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.