States News Roundup
Panel on 'Black Learner' Suggests Yearly Testing in Elementary Grades
Urban school districts in Minnesota should annually assess the educational achievement of all elementary students and develop individualized remediation plans for those who have not mastered grade-level skills, according to a task force created by the state board of education.
The Curriculum Task Force on Educating the Black Learner had been asked by the board to develop strategies to improve the educational achievement of black students. In its report, to be presented to the board on Aug. 9, the panel also recommends that pupil performance on the annual assessments be a factor in teachers' yearly evaluations.
"The position of the task force is that the schools are not doing everything they should be doing to provide a quality education for black students,'' said Cynthia L. Kelly, an equal-opportunity specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education.
The panel also recommended that the state's teacher-licensing board require teachers to be trained in race relations and multicultural education, Ms. Kelly said.
The report will suggest that prospective teachers be required to do at least part of their student teaching in a school with a culturally diverse student population.
Alabama Board Drops One Test For Teachers, Is Sued on Another
The Alabama Board of Education has dropped a teacher-certification test that was the subject of a seven-year court battle.
But the board now faces a second racial-bias charge in a lawsuit challenging the use of achievement tests for admission to teacher-education programs.
In a 1985 settlement, the board had agreed to pay damages to blacks denied certification because they failed the state-required exam. It also agreed to change the scoring system used in the test, while proposing to create a new certification test.
The board voted in July to drop the existing test, however, after Gov. Guy Hunt failed to release funds for the development of a new exam. The existing test had a 98 percent pass rate.
The new lawsuit, Groves v. Alabama State Board of Education, contests a board policy requiring that students score at least 16 on the American College Test to enter teacher-education programs.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, asks that the requirement be dropped and seeks compensatory damages for prospective teachers harmed by it. Judge Myron Thompson has set a January 1989 trial date.
New Jersey School Chief Acts To Prevent 'White Flight'
Education Commissioner Saul Cooperman of New Jersey has prohibited an upper-middle-class white and Asian community from removing its students from a mostly black and Hispanic high school. The proposed withdrawal, he said, would have had a "significant negative impact'' on racial balance and educational quality.
The ruling prohibits Englewood Cliffs, a small community with no high school, from ending a 21-year agreement under which it sends high-school students to Englewood's Dwight Morrow High School.
Englewood Cliffs claimed that the school, which is about 66 percent black and 18 percent Hispanic, was educationally deficient. Instead, the community proposed to send its students to Tenafly High, which is 80 percent white and 18 percent Asian.
The ruling also prohibits the Tenafly district from accepting any more tuition-paying students from either Englewood Cliffs or Englewood, on the ground that the policy "would give state sanction to white flight.''
Mr. Cooperman said that under state laws he had "a heavy responsibility to vigorously and aggressively combat threats to racial balance in our schools.'' That duty, he said, took precedence over both a district's right to end "sending-receiving'' relationships, and the rights of parents to send their children to schools outside their district. He also found that Dwight Morrow provides a "more than adequate'' college-preparatory education..
The annual textbook-adoption debate has begun in Texas, the nation's largest single purchaser of school texts.
Witnesses at July hearings told the state selection committee that junior- and senior-high literature texts offered only "depressing'' fare. Recalling that she had laughed only once in reviewing a number of books, one parent said: "Why are you trying to make the lives of our children so miserable? I challenge you to bring something pleasant into the classroom.''
Books on the state's approved list will be selected by districts for use between fall 1989 and spring 1996. The state is expected to spend some $115 million this year for textbooks on literature, foreign languages, science and mathematics, and other topics.
Wilmer S. Cody, Louisiana's education superintendent, has asked a state panel not to require students to pass a standardized examination to graduate in 1990.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved an 11th-grade exit test in 1984, but could not afford to have the test prepared until recently. Mr. Cody said the board had not formally notified high-school juniors that it intended to require them to pass the test and thus should set the graduation requirement ahead to apply to the class of 1992.
