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Published in Print: February 2, 2000, as Mass. To Test Teachers in Schools With Low Math Scores

Mass. To Test Teachers in Schools With Low Math Scores

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Gov. Paul Cellucci of Massachusetts has directed the state board of education to administer tests of teachers' mathematical knowledge in middle and high schools where children fare poorly on state math tests.

"Too many students in too many schoools are not getting a solid math education, and I want to know why," the governor said in his Jan. 20 State of the State Address.

Mr. Cellucci, a Republican who last year unsuccessfully introduced legislation to have all of the state's teachers tested, said he has directed the board to send assessment teams to evaluate low-scoring schools.

In schools where more than 30 percent of students are failing math, as measured by the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, math teachers' knowledge will be tested, the governor said.

Mr. Cellucci's announcement sparked immediate protests from the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Stephen E. Gorrie, the president of the 86,000-member affiliate of the National Education Association, called the testing plan "a bad idea whose time came and went last year."

Mr. Gorrie said the union believes the governor may not have the legal authority to issue such an order because it would change the intent of the 1993 legislation that established the state testing system.

Such a move also would send a negative message to teachers and could undermine the state's much-publicized efforts to recruit them, Mr. Gorrie argued.

"Sure, we get many people who want to get the $20,000 signing bonus," he said of the state's best-known enticement for new teachers, "but I wonder how many we will attract if he keeps this up."

Failure Rates Faulted

The state school board, whose members are appointed by the governor, is scheduled to discuss the issue at its meeting this month. The board needs to develop a plan for implementing the directive, including a time line.

James Peyser, the chairman of the board, said the "unacceptably high" failure rates of 8th and 10th graders on the 2-year-old MCAS tests indicate that some middle and high school teachers may not have the subject-matter knowledge needed to help students succeed.

In 8th grade, he said, about 40 percent of students failed the math exam, while more than half of 10th graders did so.

The state likely would use the mathematics portion of its teacher-licensing exam to test teachers affected by the plan, officials said. Elementary teachers would not be tested.

Massachusetts teachers are required to get additional training to keep their licenses, some of which must be in their subjects. Mr. Peyser argued that the testing program would help focus teachers' attention, although the state would not provide more money for remedial courses.

While the results of the testing would be made public, teachers would not be subject to any disciplinary or job-related action, according to Jason Kauppi, a spokesman for Gov. Cellucci.It is particularly critical to pay attention to teachers' knowledge, Mr. Peyser said, because high school students will be required in 2003 to pass subject-matter tests in order to graduate.

"The most important thing is that the governor's proposal is not at all punitive," the board chairman said. "It is designed to be diagnostic, to identify teachers who need more work developing their knowledge."

In North Carolina, a state law that would have required similar testing of teachers in low-performing schools was amended in 1998 after threatened boycotts by educators identified for the tests.

Rather than mandate blanket testing of all principals, teachers, and counselors in the state's lowest-performing schools, the North Carolina law was changed to delay any testing and to permit it only when teachers were found to lack content and general knowledge.


Cayetano Urges Support For Accountability Plan

Delivering his sixth State of the State Address before the Hawaii legislature, Gov. Benjamin J. Cayetano pledged additional spending on education, but also challenged lawmakers to move forward with establishing a "system of accountability" for the state's public schools.

"Study after study shows that every state which has made significant improvements in student performance has a strong accountability system," the governor, a Democrat serving his second term, said in his Jan. 24 speech.

He said Hawaii was fortunate to have Paul G. LeMahieu, a recognized expert on accountability, as its state schools superintendent. And he asked the legislature to support Mr. LeMahieu's proposed plan for increasing educational accountability.

He added that holding schools and education professionals accountable should not be the subject of collective bargaining.

Mr. Cayetano also outlined plans to establish teacher-competency testing by the beginning of the 2001-02 school year.

"Teachers who are not knowledgeable about their subjects are of no help to their students," he said. "It's unfair to the teachers, and it's unfair to our children."

—Linda Jacobson


Kempthorne Safety PlanTargets Guns, Facilities

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne gave school safety top billing in a State of the State Address featuring plans to reduce threats to children from gun violence and decrepit facilities.

To improve the safety of Idaho's school facilities, the Republican asked lawmakers to adopt the recommendations of a 25-member panel he named last year to study the problem. He also said he would introduce legislation to create a loan program—costing the state from $40 million to $50 million over 20 years—for districts too strapped to repair their schools.

Mr. Kempthorne also said that, though it is now legal for adults to openly carry a weapon on school grounds, he would sign a bill changing that law. To help prevent violence at schools, he also promoted character education programs.

In his Jan. 17 speech, the former Boise mayor and U.S. senator proposed creating a state exam for educators who teach reading.

And he announced two initiatives to benefit children: a voluntary program providing a free protective dental sealant for all 2nd graders, and a council to coordinate the work of child- and family-advocate groups.

