States News Roundup
Pennsylvania's state school chief has scrapped a report ranking school districts by their students' test results, following criticism that the report was misleading and could be misconstrued.
Secretary of Education Thomas K. Gilhool, who had placed on public-library shelves several reports analyzing results from the Test for Essential Learning and Literacy Skills, withdrew a report ranking districts from 1 to 500 after superintendents who previewed it convinced him that a "gross numerical ranking was simply not significant statistically," said Timothy Potts, a spokesman for the Secretary. The superintendents contended that the rankings were misleading because results were spread so narrowly across districts, he said.
Mr. Gilhool also was concerned, his spokesman said, that the report would dwarf other data highlighting the common features of high-achieving schools, such as improved reading and math programs, effective teaching practices, and parental support.
Citing 47 schools with high poverty rates and strong tells results, Mr. Gilhool had said poverty need not be a barrier to achievement. But a coalition of urban superintendents who helped persuade the state chief to withdraw the ranking found a "clear correlation" between concentrations of low-income students and tells results.
Responding to calls for help from the state's school districts, the Texas Education6Agency plans to hire 10 technical consultants to help schools comply with tough new standards for academic performance.
The consultants will visit schools that are having trouble implementing state-ordered improvements in curricula, student testing, and other areas, according to an agency spokesman. District officials have complained that they lack the funds and expertise to accomplish the far-reaching reforms mandated in recent years.
"Parents as Teachers," Missouri's unusual early-childhood intervention program, has been named one of 10 winners in the 1987 Innovations in State and Local Government Awards Program of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
The award to "Parents as Teachers," the only winner in the public-education field, includes a $100,000 grant that state officials will use to strengthen the program. Created under a 1984 Missouri law, the pat program provides information and counseling to some 53,000 families with children under age 3.
Citing a lack of both time and money, health officials in Illinois said last week that they would not be able to inspect all of the state's 7,000 public and private schools for asbestos by Jan. 1, 1989--the deadline set by the legislature.
The effort has been severely curtailed by the legislature's decision last spring to appropriate no funds for school inspections for the fiscal year that began July 1, said Donald T. Anderson, asbestos coordinator in the state department of public health. Even when fully funded, he said, the project was time-consuming. The department has inspected 1,500 to 1,600 schools since April 1986, when the program began.
Year-round scheduling designed to relieve overcrowded schools is an acceptable way to stretch resources without hurting students' test scores, researchers in California have concluded.
An analysis of California Assessment Test scores for students in the state's 277 schools on year-round calendars found that most students, despite alternating between nine weeks of classes and three-week breaks, performed as well as their peers in schools with traditional schedules.
The study also looked at the effects on year-round programs of parental support, which it found strongly correlated with success, and the community's socioeconomic status. Copies of the report can be obtained for $5 each from the California Department of Education, Publications, P.O. Box 271, Sacramento, Calif. 95814.