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Federal File: A bell for Cavazos; Another upgrade

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Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos rang in the 68th annual American Education Week on Nov. 13--literally.

Last week's ceremony at the Education Department fulfilled a personal wish of the Secretary, who is fond of old-fashioned school bells. On a trip to the Southwest last spring, he asked permission to ring one and said he was searching for a suitable specimen to install at the department.

Mr. Cavazos said last week that he would like to see a bell installed at every school, "one that would ring every morning."

"It would say to the parents of America, 'Send your sons and daughters prepared to learn; something important is about to happen,"' he said.

The cast-iron bell in question, which "is believed to be more than 100 years old," according to the department, hung in the bell tower of Milford High School in Pike County, Pa., until the school closed in 1956. It was donated by the school's alumni association.

A representative of the association attended the ceremony. So did Keith B. Geiger, president of the National Education Association, and a representative of the American Legion.

That might seem an odd guest list, but the nea and the veterans' group were the original sponsors of American Education Week.

Florida education officials recently disputed figures reported in the Education Department's 1989 "wall chart."

In a letter to Secretary Cavazos and at a news conference, Commissioner of Education Betty Castor said a new, improved data-collection method shows that the state's graduation rate in the 1987-88 school year was 71.6 percent.

The wall chart listed Florida's rate as 58.6 percent for 1986-87. Only the District of Columbia had a lower rate.

The new figure would move Florida from 50th to 33rd place in the national rankings.

"That means the Washington wall chart is old news. It's obsolete. It's history. It's wrong," Ms. Castor said.

The state chief said the Education Department erred by overstating the number of students enrolled in the state's schools and by "double counting" pupils who repeated a grade. She also said Florida has the highest graduation standards in the nation.

Last month, Michigan officials "upgraded" their graduation rate from 62.4 percent to 76.29 percent.

"At least we're doing something to improve information collection at the state level," an Education Department official commented last week.--j.m.

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