State News Roundup
Twenty-four Arkansas legislators have sponsored a bill that would establish a comprehensive teacher-evaluation program and repeal a controversial teacher-testing law that was approved in November 1983.
The law, which still has the full support of its initial sponsor, Gov. Bill Clinton, has been under attack by the Arkansas Education Association since it was first proposed.
The aea has thrown its support behind the new bill, HB 616, which is still in the House Education Committee.
"The sponsors of the legislation are keenly aware that the real test of teachers is whether they can teach and not their performance on a basic-skills test," said Richard A. Nagel, a consultant with aea
At least 27,000 employees of public schools who hold teaching or administrative certificates are scheduled to take the test, which will be given for the first time on March 23, Mr. Nagel said.
To demonstrate support for the repeal bill, thousands of teachers across the state rallied at the Capitol this month. A few districts had to close for the day because so many teachers requested leave.
The Illinois Project for School Reform, a coalition of business and policy leaders, has proposed a $265-million program to raise teachers' salaries and bolster local control over improving public education.
The reform plan "represents the most far-reaching effort in the nation to restore school governance to the people who pay for the schools and are elected to run them," said Michael J. Bakalis, a former Illinois superintendent of schools and the head of the project.
The proposal--developed by Chicago United, a group of business leaders, and the Roosevelt Center for American Policy Studies--is intended to give wide latitude to local districts to fashion the curriculum, personnel practices, and the school calendar. Under the plan, districts could choose to incorporate a Paideia-like curriculum or start schooling with 4-year-olds, Mr. Bakalis explained.
The coalition has also called for tighter entrance requirements for teacher-education programs and a one-year internship for beginning teachers.
In addition, the group recommends that $200 million go toward gradual increases in salaries for teachers who agree to a 12-month contract.
And the plan calls for placing $60 million from local property taxes in an "education bank" from which property owners could ultimately withdraw a small portion of the school taxes they paid to use for job retraining or higher education for themselves or their children.
To fund these proposals, the reform project has recommended increasing income taxes for individuals from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent and for corporations from 3 percent to 5.6 percent.
Local boards of education are not required to provide alternative education for nonhandicapped students who are expelled or suspended from school, according to Frank Kelley, Michigan's attorney general.
"The compulsory-attendance law imposes duties on parents and students, not on school districts," said Assistant Attorney General Gerald F. Young in explaining Mr. Kelley's Feb. 7 opinion.
"And the school districts in Michigan have clear statutory authority to suspend or expel," Mr. Young continued. "By your own misconduct, you can forfeit your right to attend school."
The opinion was sought by Phillip E. Runkel, state superintendent of public instruction, after a "rapid succession of four or five cases,'' said Eugene L. Cain, assistant superintendent for school and community affairs.
"We just felt that youngsters, regardless of the reason for being kicked out of school, are entitled to instruction, whether it be school-based or home-based," he explained. "The opportunity should always be present."
Mr. Cain said he will ask Mr. Runkel "to make a careful review of the situation and perhaps come up with legislation that would give those youngsters expelled from school some opportunity to continue their studies at home."
Two Minnesota unions have filed suit in Hennepin County District Court to prevent districts from using a job-classification method they say violates the state's 1984 pay-equity law.
Minnesota is the only state to require that employees receive equal pay for work of comparable value. Each district must evaluate jobs under four measurement factors--the level of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions required to do a job, said Willard K. Baker, executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association.
The msba has worked with the Arthur Young Company, a national management-consulting firm, to develop the "Decision Band Method" of job evaluation to be used by all districts.
Calling the method "fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory," Mr. Baker said the msba plans to conduct training seminars to familiarize administrators from 90 percent of the state's districts with the procedure.
But the Minnesota School Employees Association and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 70, who represent custodial engineers, clerical workers, cooks, and educational assistants in a number of school districts, contend that the method measures only one of the four required factors for determining comparable worth--responsibility.
This month, the unions filed suit to obtain a preliminary injunction preventing districts from using the method.
The unions have asked the court to consider the case immediately because of the "time bind" districts are in, according to Darlene Volten of the engineers' union. Districts have until October to evaluate their job classifications, she said.
A proposal to amend Idaho's compulsory-education law would allow parents to educate their children at home if they make a "good-faith effort" to instruct the children in reading, writing, mathematics, history, and civics.
Under Idaho's current law, home schooling of children between the ages of 7 and 16 is allowed only if they receive an education that is "comparable" to that of the public schools.
