News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
N.M. Sets Standards for New Teacher Exam
The New Mexico school board has rejected the advice of one of its committees and adopted tougher standards than recommended for a new state teacher-certification test.
Under the board's Jan. 21 decision, an applicant for a teaching license would need a score of at least 69 percent to pass the general-knowledge part of the exam. Both a statewide committee of educators and a committee of the board had recommended 64 percent as a passing score.
The higher standards could make it more difficult to get educators into New Mexico classrooms. Of the prospective teachers who took the new exam in May and November last year, only 60 percent received a score of 69 or better on the general-knowledge section, said Marilyn Scargall, the director of professional licensure for the department of education.
The board voted 8-6 for the higher passing score, with some dissenting members arguing that raising the bar would disqualify too many aspiring teachers—particularly Hispanics and American Indians.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Test Errors Irk Vermont Education Dept.
After a series of mistakes and missed deadlines, the Vermont Department of Education is renegotiating its contract with the Texas company that prepares and scores standardized tests for the state's students.
Harcourt Educational Measurement of San Antonio has agreed to give the state a package of refunds and discounts over the next two years to make up for scoring errors in mathematics and language arts tests given in 1998 and 1999 to students in grades 4, 8, and 10. State officials have also demanded that any new agreement with the contractor include penalties for future scoring errors and late reporting of test results.
Among other problems, Harcourt had to rescore the 1998 4th and 8th grade writing-effectiveness sections of the English exam after Vermont and Rhode Island requested an analysis of the results. The contractor also miscalculated 8th grade writing scores and incorrectly categorized the math scores of 39 high school students in results released by the state, according to department officials.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Kentucky Targets Teacher Quality
Gov. Paul Patton of Kentucky plans to ask state lawmakers to spend $23 million to improve the state's teacher workforce.
Mr. Patton, who called teaching "the most important profession in Kentucky," said the money would pay for the recommendations made by a teacher-quality task force created after the 1998 legislative session. The panel examined teacher recruitment, preparation, and training.
The Democratic governor's bill, yet to be drafted, would be introduced by Rep. Harry Moberly, a Democrat who chaired the task force and heads the House budget committee.
Mr. Patton said he wants to spend $3.5 million for recruitment, including loan forgiveness, tuition waivers, and signing bonuses; $1.3 million to overhaul the license-renewal process; $1.9 million to encourage teachers to become certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; and $7.215 million to allow the Education Professional Standards Board, which oversees licensure in the state, to become autonomous. He also plans to ask for $8 million to create an "incentive fund" for college and university teacher-preparation programs to improve their curricula.
Lose Control and You Lose Your License
North Carolina students may find new motivation for controlling their tempers in school and obeying the rules. The state school board approved guidelines last month for a new law that will require public and private school principals to ask the state department of motor vehicles to suspend students' driving privileges for some violent offenses.
The "Lose Control, Lose Your License" statute approved by the legislature last year takes effect July 1.
The punishment would affect students who are suspended from school for 10 days or more for a number of violations generally pertaining to fighting or possessing drugs or a weapon on school grounds. Students could have their licenses reactivated after six months if their conduct improved, or, in the case of drug or alcohol offenses, they completed a treatment program.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Vol. 19, Issue 21, Page 22