District News Roundup
A student's discovery of a "pattern" for answers on the Iowa Tests of Educational Development has invalidated the standardized-achievement-test scores of more than 6,000 high-school students in the Des Moines Independent Community School District.
"One sharp student" found on one of the first days the test was administered last October that the correct-answer sequence for one section of the test was the same on other sections of the test, according to James E. Bowman, assistant superintendent for public instruction.
"He shared that information with other students and pretty soon it got around--you know how high-school students are," Mr. Bowman said. By the time school officials learned of the pattern and its discovery, the test had been given in four of the district's five high schools.
In a report to the school board last month, administrators wrote that it is "impossible to place any credibility in these results." The report suggested that the test results be released to parents and students but advised against releasing the school and district results to any of the schools. The district will not use the tests again "until a modification or correction" is made, Mr. Bowman said.
Since the discovery of the test pattern by the student in Des Moines, the testing experts at the University of Iowa have corrected the problem in the new edition of the test, Mr. Bowman said. The Iowa Tests of Educational Development are published by the Riverside Publishing Company, a division of Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston.
The Chicago Board of Education has approved new guidelines to ensure stricter monitoring of standardized tests, in the wake of an audit of reading-test scores in 40 Chicago elementary schools that turned up possible testing "irregularities."
The audit was called for after school officials noted that students in 23 schools showed "unusual gains" on annual standardized tests in such subjects as mathematics, science, and reading, said Kenneth Masson, a program specialist for the Chicago Public Schools. He also noted that officials detected "unusual patterns and erasures" on certain of the schools' answer sheets.
After the testing period ended last spring, another version of the reading test--this time monitored by officials rather than classroom teachers--was given to one 7th- and 8th-grade class in each of the 23 schools and in 17 other schools that were selected for comparison purposes.
On the retest, scores in the 23 schools dropped by an average of five months for 7th graders and four months for 8th graders. Scores of students in the other 17 schools also dropped, but only by an average of two months for 7th graders and one month for 8th graders.
"These results point to cheating," Mr. Masson said. "But nobody has admitted anything, and we have nothing to prove that this actually happened." Under the new board policy, teachers will not administer the tests of their own students and schools must deliver the tests to the district's office of research and evaluation as soon as the tests are completed, Mr. Masson said.
Two special-education teachers and a physical-education teacher in St. Petersburg, Fla., have been arrested on charges of participating in a child-pornography ring, according to federal prosecutors.
Richard Norgrove, 35, his wife Alicia Arrendondo Norgrove, 32, and Donald Munafo, 43, were arrested earlier this month and charged with sexually exploiting children; the Norgroves were also charged with distribution of child pornography.
Mark Jackowski, assistant U.S. attorney, said investigators found videotapes of a girl engaged in sexually explicit conduct with other girls, videotape equipment, and business records at the Norgroves' home. They also found mailing and distribution lists of Edventures Media Inc., the corporation the teachers used to conduct their pornography business, Mr. Jackowski added.
Police also found similar material at Mr. Munafo's home. Mr. Jackowski added that he could not comment on whether the children in the tapes were students of the teachers.
All three were suspended from their jobs at 16th Street Middle School in south St. Petersburg, pending an investigation, according to a school official.
The parents of three deaf boys have filed a $2.1-million lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, N.C., because school officials refused their request that two of their children be taught cued speech rather than sign language in school.
The two boys, Andy Lufkin, 9, and Scott Lufkin, 7, were placed in a sign-language class in September 1983 with the consent of their parents, after school officials determined that the boys were not making adequate progress in a cued-speech class, according to Ann Majestic, the lawyer for the Wake County School Board.
Cued speech--a phonetic representation of the spoken language--uses hand signals to indicate different groups of word sounds and to encourage a deaf person to imitate those sounds.
At the end of the 1983-84 school year, the parents asked that their sons be returned to a cued-speech class at the Combs Elementary School. Their 11-year-old son, Jason, is taught in a cued-speech class.
School officials refused, however, saying that the move would deny the boys an appropriate education as designated by P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.
Because the Lufkins have kept their two youngest sons out of school since last September, the school board has charged them with violating the state's compulsory-attendance laws, Ms. Majestic said. A hearing on a preliminary injunction in the parents' suit, filed last month, was expected to be held last Friday.
California officials have closed two South Bay-area preschools amid allegations that pupils were molested by staff members and other adults. The schools are the sixth and seventh in the area to be closed since last spring, when seven staff members of the Virginia McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach were charged on 208 counts of child sexual abuse involving as many as 41 children.