—Michelle Galley


Higher Teacher Pay SavesPrison Costs, Foster Says

Gov. Mike Foster made education a leading component of his State of the State Address, though he did not offer any new proposals.

Instead, the Louisiana governor, a Republican who was elected to a second term in November, pledged his support for education and reiterated a promise to raise teacher salaries. "Paying a teacher is cheaper than paying for a prisoner," he said.

Mr. Foster had previously called on lawmakers to raise the salaries of teachers and college professors when the legislature meets in a special session next month.

During his Jan. 10 address, he also stressed the importance of sticking with the state's efforts to strengthen school accountability for improving student achievement. "Shortly, we will have the best K-12 accountability system in our nation," he declared.

—Erik W. Robelen


Schools Play Leading RoleIn Prosperity, King Says

Gov. Angus S. King Jr. says Maine's schools continue to excel, but still aren't everything they need to be as the state economy increasingly demands a well-educated workforce.

The second-term Independent spent most of his Jan. 24 State of the State Address lauding the addition of 65,500 new jobs in the state since he took office in 1995. Schools will keep playing an important role in economic progress, he said, because new jobs are relying on "heavy thinking" rather than "heavy lifting."

"We are getting real, measurable results [in education], but we can't for a moment let up," Mr. King said.

The governor proposed spending $20 million for school renovation and an additional $1 million for professional development for teachers. He also wants to spend $120,000 to attract new teachers and retain current ones.

Schools also will play a leading role in a statewide health campaign—paid for by a settlement with the nation's tobacco companies—designed to prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. The campaign's chief goal will be to reduce smoking, but it also will promote such preventive measures as exercise and abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

—David J. Hoff


Glendening Sees Chance To Build, Fix Up Schools

Calling this the "golden age of school construction,'' Gov. Parris N. Glendening said in his annual address to lawmakers this month that $256 million should be spent on building and modernizing Maryland's school buildings as part of his four-year refurbishment plan.

Citing the state's healthy economy in his Jan. 19 State of the State Address, the second-term Democrat called on lawmakers to "take advantage of our unprecedented prosperity" by raising education spending significantly.

Among other measures, he proposed spending $8 million to install telephones in every classroom and $11.7 million for a continuing program to reduce the size of 1st and 2nd grade reading classes.

To address a teacher shortage, he called for a $24 million incentive plan to give new teachers signing bonuses and mentoring support.

Though the state schools superintendent had backed a plan that included higher teachers' salaries, the governor instead proposed a $130 million increase in state aid to localities and urged officials there to use the money to increase teacher salaries. —Jessica Portner


Engler Wants Incentives Tied to Performance

In his 10th State of the State Address, Gov. John Engler ticked off a half-dozen new education ideas, including bonuses for staff members at top-performing schools and statewide testing for every elementary grade. Mr. Engler, a Republican who has made education a top priority during his years in office, urged the changes on the legislature by telling them that "the state with the best schools wins."

In his Jan. 19 speech, the governor announced that his budget would provide $6,500 in basic funding for each Michigan student, a figure that six years ago was matched by just one in 11 of the state's 555 school districts, he said. With the state now responsible for most education funding and willing to spend generously on its schools, "the debate about school funding is over," he declared. Instead, Mr. Engler said, school advocates should focus on reform, starting with reducing local school bureaucracies.

The governor called once again for lifting the cap on the number of Michigan's charter schools. Citing the success of North Carolina and Texas in raising student achievement, Mr. Engler proposed annual tests for children in grades 1-3. He also proposed mandatory summer school for 4th graders who have not mastered reading.

Taking another cue from policies elsewhere, Mr. Engler sketched a reward program that would provide cash bonuses for all staff members of schools that showed top performance or the most improvement in student achievement. The governor further called for "a special technology curriculum for teachers," coupled with the guarantee of their own computers and Internet access.

—Bess Keller


Carnahan Urges Steps To Curb Gun Violence

Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan made child safety his top priority in his Jan. 19 State of the State Address.

The definition of gun-free school zones should be clarified to include all school buildings, playgrounds, school buses, and extracurricular activities, the Democrat said. Moreover, every handgun sold in Missouri should contain a child-safety lock.

Penalties for bomb threats should be broadened to include threats to harm students and school property, the governor added.

Mr. Carnahan also called for following the recommendations of a task force on school violence, which urged districts to teach respect for self and others, set up mediation programs, and deliver daily anti-violence, anti-drug, and anti-gang messages.

In addition, the governor predicted improvements in Kansas City and St. Louis, the state's two largest urban school districts, following the return of state and local control after years of court-directed desegregation efforts.

"We should give the law and the new accountability measures time to do their jobs," he said.

—Julie Blair


Johnson Again Pushes Private School Vouchers

Gov. Gary E. Johnson used his Jan. 18 State of the State Address to again urge legislators to adopt a private school voucher program and increase families' educational options.

