States News Roundup
The Vermont State Board of Education has approved new graduation requirements and educational standards for the state's 100,000 public-school students.
The reform package represents the first time the state has established comprehensive standards for both elementary and secondary schools and specified course requirements for graduation.
The new requirements, which have been endorsed by the legislature's joint committee on administrative rules, will go into effect in 32 schools this fall. The remainder of the state's 385 public schools will be expected to plan for implementation of the new standards by 1989 at the latest, although the department will reassess the reform program in the spring of 1986.
According to Joyce Wolkomir, director of public affairs for the department, the new requirements are the result of a two-year departmental study of Vermont's educational needs.
The reform package includes:
Graduation requirements of four years of English, three years each of math, science, and social studies, one year of the arts, and one and a half years of physical education. Previously, students were expected to complete 16 one-year courses in unspecified subjects, meet locally established requirements, and master six competencies defined by the state as "the minimum skills necessary for further learning and social functioning" in the areas of reading, writing, speaking, listening, mathematics, and reasoning. Students will now be expected to master them by the end of the 8th grade.
A requirement that schools perform a "self-assessment" before being approved by the state. The rule's aim is to encourage local participation in the schools.
An outline of the "broad philosophical directions" to be aimed at in subject areas at each grade level.
The new requirements also include measures to improve the state's special-, vocational-, and compensatory-education programs, Ms. Wolkomir said.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court has ruled that the state's interscholastic-sports league has the right to bar two students from playing on a high-school hockey team because their parents live in another district.
In effect, the court ruled that because the Rhode Island Interscholastic League is a voluntary association, school principals who join it are bound to abide by its rules as long as they are "reasonable" and not "arbitrary or capricious."
The case in question concerned two youths who lived in other school districts but arranged probate-court guardianships so that they could attend Cranston High School East, which has an excellent hockey team.
According to the Rev. Robert C. Newbold, the interscholastic league's executive director, one boy lived 10 miles away but arranged for his grandmother, who lived in Cranston, to serve as a guardian. The guardian for the other boy, who lived in the Cranston High School West district, was a local citizen who coaches in the local youth-hockey program, which is not affiliated with the high school.
Father Newbold said the league has a rule that says students who move into another district because they have moved in with a guardian can be held to the normal transfer waiting period of 20 weeks. The court, he said, affirmed that the rule "reasonably relates to its designed purpose," which is "to prevent the problem of school jumping and the recruitment of high-school athletes."
According to James F. McAleer, the attorney representing the league, the students claimed in their lawsuit that they have a state constitutional right to live where they want and to play school sports. The students also argued, he said, that the league could not set rules for the public schools and that the public schools could not be members of the league.
The significance of the court's ruling is that "we are [now] one of the few states that has a supreme court decision attesting to our legitimacy and our power," Mr. McAleer said. "Secondly, we have a decision affirming the burden that we must meet in adopting rules. In very practical terms, this will mean fewer lawsuits because the most strategic legal questions have been answered."
A commission appointed by Gov. Richard Celeste of Ohio to look into alcohol- and drug-abuse-prevention programs throughout the state, has recommended that courses aimed at stopping student drug abuse be taught in all Ohio public schools as early as kindergarten.
Paul Coleman, director of the Ohio Recovery Council, said the council also recommended in its Aug. 31 report that all public-school teachers be required to attend continuing-education classes on the basic causes of alcoholism and drug abuse.
"There are minimum standards for reading, mathematics, and physical education," he said. "Although many Ohio schools are already providing fine programs, we need to guarantee that every Ohio school child, grade kindergarten through 12, will receive certain basic courses on the abuse of alcohol and other drugs."
Mr. Coleman said he had no estimates on the potential costs of the program. The commission's 283 recommendations were expected to be sent to the Governor at the end of last week.
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which banned rallies and assemblies during class time last spring, modified its rules last month to allow such events during class time three days out of the school year.
The board decided in the spring to ban all extracurricular activities during class time unless they were related directly to class studies, claiming there were "too many pep rallies and not enough classes," said Jack Pellegrin, a board member.
