States News Roundup
A Texas judge has ruled that three school districts lack the authority to keep about 30 students who received failing grades from participating in an extracurricular activity--a livestock show.
The class action, brought by a parent against the Texas Education Agency, is the latest effort by Texans to clarify an extracurricular-eligi3bility rule that went into effect this year.
The state's omnibus education-reform law, which was approved last summer, limits participation in most extracurricular activities to students who pass all of their courses with a grade of 70.
Officials from the Coolidge, Groesbeck, and Mexia districts testified at the March 15 trial that, because each of the students had failed one class, they should be declared ineligible to attend the Limestone County Livestock Show.
B.J. Funderburk, Mexia's superintendent, said he considered the show an extracurricular activity because the eligibility rule applies to activities that are sanctioned orred by the school. "We do not sponsor the show, but we do sanction it," he said.
But parents charged that the eligibility rule did not apply to the livestock show, which was sponsored by the Young Farmers Association, because it was not school-related.
District Judge Clarence Ferguson granted a temporary injunction against the rule so that the students could participate in the show, which was held March 15-16.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has approved a bill that would allow school districts to spend state textbook funds on any textbooks they want--provided the publications have been approved by at least 20 school boards. The provision would permit districts to bypass the state textbook committee and the state-approved list of textbooks.
The bill, which passed in the House by a vote of 77 to 18, is intended to give teachers more authority in choosing instructional materials, according to Representative Bill Brewster, the bill's author.
Districts can currently purchase textbooks that are not on the state-approved list but they must use local funds, and not every district can afford to do so, Mr. Brewster noted.
Opponents of the bill have charged that it will open the door to improper selection policies and will put the state textbook committee out of business. The bill will proceed to the Senate.
If an elementary- or secondary-school administrator changes a grade a teacher has given a student without notifying the teacher, he or she would be charged with a criminal misdemeanor under a bill that has squeaked through the California Senate's Education Committee.
Proponents of the bill contend that the pressure on administrators to alter grades has increased with the emergence of policies that require high-school students to maintain a C average in order to participate in interscholastic sports.
But critics of the proposal maintain that unauthorized grade-changing should be covered by civil law rather than criminal law. And they note that there should be clearer due-process procedures for stu6dents appealing what they consider to be unfair grades.
Under current state law, a grade may be changed only if there is evidence of a clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetence. A school board or administrator may not alter a grade unless the teacher participates in the process.
The bill, sponsored by state Senator Herschel Rosenthal, was forwarded to the Senate Appropriations Committee with six votes, the minimum required for passage.
Students in Colorado's secondary schools generally view the quality of their education more favorably than do the adults in the state, according to the findings of a survey released this month.
Almost 75 percent of the 500 students surveyed gave their schools an A or B rating as compared with 41 percent of the adults. Twenty-three percent of the students and 34 percent of the adults gave the schools a C. Less than 2 percent of the students gave their schools a D or F rating, while 11 percent of the adults did.
The "Colorado Youth Opinion Poll" is the second poll conducted recently by the Colorado Department of Education. Last fall, the department surveyed adults across the state for their opinions on various educational issues. The youth survey was proposed as "a logical follow-up study," according to education officials.
The survey results also indicate that adults and students have differing opinions on what the schools' major problems are. Thirteen percent of the students said drug abuse is the biggest problem facing their schools and 11 percent said "poor student attitudes" are the problem. Adults ranked "lack of proper financial support" as the number-one problem and "lack of discipline" as number two. Only 5 percent of the adults said drug abuse is the biggest problem.
Students who live in large, wealthy, downstate districts in New York have access to a wider range of educational programs than do students in rural, upstate districts, according to a recently released study.
"Simply stated, the overall con-clusion we reached is that there are substantial educational differences in New York by virtue of region, size, and wealth," said Robert Grebe, chairman of the group that conducted the study.
"There are substantial differences in what's available to children,'' he added.
The study, which Mr. Grebe said was the first of its kind in the state, was based on a survey of 92 districts. Among its findings were that downstate districts--including New York City--offer more than twice the number of foreign-language courses offered by upstate districts, and that wealthy and large districts offer many more science elective courses. Such districts were also found to provide a wider range of music and mathematics programs, and more staff-development activities.
Mr. Grebe said his group, the Coalition for School Finance Reform, undertook the study to determine if schools are providing "educational equity." The group, which grew out of the 1970's challenge to New York State's reliance on the property tax for school finance, believes the property tax does not provide an adequate base, Mr. Grebe said.
For a copy of the report, write to: Robert Grebe, 206 Varian Rd., Peekskill, N.Y. 10566.