserve the status quo."
The proposed amendment would have to be approved two times, with an intervening election, by each chamber of the state legislature, then would be submitted to the electorate for enactment. The entire process, Senator Lee said, generally takes about five years.
Property taxes now make up about 53 percent of the more than $2- billion spent annually on public schools in Wisconsin. Senator Lee said he purposely omitted any specific reference to alternative revenue sources because he wanted a "clean debate over two policy principles": whether schools should be supported by property taxes and whether removal of the property tax would undermine local control. Without specifying the mechanisms, the measure would permit the legislature to adopt alternate financing, perhaps including local income taxes or other progressive local taxes, Senator Lee said.
The federal district judge in Washington State who last month indicated he would award both back pay and substantial pay increases to more than 14,000 women employees of the state in a major wage-discrimination case, has ruled that the state will have to bring the salaries for female-dominated jobs up to the equivalent for male-dominated jobs.
In his written opinion, released last week, U.S. District Judge Jack E. Tanner also said that back pay must be awarded according to the same formula. "My best estimate is that the entire ruling will cost the state nearly a billion dollars," said Janet McMann, assistant director of public affairs for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The case was brought by the Washington Federation of State Employees and afscme Council 28 of afl-cio on behalf of many of the state's female employees and some male employees who work in jobs dominated by women. (See Education Week, Sept. 28, 1983.)
In his ruling, Judge Tanner also appointed Edward Lane, a Tacoma lawyer, as "special master" to decide which employees qualify for back pay and for what periods of time. "I am to determine how much should be awarded for damages for the back four years in the pay of the women concerned," Mr. Lane said.
Judge Tanner indicated Mr. Lane should start his work immediately, according to Ms. McMann. "The gist of Tanner's decision is that he wants this done immediately. He says it is time right now for a remedy and he underscores 'right now."'
A superintendent whose forays into country-music recording gained national attention has come under heavy attack from minority leaders because of the low test scores of and numerous disciplinary actions taken against his district's minority students. (See Education Week, Aug. 17, 1983.)
A coalition of black educators, parents, and clergy members earlier this month gave a vote of "no confidence" to Donald J. Steele, superintendent of the Seattle Public Schools. Mr. Steele has said he will continue in the position for the remaining two and one-half years of his contract.
A spokesman for the coalition said Mr. Steele's discipline policy "is aimed at blacks." But Mr. Steele said last week that he would meet with leaders of the coalition to discuss their differences. "These troubles can be worked out," he said.
Mr. Steele, whose performance will be informally evaluated by the board of education next month and formally evaluated at the end of the school year, recorded a song earlier this year with Tammy Wynette, the country-western music star. Proceeds from the record cut in Nashville went toward a district scholarship fund.
But Mr. Steele has encountered some resistance at home to his extracurricular activity. Last month, the board of education ordered him to spend less time out of town and to repair relations with minorities in the city.
As a means of encouraging states to raise their drinking age to 21, the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving recommended last week that federal highway funds be witheld from states with lower drinking-age limits.
Noting "a direct correlation between the minimum drinking age and alcohol-related crashes among the age groups affected," the commission said in its final report to President Reagan that a uniform drinking age of 21 would cause a decrease in traffic fatalities.
Shortly after receiving the report, the President signed a proclamation designating the week of Dec. 12 "National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week," but he will not support the commission's recommendation to withhold highway funds, a White House spokesman said.
The U.S. Supreme Court this month refused to hear a challenge to a Marshfield, Mass., ban on video games, ending a one-and-one-half-year legal battle. But constitutional experts question whether the Court's move will provide any guidance to other cities considering video-game restrictions or bans. (See Education Week, Sept. 8, 1982.)
After community leaders warned that organized crime and drug abuse would thrive in the arcades if the games were allowed to continue, the town of 20,000 people voted in 1981 to prohibit merchants to set up games such as "Pac Man," "Donkey Kong," and "Space Invaders."
Merchants who put the games in their stores and restaurants reported that use of the games waned as the legal challenge proceeded through the state-court system and eventually was appealed to the Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm has rejected an appeal by the Peoria, Ill., school district, asking him to overturn the verdict that gave a Peoria teacher $514,333 in damages. (See Education Week, July 27, 1983.)
The teacher, Terry Knapp, was awarded the sum after a jury found that his First Amendment rights had been violated.
Mr. Knapp charged that district officials had fired him from a coaching job, given him negative evaluations, and transferred him to another school after he spoke with school-board members on several occasions.
The school "adopted" by President Reagan as part of the Administration's effort to boost public involvement in education will change change its name next month to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
The Washington Board of Education voted to change the name of Congress Heights Elementary School on King's birthday Jan. 15. A Federal Register notice has asked for public comment on the change.
In the Matter of Toys, Boys Will Be Boys
Now that many people have been freed from the confines of stereotypical sex roles, parents find it perfectly acceptable--even praiseworthy--to give their offspring toys once thought suitable only for children of the opposite sex. But according to a newly completed study by a Florida3State University researcher, the recipients of these nonsexist toys may not yet have caught up with the trend.
Charles H. Wolfgang, a professor of early-childhood education, tested a group of preschool pupils whose mothers worked outside of the home and who had spent extended periods of their childhood in day-care centers. Staff members at the daycare center where he carried out the study worked to eliminate sex-role stereotypes as well. "One of the center's skits included a Snow White who had a professional career and the dwarfs all had to do household chores," Mr. Wolfgang said.
Despite these efforts, however, the children still preferred the toys traditionally considered appropriate for their sex. In fact, Mr. Wolfgang found, their preferences were nearly identical to those reported in a 1934 study of the same question conducted by T.F. Vance. Girls still prefer domestic toys and materials like clay, paints, and crayons, and boys continue to favor construction materials, carpentry tools, and building blocks, Mr. Wolfgang found.
The researcher speculates that social influences outside the home and school continue to exert a powerful influence on children. Catalogues and television commercials show girls playing with dolls and boys working with tools.