State News Roundup
Officials of more than 140 Texas school districts have told state officials that they cannot meet the 22-student limit imposed on kindergarten and the first four grades.
The districts' requests for exemptions from the statewide limit have drawn sharp criticism from the Texas Federation of Teachers, the state American Federation of Teachers affiliate.
The districts have not tried hard enough to satisfy the limits enacted four years ago, contended John O'Sullivan, secretary-treasurer of the union. "Three years is more than enough time to provide both the teachers and the buildings. We think any further variances or exemptions are not appropriate," he said.
The Texas legislature enacted the 22-student limit as part of sweeping education reforms adopted in 1984. The law required school districts to meet the limit in kindergarten through 2nd grade in 1985 and in 3rd and 4th grades this year.
Commissioner of Education William N. Kirby granted 121 waivers from the limit last year. But he has warned the state's 1,084 districts not to expect exemptions at the lowest grade levels. Some 35 districts have asked for waivers in kindergarten and 1st and 2nd grades, a spokesman said.
Mr. O'Sullivan maintained that some districts are meeting the limit by increasing the number of students assigned to 5th- and 6th-grade teachers and moving the free teachers to lower grades. The federation wants the legislature to tighten the class-size law, he said.
Seventeen Mississippi districts have been placed on academic probation by the state's Commission on School Accreditation.
The commission imposed the year-long sanctions on 16 districts in which fewer than 70 percent of high-school juniors passed the state's Functional Literacy Examination. The exam became a graduation requirement last spring.
Another district was placed on probation because an administrator made copies of the exam ahead of time to distribute to teachers, thereby compromising the security of the test questions, said Yvonne C. Dyson, the commission's executive secretary. The administrator was fired as a result.
Ms. Dyson said the commission also warned 29 districts that they face probation if they do not improve student performance.
While Georgia schools need to reduce paperwork burdens on teachers and administrators, they should not go so far as to cut back on student testing, State Superintendent Werner Rogers has said.
At a recent press conference, Mr. Rogers said he agreed with the recommendations of his Paperwork Reduction Task Force that his department should streamline its atten6dance and class-size reporting requirements and ensure that publishers provide guides matching their textbooks with the state's required curriculum.
But Mr. Rogers declined to endorse the task force's call for the elimination of statewide standardized testing in 4 of the 10 grades where it now occurs, on the grounds that the move would require legislative approval. Most legislators are thought to oppose a reduction in testing.
California school districts employed 10 percent fewer administrators last year than allowed by state law, according to a report by Bill Honig, the state superintendent.
Only 18 of more than 1,000 districts exceeded the ratio of administrators to teachers set by a law limiting bureaucratic growth. The state's schools are leaner now than five years ago, even though enrollment has grown by 450,000 students, he said.
The report sought to rebut an earlier study by the state controller, which argued that school districts had too many administrators.
Maine should establish regional academies to train educators in teaching students who are not bound for col1plege, according to the Maine School Superintendents Association.
The association made the recommendation after discovering a large gap in scores on the state testing program between students who were headed for college and those who were not, a spokesman said.
The association called on the Department of Educational and Cultural Services to improve programs for noncollege-bound students.
Arkansas districts with disproportionate numbers of black students in special-education classes must justify their classification policies, state officials have directed.
The department of education acted after finding that 85 of the 134 districts with black enrollments of at least 5 percent had assigned black students to special-education classes more often than white students. Blacks represent 30.4 percent of special-education students in the state, but only 24 percent of the total school population.
State officials have also asked the 90 districts that have assigned more than 13 percent of all their students to special-education classes to attempt to lower their rates to the statewide average of 10.4 percent.