News in Brief: A National Roundup
Va. Board of Education Raises Bar For Exams
Virginia students will have to score higher than they generally did on the pilot round of the state's new tests in order to graduate from high school, the state school board has decided.
The board adopted the passing marks late last month for 27 exams tailored to Virginia's new Standards of Learning, which were approved in 1995. Most of the new passing scores are higher than students' scores on pilot tests last spring.
Students, who take exams in the 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades and in high school, will have to answer 60 percent to 70 percent of the questions correctly to pass.
By 2004, high school students will need to earn passing marks on tests in eight subjects to graduate. And by 2007, if 70 percent of a high school's students fail, the school could lose its accreditation.
Some educators and state legislators have said that high failure rates might undercut public support for education. But Kirk T. Schroder, the state board president, said that schools should use the recent test results to put strategies in place to meet the new standards.
Bishop Estate Audit Finds Flaws
The release of an audit of Hawaii's Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate--one of the nation's wealthiest charities--supports earlier reports of financial mismanagement and a lack of accountability by trustees of the estate.
The newly released study, conducted by a national accounting firm, helped state investigators develop their case against the trustees, who were accused of mismanaging funds and accumulating money in the estate's accounts rather than spending it on the school as they were instructed by Bernice Pauahi Bishop's will. ("Debate, Controversy Swirl Around Kamehameha Schools," Feb. 11, 1998.)
But the audit, which focuses only on the financial and management aspects of the estate, also shows that while poor investments were made, the overall portfolio grew by $200 million, according to Kekoa Paulsen, a spokesman for the estate.
He added that the trustees asked for the audit with the understanding that it would be used as an internal document. The state attorney general's office had asked a probate judge to make the report public. The judge ordered it unsealed Oct. 21 .
Attorney General Margery S. Bronster is seeking the removal of at least three of the estate's five trustees.
Demoted Principal Wins Damages
A U.S. District Court has ordered the Portsmouth, Ohio, school district to pay a former principal more than $240,000 in damages after the court concluded that he was illegally demoted.
Michael Welton, who was the principal of McKinley Middle School, argued that he was demoted to a teaching position in 1994 because of a 1993 letter in which he and an assistant principal opposed a district plan to give teachers an advance copy of questions on a state proficiency test.
The school board of the 3,000-student district also downgraded the assistant principal, Gabriel Canary, whose lawsuit is pending. District officials said the demotions resulted from a financial crisis.
David Torchia, Mr. Welton's lawyer, said the most important thing for Mr. Welton was not the money, but to prove he was demoted illegally.
--Jessica L. Sandham
Texas To Name School Monitor
The Texas Education Agency plans to select a special monitor to oversee the school board and administration of the Quinlan district, 40 miles east of Dallas.
The agency recommended the appointment of a monitor to Commissioner of Education Mike Moses after its review of the 2,800-student district uncovered governance problems.
Imelda Martinez, the director of school governance for the state education agency, said the monitor would guide, advise, and make recommendations to the district.
Currently, 12 Texas districts have state monitors to oversee governance, finance, or academic issues. The monitors, whose costs are paid by the districts, have stayed as long as two years.
--Robert C. Johnston
Grosse Pointe Youths Sentenced
Three of the four Grosse Pointe, Mich., teenagers charged with statutory rape for having sex with three 14-year-old girls at private homes have been sentenced to 70 days in jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges.
The Grosse Pointe school system became involved in the case after officials in the 8,500-student district refused to surrender staff members' notes about the incidents. A judge upheld the district's decision, citing a state law that protects the confidentiality of student-staff communications. ("District Holding Some Notes in Assault Case," Aug. 5, 1998.)
Under a plea agreement reached last month, Daniel Raymond, 19, his cousin James Raymond, 19, and Robert Cooper, 18, were each sentenced to serve 2 months in prison and were required to perform 125 hours of community service. The former senior-class president at Grosse Pointe North High School struck a plea agreement in September.
Group Attacks Soft Drink Sales
Soft drinks should not be sold in schools because they are harmful to children's health, the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest argues.
The health-advocacy group asserted in a recent report that soft drink companies had mounted "predatory" marketing campaigns aimed at children and adolescents.
The group also admonished school systems and youth organizations for making deals with soft drink companies for exclusive marketing rights at the expense, the group says, of students' health.
The group recommends that states tax sales of the beverages to help subsidize physical education programs in schools, improve diets, and build recreation centers.
The National Soft Drink Association said the report's findings were not substantiated.
--Karen L. Abercrombie
Scholarship Scam Is Alleged
A former Baltimore-area resident faces eight counts of mail fraud after allegedly conning families with promises of money for college.
A federal grand jury indicted Christopher Nwaigwe on Oct. 22, charging that he had duped tens of thousands of students with letters leading them to believe they had won scholarships.
The mailings bore such names as the "National Scholarship Program," and asked families to pay $10 in fees. In most cases, students never heard from the group again after the checks were sent, according to U.S. Postal Inspection Service officials. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, and fined up to $250,000 for each fraud count.
Mr. Nwaigwe could not be reached for comment.
Federal Trade Commission officials last week warned that they have discovered several similar schemes, which they have investigated.
Students Booted From Dance
School officials in Buxton, Maine, have apologized to four special education students and their parents for kicking the pupils out of a school dance.
The problem arose when the students, who are in 6th grade but attend some classes with 7th graders, were told by their teachers that they could go to a dance for the 7th and 8th graders at Bonny Eagle Middle School, said Paul R. Vincent, the superintendent of the 4,600-student district. When the students arrived, the principal said they were too young to attend and called their parents to pick them up.
Parents were outraged, and several complained to the local news media that their children were treated rudely and unfairly.
Mr. Vincent, however, said that school officials found that the students were not discriminated against because of their disabilities.
--Joetta L. Sack
Anthony J. Celebrezze, a strong proponent of federal education and social programs as U.S. secretary of health, education, and welfare in the 1960s, died Oct. 30. He was 88.
Mr. Celebrezze served as secretary from 1962 to 1965, during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He was instrumental in the passage in 1965 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which includes the Title I program for disadvantaged pupils.
He was the mayor of Cleveland before being named to the Cabinet, and he later served on the federal appellate bench.
--Joetta L. Sack
Vol. 18, Issue 11, Page 4