State News Roundup
Student scores on basic-skills tests have improved in 12 of 17 New Jersey schools experimenting with the "effective schools" program, according to a new state report.
An independent evaluation of a three-year pilot of the effective-schools concept throughout the state found that the greatest improvements occurred among students in the primary, elementary, and middle schools, rather than in the high schools, participating in the project.
Seventeen schools in 16 districts have adopted the effective-schools model. Under the model, the schools were reorganized under a "leadership team" of principals, teachers, parents, and community members.
The report, presented to the state board of education this month, hailed the project as a success, and evaluators called for expanding the program to all schools.
Sixteen of the pilot schools have agreed to use local funds to continue the program.
New York schools may require students to perform community service as a condition for graduation, the state commissioner of education has ruled.
Commissioner Thomas Sobol ruled on the issue after a woman from Rye contested her district's requirement that her son perform some type of community service to graduate. The woman argued that districts should encourage such service, not require it.
In his ruling, Mr. Sobol said the requirement was legal and reasonable. He also en6couraged other districts in the state tothe practice.
A spokesman for Mr. Sobol said it was the commissioner's first ruling on the issue. The decision is binding unless the complainant wants to press her case in court, he added.
The Wyoming Board of Education has adopted outcome-based accreditation standards for schools, making the state one of only a handful to tie school accreditation to performance.
Under the new system, districts and schools will set their own goals and choose the assessment methods they will use for measuring progress toward reaching them.
The new standards eliminate the use of Carnegie units for high-school accreditation. Instead, students must meet local standards for mastering a common core of knowledge and a prescribed set of skills.
A federal court has upheld an Illinois law requiring candidates who seek to be elected as regional school superintendents to have recent experience as public-school teachers or supervisors.
The ruling came in a case involving Robert Donaldson, a college professor and school-board member who sought such a post. Mr. Donaldson claimed that the state elections statute violated his constitutional rights to free speech and free association, but the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois rejected his argument.
The court said the state had good reason to see that candidates for supervisory positions be familiar with the "trials and tribulations of those they would supervise."
The state of Michigan can requirechurch-affiliated preschools to be licensed and can ban corporal punishment in those schools, the state supreme court has ruled.
However, the court said this month, the state cannot mandate the program content of the schools nor can it insist that school directors be accredited.
The seven-member court cited "compelling state interest" in ruling unanimously that the state ban on corporal punishment in schools applies to the church-run preschools. A majority of the seven also agreed that state licensure laws must apply to the schools.
But requiring accreditation for program directors would violate the "free exercise of religious beliefs," the court ruled, and the state statute on content is too vague.
The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the department of social services against a Baptist church and preschool in Niles.
The Salt Lake City-County Board of Health has filed suit against three school districts for refusing to pay for health inspections of school food facilities.
At issue in the case is whether the fees for such inspections allowed under state law are user fees or taxes.
The health department is seeking to recover $185,000 in unpaid fees and and late fines from 196 schools in the Salt Lake, Granite, and Jordan school districts. The health department charges food establishments, including schools, $40 to $100 a year for the inspections.
The districts contend that they are independent bodies and are exempt from any tax or assessment by a county government. The county insists that the user fees are not taxes or assessments.