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State Journal: Errata; A smoking controversy

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Illinois school officials are waking up from a dream come true that turned out to be too good to be true.

Recently, educators were happy to learn that statewide assessments of school performance showed marked improvement in reading and math among elementary-age students. Even better, traditionally low-scoring schools posted the biggest gains.

But not long after dispatching the good news to schools, state officials discovered that the improved scores had little to do with improved school performance and a lot to do with new test calibrations mandated by the state legislature, which wanted scores to be reported for individual students as well as for schools.

The transition went smoothly--or so officials thought. Then a few calls came in from local educators puzzled by their reports.

In reading, for example, 6th-graders posted gains of 12 points on the 500-point test when state officials had expected the new system to boost scores at most two to four points.

To correct any misperceptions, state officials are reworking the scores by the old method and will ship them to schools soon.

A California school administrator has recanted a televised endorsement of a ballot initiative that proponents are touting as good for children.

Nancy Frick, the vice principal of Mountain View Middle School in Lamont, was featured in an ad backing Proposition 188, a measure proponents claim will curb teenagers' cigarette use by fining minors who purchase or sell tobacco.

In the commercial, Ms. Frick noted her years of experience working with children and said, "I want to stop kids from smoking. Proposition 188 will do that."

Opponents of the measure--including the state P.T.A. president--said the measure would do exactly the opposite and blasted the ad. Proposition 188 will repeal more than 300 local ordinances that impose even tougher sanctions on minors' cigarette use, according to opponents.

At Ms. Frick's request, initiative supporters have agreed to pull the ad from the air. Ms. Frick has also issued a written statement saying that her original endorsement was a mistake.

"If I could turn back the clock, the commercial would never have been made," she wrote.

--Drew Lindsay

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