State News Roundup
Minnesota students who transferred to other school districts this school year under the state's open-enrollment plan were much more likely to do so for convenience than for academic reasons, a state study shows.
The 31-page report, prepared by the research department of the state House, shows that nearly 40 percent of the 1,234 students who gave a reason for transferring said they were doing so either because a school in a neighboring district was closer to home or because it had a day-care program. Twenty percent said they were transferring for academic reasons, and 6 percent said they changed schools for athletic, extracurricular, or social reasons.
Other students sought a better general school environment, and still others were continuing in other districts under agreements that had been reached before open enrollment came into effect.
Students often transfer to meet a need that is not related to academics, said Peggy Hunter, open-enrollment specialist in the education department. And such a reason, she said, "is every bit as important a reason as academics, because the curriculum is not that different from one district to another at this point."
Furthermore, she said, "if what happens as a result of student transfers is that school districts begin to revise their curricula," then this type of choice program is promoting reform.
The survey revealed that student participation in the program is still very limited: less than one-half of 1 percent of the total state K-12 student population is in the program. Furthermore, few districts show much change in enrollment: Only 12 of the 343 participating districts experienced more than a 5 percent change.
The state education department is currently conducting its own three-year study of open-enrollment options.
Approximately one in five North Carolina school systems failed to meet statewide accreditation standards during the trial year of a new program designed to gauge schools' performance, a state survey shows.
Based on data from the 1988-89 school year, 26 of the state's 134 school districts failed to meet the standards for performance, as measured by such indicators as student test scores, attendance, and dropout rates. An additional five districts failed to meet the "opportunity standards"--criteria for course offerings, class size, food service, and transportation.
"The percentages are about what we thought would occur," said William J. Brown Jr., director of the education department's division of accountability services. He noted that the trial run will benefit school systems if they "begin working on their deficiencies now in order to meet accreditation standards in time for the next survey, which will be for real."
Currently, 25 districts are being reviewed by officials from the department to see whether they meet standards this year, said Mr. Brown, and 25 more will be reviewed each year until all 134 districts have been surveyed.
To be accredited, districts must meet a minimum of 75 percent of the performance and opportunity standards developed by the state board of education.
Mississippi's state universities must take further steps to desegregate, a federal appeals court has ruled.
By a 2-to-1 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled Feb. 6 that "vestiges of de jure segregation permeate the public-university system" of the state. Racial imbalances in state universities have continued, the court said, since 1962, when the University of Mississippi was forced to admit its first black student.
For black students and historically black colleges in the state, the ruling said, "admissions policies, the racial composition of the faculty and administration, funding practices, academic offerings and mission designations all perpetuate a stigma of inferiority."
The appeals court was ruling on a suit brought by black citizens in 1975. The court sent the case back to Federal District Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr., who had dismissed the suit in 1987, and ordered him to develop a plan to desegregate the state's eight public universities.
The state is expected to ask the appeals court to reconsider its ruling. If that fails, state officials say, they may decide to appeal the ruling.