The California Department of Social Services ordered that licenses be revoked from the Children's Path School in Manhattan Beach and the Children's Path School in Hermosa Beach, according to Jack Germain, a department spokesman. The schools are owned by the same individuals; the latter school has been closed voluntarily since October, when local police announced they were investigating reported abuse incidents.
Complaints that led to the closings include allegations that at least seven or eight children under age 5 were sexually abused and exploited by staff members and other adults, Mr. Germain said. It is also alleged that some of the children were photographed.
The state has not established any direct connection between the two schools and the McMartin Preschool case, Mr. Germain said. In that case, which has been in preliminary hearings since September, the fourth of 41 child witnesses testified last week.
After two years of debate, officials of the Baltimore City Public Schools have decided to teach students about nuclear war. The school board rejected, however, the adoption of a nuclear-issues curriculum designed by the national organization Jobs with Peace, preferring instead to devise its own program.
Sister Katherine Corr of Jobs with Peace has lobbied the board for two years to persuade it to test the group's 10-hour course entitled "Crossroads: Quality of Life in a Nuclear Age" in four city high schools. The course, which is used in the Boston public schools and had been endorsed by the Baltimore League of Women Voters and the city's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, presents students with a set of options for dealing with the nuclear threat and asks them to make choices that national leaders may face in the event of a nuclear confrontation.
The school board, however, endorsed Superintendent Alice Pinderhughes's recommendation that the city's social-studies curriculum be used to develop a comprehensive course plan for teaching students in grades K through 12 how to address the issue of nuclear arms and war. Ms. Pinderhughes said she expects her staff to have conducted a study of the relevant curricular materials within six weeks. At that time, she said, the board will decide whether to add the program to next year's curriculum.
About a quarter of the Los Angeles school-district employees who answered a recent survey said they had experienced some form of on-the-job sexual harassment, ranging from jokes to demands for sexual relations.
Some 33 percent of the respondents said they believed sexual harassment of students to be a "moderate" or "serious" problem in the city schools.
The survey was authorized by the school board and conducted by Abby Liebman, a lawyer, under the auspices of the California Equity Council.
Ms. Liebman characterized the problem of sexual harassment in the district as "serious" but noted that the situation is certainly no worse, and in some ways better, than that in other public and private workplaces, where similar polls have generally revealed a higher rate of complaints.
Ms. Liebman suggested the board develop an effective sexual-harassment policy, conduct workshops on harassment, and review promotional programs.
While school officials view the survey results as "not out of line with what has previously been found and with what exists in other workplaces," they are disturbed by the way Ms. Liebman extrapolated the data and used comments she had obtained "in a manner that may not be valid," according to Sheldon Erlich, a district spokesman.
John Ringwood, the board's president, has asked that the survey be further analyzed so that the board can review it again.
The Prince George's County, Md., public schools can be completely desegregated by the selective pairing of schools and the closing of some schools and opening of others, according to a report released last week by a panel appointed by a federal district judge.
The panel, headed by Robert L. Green, president of the University of the District of Columbia, said school segregation in the suburban Washington, D.C., district has been steadily increasing since 1973, when the county's current desegregation plan went into effect. If current trends continue, it warned, the 104,500-student district will be as segregated in 20 years as it was when the existing desegregation plan was adopted.
Under the panel's proposal, students attending racially integrated neighborhood schools near the county's Washington border will no longer be bused as they currently are. Instead, the panel recommended a busing pattern that "leapfrogs" these schools, transporting students from predominantly black schools near Washington to predominantly white schools in the north and south ends of the county, and vice versa.
The report has met with harsh criticism from county school officials, who claim that the increased busing it envisions would exacerbate "white flight" from the school district.
A Morgan County, Ala., circuit court jury has found a Decatur couple guilty of contributing to the delinquency of minors by removing their children from local public schools to educate them at home.
The parents, Edmund and Sharon Pangelinan, violated state compulsory-education laws when they took their two children, ages 8 and 10, out of school in January 1984, the jury found. Under the Alabama school code, children between the ages of 7 and 16 are required to attend public, private, denominational, or parochial school, or to be instructed by a competent private tutor.
Under the law, a tutor must be certified by the state and must file with a district the course of study followed and instructional hours used. The tutor must teach at least 3 hours per day for 140 days during school hours, said Byron B. Nelson, the superintendent of Decatur City Schools. He said the parents never filed a plan with his office.
The couple was found guilty in district court when the case first came to trial last April. In the appeal that concluded this month, the Pangelinans told the jury that they had a "God-ordained right" to teach their children at home and that they took their children out of school to protect them from "negative ideas and concepts as brought on by their peers." Judge Cecil Strawbridge is scheduled to hand down a sentence in the case on April 15.