Published Online: February 12, 1997


News in Brief: A National Roundup

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College Board To Rescore SAT After Flawed Question Found

The SAT scores of about 45,000 students who took the college-entrance test last fall will go up slightly because a math question turned out to have more than one answer, test officials announced last week.

About 13 percent of the 350,000 students who took the SAT I: Reasoning Test Oct. 12 will receive higher scores, according to the New York City-based College Board, which sponsors the test.

Revised scores will be sent to schools, colleges, and scholarship organizations. No scores will be lowered, the College Board said, and most scores will go up 10 points. A few will increase 20 or 30 points.

A student discovered the bad item, the first found on the SAT in 14 years, while taking the exam.

Fail Course, Pay Fine

A Colorado school district, worried about a crunched budget, has decided to charge high school students $100 for each required course they fail simply because of poor attendance.

The school board in the 14,000-student Thompson district in Loveland approved the fee last week. The policy goes into effect immediately. It will not apply to students with medical or other legitimate reasons for their absence.

Ron Lauterbach, the director of instruction, said the charge is to help offset the cost of providing a teacher to instruct the student in the class a second time. He also said the district hoped the policy would motivate students to be more serious about their education.

Had the policy been in effect this past semester, Mr. Lauterbach said, 92 students at one high school would have been fined.

K.C. Judge To Step Down

After nearly two decades of presiding over a bitter school desegregation battle in Kansas City, Mo., U.S. District Judge Russell G. Clark is surrendering the case.

Judge Clark announced last month that he would withdraw after issuing what could be a milestone ruling. Missouri has asked the judge to declare that the district has been desegregated, which would end the case and the flow of additional state money to the 10-year-old desegregation program.

If he disagrees with the state's argument, another judge would take over the case.

Judge Clark, 71, has been on the federal bench since 1977, the same year that the lawsuit against the district was filed.

"I think the burdens of the case were beginning to wear on him," said Arthur Benson, the plaintiffs' lawyer.

Ads Used To Lure Students

Littleton, Colo., school officials will begin spreading the word this week that they are looking for a few good students. To help boost its sagging enrollment, the 16,000-student district will place ads in the local newspapers of neighboring Douglas County, the fastest-growing school system in the state, with 24,600 students.

Littleton officials are hoping to tap the bedroom community of Highlands Ranch, which shares a border with Littleton, but whose students attend Douglas County schools.

The ads, scheduled to begin Feb. 14, highlight Littleton High School's International Baccalaureate program and the district's traditional school calendar. Douglas County has a year-round program.

"We are two school districts with opposite needs. ... This is a creative solution," Karla Langton, a spokeswoman for the Littleton schools, said.

Day Classes May Be Waived

A Wisconsin district may decide this week to allow some at-risk students to hold jobs during school hours and attend employment-skills classes at night.

If the Waukesha school board approves the proposal for students deemed most likely to drop out, they would be eligible to receive a high school equivalency diploma instead of a regular one.

"We wanted to work with them positively and admit that even people who have made mistakes might have some options," said James Haessly, the district's executive director of student services.

The pilot program would permit 11th graders to work 750 hours during the year under the supervision of a community agency, complete an employment-skills course and computer training, and perform a community-service project. Seniors in the program would have to work at least 20 hours a week.

Mr. Haessly said he expects about 50 students from the district's three high schools to participate.

Lighting Up May Cost Teens

Teenagers in Pennsylvania face a court date and a fine of up to $50 if they are caught smoking on school grounds, under a state law that took effect last week.

The law requires school staff members to refer students either possessing or smoking tobacco to a local district justice.

Linda Zucco, a district justice in Pittsburgh, said she will offer students the option of paying a fine or taking a two-week session to help them quit smoking. "The law leaves room for each justice to decide what type of punishment the student should receive," she said.

Several anti-smoking groups are not pleased with the new law. Bill Godshall, the executive director of SmokeFree Pennsylvania, said that the tobacco industry should be fined for marketing to adolescents. "Addictive behavior cannot be dealt with by punishment."

Nonprofits Get Initial Nod

Slightly more than a year after Baltimore school officials severed their relationship with the for-profit company Education Alternatives Inc., which had run a dozen schools in the district, the school board may give outsiders another shot.

It gave tentative approval last month to a plan that would let seven nonprofit groups manage nine public schools. The experimental schools would control their own curricula, manage their own budgets, and hire staff members, but would retain public funding and remain subject to the teachers' contract and city management rules, according to George Merrill, the district's director of the initiative.

The nonprofit groups will submit management and budget plans, solicit community support, and arrange for building space in the next few months. The board is expected to vote in May on final approval of the project.

N.Y.C. Scholarships Planned

A foundation supported by New York City philanthropists announced the creation last week of a program to provide scholarships to private or religious schools to more than 1,000 students in the nation's largest school district.

Beginning in September, the School Choice Scholarship Foundation will provide children now attending low-performing city schools with three-year scholarships valued at up to $1,400 to any private school that the state recognizes.

"Today's schoolchildren do not have time to wait for public school reform," said Bruce Kovner, the foundation's chairman.

To be eligible, a student must attend a New York City public school, be entering 1st to 5th grade, and qualify for the federal free lunch program. Recipients will be selected by lottery, with priority given to children in the lowest-performing schools based on reading scores.

District Hires Private Eyes

In an attempt to prevent residents of Montgomery Township, Pa., from leaving the 12,500-student North Penn school district, school officials have hired a private investigation firm to verify the legitimacy of 7,500 signatures on a petition to secede. Volunteers from Educational Alternative for Montgomery, a resident group working to switch districts, collected the signatures.

Residents want to join the neighboring 4,740-student Hatboro-Horsham district because recent administrative decisions within North Penn may jeopardize educational quality, according to Fred Hoffman, a spokesman for the group.

North Penn district officials claim that 350 residents have asked that their names be removed from the petition, an insufficient number to disqualify the appeal.

Mr. Hoffman said that his group will challenge the investigators' methods at a state court hearing scheduled for next week to determine the validity of the petition and whether the effort to secede will be allowed to proceed to the state education department.

Sub Swaps Soap for Kool-Aid

Eleven kindergarten students at an elementary school in Bald Knob, Ark., got a mouthful of liquid soap when a substitute worker confused the container with the one for Kool-Aid.

But the students spit out the soap before swallowing, Superintendent Jeff Heverling said. A school nurse rinsed the children's mouths with water and then called the poison-control center at the University of Arkansas. They suffered no aftereffects from last month's incident, Mr. Heverling said.

The principal said that the school will label all containers, replace the Kool-Aid pitchers with ones that are uniquely shaped, and use a soap that has a color and texture different from those of the pink Fom-X-It liquid soap. The substitute worker will not be used again, the principal added.

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