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Arizona education officials have granted final approval to 11 charter schools, the state's first. Sixteen more received conditional approval.

The law passed by the legislature last year that authorized creation of charter schools limits to 50 the number that can be approved each year.

Both the Arizona state school board and the state board for charter schools have authority to approve the schools. Some of the charter schools plan to hold classes on a year-round schedule, and could open their doors as early as this summer.

Among the approved schools is a trilingual and tricultural K-12 school, encompassing Spanish, English, and Yaqui--a Native American language.

Sarcasm Stifled: An Iowa school board was justified in firing a teacher for making sarcastic remarks to students, the state supreme court has ruled.

Ronald Lundblad, who had taught in the rural Sheldon schools since 1973, was fired in 1992.

According to court records, Mr. Lundblad once told a student who turned in a paper on suicide, "For extra credit, why don't you try it?"

"I'm not a perfect person, but what gets lost in all this is that I got positive evaluations for 19 years, and that's washed away," Mr. Lundblad said in an interview last week. "The punishment didn't fit the crime."

Though the school board's vote was overturned by an adjudicator, a district court ruled in its favor prior to the decision by the Iowa Supreme Court late last month.

"We felt all along that the board's decision was correct," said Superintendent Michael D. Teigland.

Bargaining Law Halted: The Michigan Court of Appeals has temporarily halted implementation of a law designed to limit the power of teachers in contract negotiations, saying it wanted to review it.

The law, which passed the legislature last year, would fine teachers a day's pay for every day they are on strike. It would also give school boards authority to set the starting day of school, the teachers' insurance carrier, the use of volunteers, and to privatize some school functions.

Officials at the Michigan Education Association said they expect the court to decide the issue soon. A state circuit-court judge has already blocked provisions of the law that would have fined the state union $5,000 a day for the time its local affiliates are on strike.

Gov. John Engler has said he expects the law, which was to have taken effect this month, to be upheld.

Disappointing Results: There was little celebrating in Tennessee when the results of the state's first writing assessment were released.

Only 3 percent of 4th graders, 14 percent of 8th graders, and 16 percent of 11th graders were considered proficient in writing, according to the results of the assessment taken by 178,000 students in October.

The writing assessment will be reviewed as part of a study this spring of all statewide tests. Commissioner of Education Jane Walters is leading the study.

Schools are already preparing students for next year's assessment by encouraging more classroom writing, essay exams, and writing centers.

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