In making his request, Mr. Cody cited a July opinion by state Attorney General William J. Guste Jr. that the current schedule could violate students' due-process rights and "certainly invites challenges based on a lack of notice.''
Idaho's highest court has ruled that Boise school officials erred when they did not place a handicapped boy in a regular classroom in his neighborhood school.
The Idaho Supreme Court, in a 3-to-2 decision, said Boise school officials violated federal special-education law by offering only a segregated classroom placement for Gabriel Thornock, a 15-year-old student who was born with severe multiple handicaps.
The court said school officials must have "justifiable reasons'' for failing to place Gabriel and other handicapped students like him in the "least restrictive'' classroom environment whenever possible.
The student's mother had been paying to have her son taught in a regular classroom in a local parochial school since 1982.
The Southland Corporation has acknowledged that it was part of a conspiracy to fix the price of milk sold to Florida public schools.
Under an agreement with the state's attorney general, the Dallas-based company agreed to pay fines totaling almost $10 million to the state, which will distribute the money to the affected school districts. The company also promised to cooperate with the attorney general's continuing investigation of antitrust violations by other milk suppliers.
The attorney general accused a Southland subsidiary, Velda Farms Dairy, of conspiring over a 10-year period with six other major dairy processors and four local distributors to establish market shares and prices for contracts with 32 Florida school districts. Southland subsequently sold Velda Farms.
A national research center devoted to the education of gifted students has been established at the University of Iowa.
The Connie Belin National Center for Gifted Education, named after a local educator, is being funded by a $750,000 endowment appropriated by the legislature earlier this year. The center also has received $1 million from private sources.
Plans call for expanding the university's teacher-education program for gifted students and sponsoring an international conference on education for the gifted in 1990.
Maine's commissioner of education wants more of the state's teachers to obtain master's degrees.
Only 28 percent of Maine teachers hold an advanced degree, compared to 53 percent of teachers nationally--a deficit that distresses Eve M. Bither, commissioner of the department of educational and cultural services.
Ms. Bither has asked the University of Maine's board of trustees to expand opportunities for teachers to pursue an advanced degree, and to increase the number of fields in which such degrees are available.
A big part of the problem, Ms. Bither said, is that many teachers living in outlying areas of the mostly rural state do not have access to degree programs.
Florida has joined the list of states that are re-examining all or parts of their precollegiate curriculum with an eye to setting clearer standards.
Under a legislative mandate, the Florida Department of Education is developing standards for what students should know about history and other social studies.
The new standards will go into effect in the 1989-90 school year if approved by the state board next spring. Within four years, they will be included in statewide tests given to 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 11th grade students.
Similar standards already are in effect for reading, writing, mathematics, science, and computer literacy.
The draft standards expect 3rd graders, for example, to understand national symbols, such as George Washington and the flag; 5th graders to know about the U.S. Capitol and the Pledge of Allegiance; 8th graders to recognize the significance of leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Harriet Tubman; and 11th graders to know something about Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine.
The refusal of Commissioner of Education Gerald N. Tirozzi to rule on the constitutionality of Connecticut's binding-arbitration law paves the way for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education to renew its challenge to the measure.
In 1985, the state supreme court declined to review the law, which gives state-appointed arbitrators authority to settle contract disputes between local boards and their employees.
The court ordered local boards first to exhaust efforts to change it through the administrative process. But Mr. Tirozzi's refusal to rule on the statute's constitutionality allows the association to file another suit against the measure.
The association argues that the statute usurps local taxing and spending powers that, under the state constitution, belong to local school boards and municipalities. The group also charges that the law in practice has been biased in favor of teachers' unions.
A private advocacy group has opened a new legal front in its long-running battle with the state over the length of the school day for severely handicapped students.
In an antidiscrimination suit filed in federal court, Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services attacks the state policy setting a five-hour school day in its 54 institutions for the severely handicapped. All other students in the state receive at least six hours of instruction.
"For every school year that goes by, these kids are losing a whole month of education,'' said Carol Larkin, the group's director.
State officials counter that handicapped students receive more intensive instruction than do other students with a longer day.