News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Republicans Announce Priorities For Improving Nation's Schools
The Republican Governors Association and GOP members of Congress have released a plan they say would improve the safety and performance of K-12 schools and give parents more say in their children's education.
The "Children First" plan endorses publicly financed "opportunity scholarships" or vouchers to pay for private school tuition, as well as tax-free savings accounts that parents could tap to pay various school costs. Republicans called the plan an "unprecedented partywide agenda" on improving America's schools.
The Sept. 18 document supports zero-tolerance policies for students who bring weapons to school, as well as the use of alternative schools for disruptive students.
It adds that Republicans support state and local efforts to hold schools accountable through school report cards, tests, and tough academic standards.
At the federal level, the Republican leaders pledged to review existing education regulations and to seek to award federal school aid through block grants, which give states and districts broad discretion in spending.
"Republicans throughout America have put education's emphasis where it belongs: the classroom," the association's chairman, Gov. David Beasley of South Carolina, said in a prepared statement.
--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON
Ky. Selects New Assessment Contractor
The Kentucky state board of education has selected CTB/McGraw-Hill, the nation's largest test publisher, to run the new assessment system the state will launch next spring.
Under the state's Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, CTB/McGraw-Hill will give its comprehensive test of basic skills in reading and mathematics to 3rd, 6th, and 9th graders.
The company also will assess 4th and 7th graders' content knowledge in reading, writing, and science, and will offer similar tests in math, social studies, the arts, and vocational studies to 5th and 8th graders.
The Monterey, Calif., company will produce a similar package of tests for high school students in grades yet to be decided.
CTB/McGraw-Hill replaces Advanced Systems in Measurement and Evaluation as Kentucky's testing contractor. State officials fired the Dover, N.H., firm after it published incorrect scores from the state's 1996 exams.
The errors led, as well as complaints about the amount of time dedicated to testing, the Kentucky legislature to rewrite its testing program last spring. ("Ky. Bids KIRIS Farewell, Ushers In New Test," April 22, 1998.)
CTB/McGraw-Hill outbid Harcourt-Brace Educational Measurement, the publisher ofthe Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition. The Stanford-9 is used in California and several other states.
--DAVID J. HOFF
Calif. Governor Signs Education Bills
California Gov. Pete Wilson has signed six bills that aim to make it easier and more financially rewarding to become a teacher. Also last week, he signed bills aimed at ending so-called social promotions of unprepared students and boosting remediation services for struggling pupils.
One of the new laws creates a pilot program that will accredit six private and out-of-state schools with campuses in California to offer teacher training. Another measure makes it easier for out-of-state teachers to transfer their credentials to California.
"There's no reason why experienced teachers who have undergone quality training in other states should have to jump through unnecessary hoops before they're allowed to enter one of California's schools," the Republican governor said during a Sept. 17 bill-signing ceremony.
Other provisions include loans for teachers who want to switch fields to teach mathematics, streamlined undergraduate teacher training programs, and bonuses of $10,000 for 500 teachers who become certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON
Pa. Schools Receive Achievement Awards
Nearly 1,000 Pennsylvania schools have been awarded first-time incentive grants for improving their results on state achievement tests and raising attendance rates.
The grants averaged just over $9,000 each, half of which must be used on instructional programs. Only one-quarter of the money can go to teacher awards. Local school committees will decide how to use the money.
Funding for the grants comes from a $10 million pot that lawmakers carved out of the 1997-98 state budget. That total was raised to $13 million for the current fiscal year.
"This is an incentive program that says to individual schools: Do better than you did last year. Improve your attendance. Improve your performance on state tests," Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, said in written statement.
--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON
Vol. 18, Issue 4, Page 15