"For example, a biology class could go on a field trip to a biology laboratory," Mr. Pellegrin said, "but virtually everything else has to be done outside of class."
Under the modified rules, "if the blood banks want to visit, if the Girl and Boy Scouts want to recruit, if the American Cancer Society wants to hold an assembly, it has to be done on one of those three days," Mr. Pellegrin said.
Mr. Pellegrin said the board reached the decision to ban pep rallies and most student assemblies after realizing that an excessive number of such activities were routinely being scheduled during class time.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has helped the school board, he added, by issuing a five-part rule that would prohibit athletic events during school hours, establish a "Regular-Season Time Plan" designed to keep travel to out-of-town games to a minimum, and require student athletes to make up schoolwork missed because of athletic events.
Michigan education officials announced the development of a five-year literacy program at an adult-literacy conference held recently at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
According to Tom Farrell, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Department, the aim of the program is to cut illiteracy in the state in half by 1990. Based on 1980 information from the U.S. Census Bu reau, it is estimated that 797,000 Michigan adults are "functionally illiterate," Mr. Farrell said.
Although these adults can read and write, he said, they are "unable to function--pass a driver's test, or fill out employment applications."
The literacy initiative is being developed by a coordinating committee of representatives from 30 private and public organizations in the state and will be presented to the state board in January 1985.
The plan involves recruiting a corps of 3,000 volunteer tutors from universities and schools, as well as business, industry, and labor organizations. A key element in the program will be the promotion of partnerships between public and private agencies.
"Secondary schools will play a major role [in the initiative]," Mr. Farrell said. "They are the centers for many adult and community-education programs [and] activities locally would be coordinated by the K-12 school districts. Others would be involved, but K-12 districts would play a crucial role."
Mr. Farrell said that a cost estimate for the program has not been made yet, but that officials hope funding will come from all levels of government and the private sector.
In the first two months of what the Washington Department of Licensing claims is the first statewide child-identification program, 2,500 Washington parents had their children photographed and fingerprinted at 57 local motor-vehicle bureaus.
The cost to parents who wish to participate in the $23,000 program--which was initiated by Gov. John Spellman in an attempt to keep records of children who may disappear--is $3 per child, according to Princess Jackson-Smith, a spokesman for the licensing department. For an additional $1 a year, children's photographs can be updated.
The children's photographs and fingerprints can be retained by parents or placed in the state's central microfilm records, Ms. Jackson-Smith said.
In either case, with parents' permission, the records can be released to police authorities nationwide if a child disappears.
Washington licensing officials have received a substantial number of inquiries from other states about the program, Ms. Jackson-Smith said.
Allegations that at least six teachers cheated on Tennessee's new Career Ladder Test when it was administered to 1,500 teachers in Knoxville last month could not be substantiated when state education officials investigated the incidents.
"We could not confirm any cheating," said Mark Howard, a spokesman for the Tennessee Education Department.
Proctors of the test, all volunteers from local parent-teacher associations, reported at least six incidents of cheating to education-department officials in charge of administering the test in Knoxville, Mr. Howard said. However, subsequent monitoring of those individuals and a follow-up investigation by the department did not substantiate the allegations, he said.
Department officials sent a letter late last month to the 1,669 teachers who took the test at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium, apologizing for overcrowded conditions in the testing room and offering participants an opportunity to retake the test free of charge.
"We had extremely large numbers taking the tests at these sites and we made some mistakes," said Robert McElrath, state education commissioner. "In the future, we will find school facilities in all of the test sites to adequately accommodate all those who will be taking the test."
Mr. Howard added that the allegations of cheating were confined to the overcrowded test site in Knoxville and that there were no problems at the other nine sites around the state. About 9,000 teachers took the test last month.
Passing the Tennessee Career Ladder Test is just one of five ways educators can "fast track" onto the state's career-ladder program this year, Mr. Howard said.
Teachers who do well on the test may receive $1,000 merit-pay bonuses.