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Districts: Dade To Require Daily Reading At Low-Scoring Schools

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Middle and elementary school children in poor-performing Dade County, Fla., schools will devote two hours each day to reading, beginning in the fall. The school board decided to require the two-hour reading block at 59 elementary and 12 middle schools where students average scores of 25 or less on the Stanford Achievement Test. The average score on the test nationwide is 50.

The switch will require the middle schools to add an extra hour to the school day, officials said, but the change will not affect the elementary school day.

The board also encouraged five high schools with reading scores well below the national average to adopt the two-hour block of reading time, but did not require them to do so.

"Our people aren't reading--that's one of the reasons for the two-hour block," said Phyllis Cohen, the deputy superintendent for instructional leadership. "This permits students to read on their own in order to develop the habit of reading for pleasure."

Board Capitulates: The Brockton, Mass., school board has ended its resistance to a desegregation plan after encountering harsh criticism and facing the loss of $150 million in state aid.

Opponents of the plan feared it would cause "white flight" and plummeting property values. They also questioned its reliance on a desegregation strategy called "controlled choice," which enables parents to choose from among schools where their child's presence would help bring racial balance.

Mayor Winthrop H. Farwell told local reporters he was ashamed to live in the city after several school board members voted March 21 to block passage of the plan.

The state could have withheld badly needed funds for school construction if the board had failed to meet its deadline for approving the plan.

In a second vote taken the day after he helped defeat the measure, one board member, Stephen Grande, changed his mind, enabling the plan to squeak through. He said he was swayed by assurances the superintendent would closely track the program's progress.

Strike Ends, But No Settlement: After seven days on the picket lines, teachers in Bristol Township, Pa., returned to their classrooms last week without a contract.

"There's been no contact with the school board," said Howard Ebersole, the president of the 520-member Bristol Township Education Association.

Teachers in the 8,000-student district want a 15 percent pay increase and more stable health care.

"The school board presented an offer at the last meeting that the negotiating team said they wouldn't take back to the teachers," said Superintendent Richard Reilly.

The teachers were forced to return to work because Pennsylvania law requires them to complete 180 days of instruction by June 15, Mr. Reilly said.

Food Scam Alleged: A veteran food-service worker has been charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of food from the District of Columbia schools and selling it to the owner of a carry-out.

Police last month charged both the food-service worker and the restaurant owner with violating a federal law that prohibits the theft of school lunch supplies. If convicted, each faces up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Police investigators say they videotaped the employee as he used a school van to deliver the stolen food to the restaurant, where it was then cooked and sold. A raid turned up several cases of the school system's food in the restaurant, police said.

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