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News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Crew Seeks Tough Standards, Assessments for N.Y.C.

New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy F. Crew last week asked the city school board to adopt the rigorous academic standards written by the private, Washington-based New Standards project.

Mr. Crew proposed that the standards, which would require far-reaching and uniform changes in the teaching and curriculum of the city's 1,100 schools, be phased in over three years. The board could vote next summer on the use of the English-language-arts standards, which, if approved, could be in place next fall, with math, science, and applied-learning standards following in subsequent years.

New York would become the first large school district to adopt the program wholesale. New Standards is a consortium of states and school districts that has worked since 1990 to develop challenging standards and performance assessments. It is coordinated by the National Center on Education and the Economy and the University of Pittsburgh.

N.Y.C. To Back Off Spec. Ed.

New York City schools will shift many students from special education to regular classes and prevent others from entering special education in the first place.

The directive from Rudy F. Crew, the schools chancellor, calls for nearly one-third of the city's 130,000 special education students to be moved--many as early as next fall, district officials said.

A report outlining Mr. Crew's plan, which was unveiled late last month, argues that too many of the city's 1.1 million schoolchildren--especially black and Hispanic boys--are segregated in special education classrooms, where there is little hope that they will return to regular classrooms or graduate with a regular diploma.

Navajos To Get Local School

A three-year legal battle over who should provide a high school education for Navajo students in a remote corner of Utah has been formally resolved.

The plaintiffs in a 1993 lawsuit--parents and students, the Navajo Nation, and the U.S. Department of Justice--came to an agreement last month with the San Juan school district to open a temporary school at Navajo Mountain by next fall. Next year, the district plans to ask local voters to approve a bond that would, in part, pay for the construction of a new school building on the Navajo reservation.

The district will operate the high school. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs runs a 120-student K-8 school at the isolated site; high school students attend BIA boarding schools or live with relatives and attend public schools in Utah or elsewhere.

Idaho Curbs AIDS Funding

The state superintendent of schools in Idaho has decided to deny federal AIDS-education money to any district whose AIDS program teaches any preventive method other than abstinence.

With last month's action, Idaho became what is believed to be the first state to restrict education about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases to abstinence-only teaching. At stake is about $240,000, or one-fourth, of the federal aid that Idaho receives to underwrite AIDS education.

State schools chief Anne Fox said she changed the policy due to public demand.

Regular Class for Autistic Boy

The Loudoun County, Va., schools were wrong to block a boy with autism from being educated in a regular classroom, a federal judge has ruled.The ruling does not carve out new legal ground, but judges have ruled against such inclusion in recent similar cases, legal experts said.

At the end of Mark Hartmann's year in a regular 2nd grade classroom, Loudoun County school officials decided to move him into a separate classroom for autistic students, according to the Nov. 27 ruling from U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema. Mark's parents objected; a state hearing officer sided with the county.

School officials had argued that Mark, now age 11, who is unable to speak and has other severe problems, was disruptive and did not reap educational benefits in the regular classroom. Judge Brinkema ruled that school officials were inadequately trained, and that, therefore, Mark's placement was doomed to fail.

District officials last week said that they were considering an appeal.

Revised NAEP Data Issued

The U.S. Department of Education has released revised data from the 1990 and 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress in mathematics. Errors made by government contractors were discovered last year, prompting the revisions. ("Computer 'Glitch' Forces Recalculation of NAEP Scores," Sept. 27, 1995 and "Second Scoring Error on NAEP Acknowledged," Oct. 4, 1995.)

In the revised 1992 math data, average scores for all states, regions, and the nation went up about a point. But the new 1992 data also show smaller proportions of students reaching the achievement levels of basic, proficient, and advanced than were originally reported. Average scores in the 1990 data were not affected, but the levels of achievement on the test differ from those originally reported.

Firm Corrects Maine Test

The Maine education department has adjusted test scores for the 1995-96 school year that had incorrectly shown traditionally high-achieving schools performing poorly.

Advanced Systems in Measurement and Evaluation Inc., the Dover, N.H., firm that administers and scores the Maine Educational Assessment, discovered last month that it had used an incorrect equation to calculate scores. Before this incident, Advanced Systems had correctly reported Maine test scores for 11 years.

Baltimore Pact Made Final

Maryland and Baltimore officials have reached a final agreement that calls for giving the state more control over the city's schools and funneling $254 million in extra state aid to the troubled district.

The state legislature, which must ratify the settlement, is expected to consider the matter when it reconvenes next month.

The agreement is intended to end three longstanding lawsuits over the quality of education and the adequacy of state funding for the 110,000-student district. ("Deal Gives State New Role in Baltimore Schools, Boosts Aid," Nov. 20, 1996.)

But before the ink was dry last month, Montgomery County, Md., officials filed a brief in the Maryland Court of Appeals claiming they should have been involved in the negotiations. They fear the accord will take money away from their schools.

Fla. Wins Innovation Award

A school-based health-insurance program for children was honored last week with one of 10 $100,000 awards in the 1996 Innovations of American Government program.

Based in 11 school districts across the state, the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation provides health insurance to more than 20,000 Florida students not covered by private insurance. The legislature, which began the program in 1990, intends to expand it to 45,000 students.

The 10 winners of the innovation awards, chosen from 1,550 applicants, were recognized for their creative solutions to social and economic problems. The New York City-based Ford Foundation and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University sponsor the awards program.

Making Tracks in Michigan District

A school district in Delta County, Mich., discovered that tradition can feed truancy when 30 percent of its students and 28 percent of its teachers failed to show up for class on the first day of the hunting season.

Tom Watson, the superintendent of the 1,900-student Gladstone Area district, said last week that classes are usually canceled on Nov. 15, the first day of the white-tailed deer-hunting season. But this year, the school board scheduled classes for state "deer day."

"We found that [the hunting season] impacts more than just the so-called licensed deer hunters," Mr. Watson said. "It impacts families."

Because attendance fell below the state-required 75 percent, Gladstone will lose a small amount of state aid, Mr. Watson said.

Schools in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Utah also schedule days off for the start of hunting seasons. In most cases, school calendars are set locally, and days missed are made up later to meet state rules.

Associate Superintendent Don Walden keeps the calendar in Beaver County, Utah, where vacation is scheduled for the first day of the deer-hunting season. "It's more disruptive to have kids in schools," he said, because parents often excuse their children from school on that day anyway.

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