State News Roundup
The Arkansas Education Association has filed suit in Pulaski County Chancery Court challenging the state's new competency-test requirements for teachers.
Ten public-school teachers from around the state were listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state board of education and officials from the state education department.
The lawsuit charges that Arkansas's Act 76 of 1983 is unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates teachers' rights to equal protection under law. Act 76 requires that all current public-school teachers in 1984-85 and all teachers whose certificates expire before June 1, 1987, take a literacy test in reading, writing, and mathematics, and a subject-area test or six hours of instruc-tion in a subject area.
According to Ermalee R. Boice, assistant executive director for the Arkansas Education Association, the law creates a one-time-only test that singles out this year's public-school teachers as a special class. For example, she said, the law does not apply to teachers in private schools, teachers who are currently unemployed or on a leave of absence, or future teachers.
The lawsuit also asks the judge to require the state board of education to clarify whether the subject-area tests or class hours must be taken in every subject area in which a teacher is certified or only in one area, Ms. Boice said.
The Utah Board of Education is expected to vote later this month to limit the number of physical-education courses that members of school athletic teams can take each year.
The board gave preliminary approval at its November meeting to that and 12 other measures intended to curtail the erosion of the school day by extracurricular activities.
"There is a sense that extracurricular activities have gotten out of hand," said Dorothy O. Wardrop, curriculum coordinator for the Utah Office of Education. "Special interests have made it difficult to control them, so the board decided to provide some directives from the state level."
The measure covering physical-education classes would limit to one per athletic season the number of courses students may take that "by participation or content" constitute practice for interscholastic teams. It would also prohibit athletes from participating in such courses when their sport is out of season. It would apply, for example, to weightlifting classes for football players.
"Students are taking, under the guise of physical education, two or even three courses a day that are nothing more than practice," said Ms. Wardrop.
The board is also likely to approve requirements that participants in extracurricular activities have a C average or higher, that out-of-state travel for more than two consecutive days for extracurricular events be curtailed, and that students be prohibited from participation in activities that are sponsored by commercial interests.
The board is also expected to vote to ask the state's attorney general to rule on the legality of a now-common practice whereby coaches and teachers profit by requiring their students to attend camps and workshops that the coaches and teachers supervise.
The 13 recommendations were first made after a year-long study of the issue by an advisory panel to the state board.
Massachusetts officials say a drop in juvenile crime can be attributed to a 10-year-old special-education law that requires all schools to offer special services to children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.
Edward Loughran, deputy commissioner of the Department of Youth Services, said the special-education law, known as Chapter 766, has helped the children who otherwise would "slip through the cracks." He acknowledged that the population in that age group had declined by 15 percent since 1978, but pointed out that the drop in the de-linquency rate was much greater.
Mr. Loughran said the number of juvenile arraignments has decreased by about 35 percent since 1978. He said 28,400 youngsters between the ages of 10 and 16 were arraigned in 1978, while the figure for 1983 was 18,300. The department estimates that the number will drop to half the 1978 figure, or about 14,000, next year.
Melvin Levine, chief of the ambulatory pediatrics division at Children's Hospital in Boston, said a study of 100 young adolescents who had been repeat juvenile offenders found that one-third of the delinquents had undiagnosed neurological problems.
"A lot of these kids have been 'success deprived'," he said. "[The law] has made schools realize they have to program for success, and not drive kids into delinquency."
Four Rhode Island education and business organizations have joined together to present a package of reforms to the state legislature, including a recommendation to raise the state's average share of school funding from 38 percent to 50 percent.
Walter Constantine, president of the Rhode Island Association of6School Committees, said his organization, along with the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council--a business organization--the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, and the Rhode Island School Superintendents' Association, began meeting two months ago to draw up a variety of proposals for the legislature. The groups plan to present the proposals by the middle of this month.
"Every year, each group goes its own way on making recommendations,'' Mr. Constantine said. "And every year we find ourselves with the same general ideas. We thought that if we could come to an agreement as a group, it would carry more weight."
He said the organizations are considering a recommendation to use the state's surplus over the past two years to help pay for increasing the state share of education funding. He said Rhode Island had a surplus of about $26 million last year and expects a surplus this year "in excess of $40 million."
Other recommendations will focus on collective-bargaining problems and school-committee budget procedures, Mr. Constantine said.
Gov. Richard L. Thornburgh of Pennsylvania has announced theel5lbeginning of a statewide campaign to encourage parents to become more involved in the education of their children.
Warning in a speech last month that "parental dropout" can have tragic consequences on children, he urged parents to "tune into" their children's educational needs "as never before."
"We know that we can't teach children who do not care," the Governor said. "We know we can't teach children who are not there. And we know we can't teach children who are not prepared. ... The ultimate key to unlocking the door to young minds is the one that unlocks the door to their homes as well."
Governor Thornburgh said the campaign would focus on what can be done in the home to reinforce school standards on attendance, discipline, and homework. The message, he said, would be carried primarily by means of public-service announcements on radio and television. He said he would repeat the theme in speeches and public appearances.
The Governor also said school officials will be asked to keep parents better informed about school policies. To assist the officials, he said, the State Department of Education will provide them with handbooks, prepared in conjunction with the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association, that outline successful parental-involvement practices.
A coalition of four Connecticut education organizations has proposed major changes in the process by which teachers are licensed in the state.
"There is nothing in education with greater need for reform than the way we certify or license teachers," leaders of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Colleges and Universities for Teacher Education, the Connecticut Association of School Administrators, and the Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents said in a prepared statement released last month.
In its statement, the coalition called for the implementation of a multi-tiered certification process requiring teachers and other certified staff members to pursue professional growth throughout their careers; the provision of an alternate route to certification for college graduates not specificially trained to be teachers; and the development of a master-teacher program.
"High status and higher salaries for teachers will not be forthcoming until we are more selective about who we allow to teach and establish high standards for the job," the Connecticut coalition's statement concluded.