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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Mich. Audit Finds Charter School Problems

Several charter schools approved by Central Michigan University have hired uncertified teachers and did not complete criminal-background checks on some employees, according to a recent state audit.

The report from state Auditor General Thomas H. McTavish made 19 recommendations to the university in areas ranging from financial oversight to the hiring policies of charter schools.

During the 1996-97 school year, Central Michigan was the authorizing body for 40 independently run public charter schools that served 7,416 students and received $1.7 million in state aid.

Rae Goldsmith, a spokeswoman for the university, said that most of the problems have been fixed or are being addressed.

The concerns over hiring and background checks stemmed from confusion over who was responsible for such tasks, she said. "We don't have any apologies for doing a real good job without good guidelines on charter schools from the state," Ms. Goldsmith added.

Alaska Governor Pushes Accountability Plan

Gov. Tony Knowles of Alaska has proposed a school accountability package of mandatory standards, comprehensive tests, and rewards and sanctions based on school performance.

Mr. Knowles, a Democrat, plans to unveil legislation in January to authorize his "Quality Schools" plan.

The plan would mandate standards in reading, writing, and math, and require exams based on those standards for children in age groups 5-7, 8-10, and 11-14. Also under the plan, all Alaska students would have to pass a high school exit exam.

Student performance would be used to classify schools into one of four categories: distinguished, successful, in decline, or in crisis.

Technical-assistance teams would be sent to low-performing schools, and the state could ultimately take over schools that failed to improve over two years.

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