The proposed amendment, introduced this month by Representative Robert Forrey, Republican of Nampa, is designed to give parents more jurisdiction over the education of their children, the lawmaker said. Public officials must start trusting parents "to do the right thing," he added.
But Jerry Evans, Idaho's state superintendent, has charged that Mr. Forrey's proposed amendment would weaken the state's educational standard. As an example, he pointed out that science instruction is not included in the amendment as a required subject.
Representative Forrey said he introduced the legislation, co-sponsored by a Democrat, in response to the problems of the Shippy families of New Plymouth. Late last year, the 16 school-age children of three Shippy couples were placed in foster homes and sent to public schools after their parents failed to comply with the state's compulsory-education law and refused to set up an approved home-study program.
The Idaho House approved the proposed bill last week by a 64-to-19 vote. It will now go to the state Senate for consideration.
Mississippi has the second-highest number of dropouts in the nation, just below that of Washington, D.C., according to a report released this month by the Governor's Commission for Children and Youth.
The report, which its authors say is the first statewide document of its kind, focuses on the problems of troubled youths, and on children's needs in the areas of child welfare, education, the environment, and physical and mental health. Former Gov. William H. Winter established the 21-member commission in 1980 to identify gaps in services for children and to coordinate the activities of the five state agencies that serve children.
In the area of education, the report found that, in the 1981-82 school year, 46 Mississippi students dropped out of high school for every 100 students who graduated.
It also found that annual per-pupil expenditures in the state vary widely, from $1,217.50 to $2,539.83. And the report revealed that nearly half of the state's students who took college-entrance tests under the American College Testing program last year scored too low to qualify for admission to five state universities.
Copies of the report have been sent to legislators, agencies that serve children, and private child-service agencies for further action. The report does not include recommendations but is "strictly an informational document," according to Linda Ross Aldy, special-projects director for the commission.
Ms. Aldy noted, however, that the commission is supporting full implementation of the state's Education Reform Act of 1982, particularly the requirement for mandatory statewide kindergarten by 1986-87.
An Iowa Baptist Church, claiming that a state law requiring schools to report on their enrollment and curriculum and to employ certified teachers violates their religious freedom, has asked the state Supreme Court to exempt its school from the law's requirements.
The Calvary Baptist Church of Charles City was first denied an exemption to the law by the state board of public instruction in 1982, according to Nancy Shimanek, a spokesman for the high court. A district court upheld the board's decision in 1983; the church appealed the decision to the high court.
The church is seeking to be granted the same exemption that was created for the state's Amish population, according to Merle Fleming, assistant attorney general. The lower court denied the church's request because its mem-bers live under different circumstances than the Amish, who live separate from society.
"They are challenging all the rules and regulations that have anything to do with the state's compulsory-education law," she said.
The Supreme Court has heard arguments but will not rule on the case until late March at the earliest, Ms. Fleming added.
All Connecticut public-school districts would be required to provide K-12 programs for gifted pupils if a $40.2-million measure passed by the state board of education this month is approved by the General Assembly.
"It's going to be costly," said Gerald N. Tirozzi, Connecticut's commissioner of education, of the program, which would take effect in 1988-89 and be funded partly by the state. "But our role is to stand up for what we believe in. We have many youngsters who are prepared to move beyond the traditional curriculum."
According to a report ordered by the General Assembly in 1983 and prepared by the Connecticut Department of Education, only 15,000 of an estimated 47,000 students in the state who have been identified as having exceptionalacademic or artistic abilities are currently participating in special programs.
Further, no district has a comprehensive program to meet the needs of all its gifted pupils and a majority of teachers and aids who work with gifted pupils have not received formal training for the task, the report found.
Under a state law enacted in 1967, special programs for gifted students are permitted but not required.
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The Indiana State Board of Education has given preliminary approval to a proposal that would outlaw the practice of "red-shirting," or letting a student repeat a grade solely to increase his or her athletic ability.
The proposal was introduced after the Lebanon school board allowed the son of a former Purdue University basketball star to repeat the 8th grade, despite the fact that the boy was an A student.
The proposal goes to a public hearing next month, according to Joseph DiLaura, a spokesman for the board, after which the board will vote on whether to make it state policy.
If a school continues the practice of red-shirting after the proposed policy is enacted, it could lose its accreditation, Mr. DiLaura said.
The practice, which is common in college athletics, "had been going on on a limited basis in Indiana for some time," Mr. DiLaura said. "It was one thing to have it happen, but it was another thing to have a local school board go on record sanctioning it."