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The Virginia school board has affirmed the policy of many school districts of allowing parents to exempt their children from guidance-counseling programs.

In a 5-4 vote, the board preserved the practice, which has support from parents' groups that believe guidance counselors have performed psychological testing and used relaxation techniques on students without consulting parents. (See Education Week, Nov. 15, 1995.)

But James P. Jones, the state board president, said such instances are not the norm. He said he fears that allowing parents to exempt their children could mean that many students who need counseling services would not receive them.

The board directed local districts to adopt written policies on the issue by July 1.

Charter District Advances

A Michigan school board has voted to have all five of its schools begin the process of converting the district to the state's charter school program.

The 1,200-student Montabella district in Edmore will not make a final decision on the move until July, officials there said. But the board voted 6-1 to have each school make transition plans.

Superintendent Randy Bos has spearheaded the move, saying that charter status would empower parents and give teachers more responsibility and flexibility. (See Education Week, Jan. 10, 1996.)

The board's Jan. 15 statement says research shows that parent empowerment precedes higher achievement: "The people closest to the students need to make educational and financial decisions as to how best serve each child."

Michigan's charter law allows existing schools and new applicants to sign contracts with the state in which they promise to meet performance measures. In turn, they receive state money to run their schools free of many state regulations.

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