"What is missing from public education is not money; what is missing is competition and choice," said the governor, a Republican. "I call on you to support the heart and soul of real educational reform, which is school vouchers."

New Mexico's Democratic-controlled legislature last year rejected several school voucher proposals backed by the governor. In his address, Mr. Johnson outlined a plan that would grant students vouchers worth about $3,000 to attend the public, private, or religious schools of their choice. If approved, the plan would be phased in over four years starting in August, with the poorest children receiving the vouchers first. The governor's office estimates the plan would cost $16.8 million in the 2001 fiscal year.

Saying improving education is "priority one for all of us," Mr. Johnson also called on the legislature to expand statewide annual testing to students in kindergarten through 2nd grade, enact merit-based teacher pay, increase start-up aid to charter schools, link state education aid to school performance, and complete the state's school accountability system to enable parents to compare school results.

Mr. Johnson also proposed a $115 million cut in personal income taxes over three years.

—Lynn Schnaiberg


Draw on Tobacco Funds For Facilities, Taft Urges

Gov. Bob Taft made education the cornerstone of his Jan. 19 State of the State Address. He asked the legislature to direct $4.5 billion from the state's share of the national settlement with tobacco companies to school construction, and to allocate additional money to expand a summer-reading initiative from 1,200 teachers last year to 12,000 teachers this summer.

The Republican cited rising scores on state tests as a sign that Ohio students are making progress. He proposed a plan that would give 3rd graders a chance to take the state's 4th grade test a year early—thereby allowing school officials to direct remedial help to those students who need it most. By the spring of 2002, the state is set to fully implement a plan that would prevent 4th graders from advancing to 5th grade if they failed to show proficiency on the state's reading test.

"We must never retreat from high standards, rigorous assessment, and accountability for results," he said.

Mr. Taft also said he planned to set up a commission to look into the best ways to hold students and adults responsible for achievement, and hoped to eventually require high schools to certify that all graduates are proficient in computers.

—Jessica L. Sandham


Kitzhaber Urges Support For Initiatives on Funding

Gov. John Kitzhaber challenged Oregonians to "do more than pay lip service to public education" in his State of the State Address Jan. 21.

The governor, a Democrat, urged voters to support two initiatives he has filed for the November ballot designed to improve the stability, equity, and adequacy of school funding.

One measure would create a fund to maintain school budgets in the event of an economic downturn. The second measure would require the legislature to provide funding adequate to meet the goals set forth in a 1991 school reform law. It also would equalize revenues that local districts generate through voter-approved tax increases.

In addition, the governor said he would propose a state-backed bond fund for school construction and maintenance. And he announced several initiatives to improve the training and development of Oregon's teachers.

His forthcoming budget will call for providing money to help 500 Oregon teachers earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards by 2003 and pay them a bonus if they are certified. Mr. Kitzhaber also will propose funds for a mentoring program to provide new teachers with support from veterans.



Help Teachers Earn Credentials, Hodges Says

Gov. James H. Hodges kicked off his Jan. 19 State of the State Address with a pledge to improve education, outlining programs to enhance teacher quality, promote character education, and tap lottery revenues to pay for college scholarships.

The Democrat wants to advance South Carolina teachers $2,000 to become certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and to forgive the loans for those completing the program.

He also proposed giving bonuses to the state's Teacher of the Year and to other educators recognized for excellence by the state.

In addition to establishing state-financed character education programs in every school, the governor wants to spend $10 million to expand a state preschool program to every county.

Mr. Hodges also called for using lottery money to fund college scholarships and pay for classroom technology. Currently, the state constitution prohibits lotteries, but voters will have the chance to change that in a vote next November.

The governor also proposed an annual statewide sales-tax holiday, in which no taxes would be levied on back-to-school products and clothing for one weekend in August.

—Julie Blair


Proposed Tests Garner Leavitt's Endorsement

Gov. Michael O. Leavitt of Utah proposed spending more on education and threw his support behind a proposed system of statewide student assessments during his Jan. 17 State of the State Address.

"Utah has a core curriculum defining what every child should learn," he said. "But there's a problem. Our standardized tests don't measure how much of the core curriculum a student has mastered."

Gov. Leavitt, a Republican, said he backs the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students, or UPASS. The system, proposed by a legislative task force, calls for students to take annual end-of-grade tests in reading, mathematics, and science for students in grades 1 through 12; a national standardized achievement test for students in grades 3, 5, 8, and 11; and a basic-skills test for 10th graders that would be required for graduation.

"The state school board needs to set annual targets for improvement, and we must move relentlessly forward until we are among the education leaders, particularly in math, reading, and language arts," Mr. Leavitt said.

The governor also proposed a 7.4 percent increase in education spending, which would be paid for in part by slowing down repayments on road bonds.

—Mark Walsh

Vol. 19, Issue 21, Pages 19-21

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