News in Brief: A National Roundup
College Board Launches Drive for AP Availability
The College Board has announced a plan to make at least 10 Advanced Placement courses available in every high school in the country over the next decade. The initiative is intended to improve access for minority students, who are more likely to attend high schools that offer few, if any, advanced courses.
Those courses, sponsored by the New York City-based College Board, allow high school students to earn college credit in certain subjects. A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the state of California and state education officials last year contended that minority students were being denied adequate access to the courses.
The new initiative will attempt to raise the number of teachers trained to teach ap courses by 80 percent, to 180,000, by 2010, and increase the number of students participating in the program each year to more than 2 million. Some 1.2 million students at 13,000 high schools currently participate.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Philadelphia Gets Hiring Help
Philadelphia's public schools are tapping into the expertise of Teach for America to meet a crucial need for more middle school teachers.
The 215,000-student district has hired the New Teacher Project Inc.—Teach for America's nonprofit consulting arm—to help recruit 50 to 75 new teachers to work in its middle schools beginning next fall. Teach for America was formed in 1989 to attract graduates from highly selective colleges into the field and place them in school systems in dire need of teachers.
The Philadelphia effort will target nontraditional candidates, including midcareer professionals and college seniors in programs other than education, organizers said. Those accepted will go through a five-week crash course on teaching modeled on the summer institute that Teach for America runs for its candidates each year.
The consulting group "has a really unique experience in training people who have a baccalaureate but who are not certified," said Peter Bent, the district's assistant director of recruitment. "And they find some outstanding people who go into the schools and stay."
Fund Seeks 'Venture Capital'
Thirty-five prominent private and public organizations have banded together to raise money that in turn will be invested in strategies to improve the 431,000-student Chicago school system.
At its official unveiling late last month, the Chicago Public Education Fund announced that its first investment of $1.5 million will help pay for a training program for principals, give financial awards to teachers who earn national certification, and expand efforts to attract professionals into education from mathematics, science, and other fields.
To date, the organization has quietly raised $4 million of an initial $10 million goal. According to its organizers, the fund will act like a venture capital fund in that money raised from companies, individuals, families, and foundations will go to programs that can yield improvements in student achievement.
The chairman of the fund's board of directors is Scott Smith, the president and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, school board President Gery Chico, and the district's chief executive officer, Paul G. Vallas, have endorsed the fund-raising effort.
—Robert C. Johnston
D.C. Advises Bus-Driver Review
District of Columbia school officials are reviewing files to verify that the city's school bus drivers have undergone FBI background checks as required by city regulations and a 1997 court order, according to Veleter Mazyck, the general counsel to the 71,000-student school system.
The review is in response to a March 28 letter sent from the city government's inspector general, Charles C. Maddox, to Superintendent of Schools Arlene Ackerman, calling into question 80 to 100 bus drivers' background checks. According to the letter, Washington's department of motor vehicles had issued school bus drivers' licenses without determining the final status of the background checks. The department has since ordered its employees to comply with that requirement.
Ms. Mazyck said bus drivers undergo background checks both to obtain the licenses and upon employment with the school system.
Deputy Inspector General Austin Andersen said last week that the school system was "in contact with our office in efforts to resolve the problem."
Mayor Names 3 to Board
Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, Calif., has named three new members to the school board, less than a month after city voters gave him the power to experiment with a new form of governance by expanding the board.
Mr. Brown chose his chief of staff, Gilda Gonzales, who ran for a seat on the board March 7 but narrowly lost. He also named Harold Pendergrass, a tax lawyer who worked on his mayoral campaign, and Wilda White, a lawyer and neighborhood activist.
Measure D, which passed with 52 percent of the vote on the March ballot, allows the mayor to appoint three additional members to the seven-member elected school board, creating what is believed to be the nation's first local school board of both elected and appointed members. The new appointees will serve two-year terms beginning May 1.
With their appointment, five of the 10 members now have Mr. Brown's support—his three appointees and two whom he backed for election or re-election last month. Another candidate backed by Mr. Brown faces a November runoff.
Groups Warns of Pesticide Risks
Thousands of children and school staff members have been sickened by pesticide exposure at schools around the country, a report released last week contends.
"Unthinkable Risk," released by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, documents 98 incidents in which it says students and employees have been exposed to and harmed by toxic pesticides in classrooms and on school grounds since 1986.
Common symptoms of exposure, it says, include headaches, dizziness, respiratory distress, nausea, sore throats, rashes, and skin irritation. Long-term exposure can lead to cancer, impairment to the nervous system, lung damage, and reproductive dysfunction. Breathing vapor or dusts, absorbing residues through the skin, and ingesting residues by hand-to-mouth contact are the common methods of exposure. Experts say children are at greater risk than most adults.
Becky Riley, the author of the report for the Eugene, Ore.-based environmental group, said the findings should be a call to action to parents and school administrators as districts begin their spring spraying schedules.
—Adrienne D. Coles
College Aid for Gay Iowans
Openly gay students now have a college-scholarship program in Iowa. Full tuition and fees will be provided to three gay students each year who show merit and want to attend one of the state's public institutions—the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa State University in Ames, and the University of Iowa in Iowa City—according to The Associated Press. The scholarships, announced late last month, are being provided by a foundation started by Rich Eychaner, an openly gay businessman who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the 1984 Republican primary.
"We must change these attitudes, and we must take a stand," Judy Shepard said, referring to anti-homosexual attitudes, as she unveiled the program alongside Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat. Ms. Shepard is the mother of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who died in a 1998 beating that focused national attention on the problem of violence against homosexuals.
Vol. 19, Issue 31, Page 4