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A task force of students, parents, and educators has recommended phasing out ability grouping in the Cambridge, Mass., public schools.

In a report presented to the Cambridge School Committee last week, the Task Force on the Potential of Students said the damage ability grouping does to some students outweighs its benefits.

The task force recommended developing special programs by next fall that will enable all children to be exposed to the academically intensive curriculum now reserved for high-achieving students.

If the district can develop effective programs for heterogeneously grouped students, it should phase out ability grouping by 2000, the task force said.

State officials in Massachusetts have been among the most vocal advocates nationwide of an end to the ability grouping of students. (See Education Week, Jan. 13, 1993.)


Weapons for Toys: An effort by law-enforcement and school officials in Springfield, Mo., to encourage area youths to turn in weapons without risk of arrest in exchange for toys and clothing has met with little success.

During three days late last month, drop-off sites at the police station and a radio station received only a switchblade and a pair of brass knuckles, as well as a handgun from an adult.


Chicago Shooting: A Chicago student was shot and killed by a classmate outside Sullivan High School this month, even as educators and police officers were meeting inside the school to discuss how to curtail youth violence.

Troy Jones, a 16-year-old student at the school, allegedly shot Kati Faber, 15, once in the back with a semiautomatic pistol.

Mr. Jones, who was on probation at the time of the shooting for carrying a gun on school grounds, has been charged with first-degree murder.


Damages for Track Injury: A Rock County, Wis., circuit court has awarded $1.2 million to a woman suffering from the effects of a head injury sustained during a high school track practice in 1989.

Michelle Ebeling filed suit last year against her father, Timothy Ebeling, who at the time was the athletic director and track coach at St. Paul's Lutheran Middle School, where the accident took place.

All parties named in the negligence suit, including the school and the manufacturer of a safety net involved in the accident, agreed to the settlement.


Suspended for Mouthwash: An Oklahoma middle school student has been issued a 10-day suspension from school for using a mouthwash containing alcohol.

A teacher at Whittler Middle School in Norman, Okla., last month confiscated a bottle of mouthwash from Adam Clinkenbeard, an 8th-grade student, after she discovered its 22 percent alcohol content violated the district's no-alcohol policy.

The student said he used mouthwash to clean his braces after lunch. He was initially issued a three-day in-school suspension, which was later increased to a 10-day out-of-school suspension.


Boot Ban Bombs: Administrators at a Dallas-area high school have backed off an effort to ban "Doc Martens,'' a clunky, military-style boot popular with many young people.

School officials at Grapevine (Tex.) High School instituted the policy, which only lasted three days before being rescinded this month, because they identified the footwear with racist "skinheads.'' The community has been troubled by several alleged hate crimes in recent months.

A protest walkout staged by 100 students convinced officials to drop the ban, and instead to create a committee to make recommendations on the student dress code.


Charter School Advances: The Roseville, Minn., school board last week forwarded a proposal to the state board of education that would allow a group of parents and teachers to develop a charter school in the district with no set curriculum or grade levels.

The independent public school--which would be part of the second group of charter schools to be launched since state lawmakers passed enabling legislation in 1991--must be approved by the state board before it can be opened.

The team designing the school plans to model it after the 25-year-old Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass., which offers independent-study programs and allows students to run the school by democratic vote.

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