News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
N.Y. Requires Nontraditional Schools
To Give State Exams
New York state's education chief has again—and more firmly—rejected a bid by about 40 nontraditional schools to substitute individually tailored projects for at least some of the examinations the state has begun to require for graduation.
The public schools, all but a few of them in New York City, say the decision threatens their success with students, which is predicated in part on individualized assessment.
Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills last year ordered the schools to give the state-devised regents' English examination, but delayed a final decision on the tests in four other subjects pending an outside evaluation of the assessment tools used by the nontraditional schools.
The evaluation, conducted by a panel of six national testing experts appointed by Mr. Mills, expressed doubts about certain aspects of the technical quality of the alternative assessments and about their alignment with the state's academic standards. Overall, however, the panel cited a dearth of evidence and recommended that the schools be exempted from giving all but the English and mathematics exams for the next three years while more and better data were collected for further evaluation. Mr. Mills turned down the panel's recommendations in his April 25 decision.
Instead, he directed the schools to begin giving regents' exams in all the required subjects in the coming school year.
Harold O. Levy, the chancellor of the New York City schools, protested the decision, as did members of the school communities, who said they would continue to fight the high-stakes tests. "At its core," Mr. Levy said in a statement, "this decision undermines our ability to provide a wide variety of educational options to our children."
Texas Eyes Early Kindergarten Cutoff
A bill before the Texas Senate would require kindergarteners to have turned 5 by May 31 of the year they enter, a change that would give the state the earliest kindergarten cutoff date in the nation.
Only Indiana, with a June 1 deadline, comes close, according to the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.
Currently, children in Texas must turn 5 by Sept. 1 to qualify for public kindergarten. Sen. Ken Armbrister, a Democrat, has said he introduced the bill, which would take effect in the 2002-03 school year, after hearing from teachers that some children are not mature enough to do well in kindergarten.
But Senate opponents last week accused him of trying to save money in a fiscally tight biennium, because analysts estimate that keeping an estimated 41,000 children out of school for a year would free up almost $200 million in state school aid for 2002-03. Mr. Armbrister denied the charge.
The bill has passed the Senate education committee but is awaiting action by the full Senate.
Most other states allow children to start kindergarten either right around their fifth birthday, or several months before it.
Vol. 20, Issue 33, Page 21