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Published in Print: October 3, 2001, as Retrospective


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As Education Week marks its 20th anniversary, here are some of the people, events, and issues that were making news 20 years ago this week.

Bilingual Education: The federal government should stop focusing on bilingual education programs to help students with limited English proficiency, because there is little evidence that those programs work, a series of draft studies written for the U.S. Department of Education concludes. The studies, which were prepared at the request of the Carter administration, also contend that only about one-third of the estimated 3.6 million children that experts say need bilingual education actually do. Advocates of bilingual education charge that the studies are sloppy and biased.

Health: School systems faced with the prospect of spending a lot of money to remove asbestos from school buildings may be able to cover the costs by taking asbestos manufacturers and processors to court, suggests a report to Congress by U.S. Attorney General William French Smith. The report was mandated by the Asbestos School Hazard Detection and Control Act of 1980, which Congress passed but never funded. The act had called for grants to school districts to test for asbestos and loans to assist them in containing or removing the dangerous material.

SAT Scores: The average Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of college-bound high school seniors did not decline in 1981, marking only the second year that they have remained stable since 1963, the College Board says in its annual report. The average verbal and mathematics scores for students taking the test were 424 and 466, respectively, on an 800-point scale.

School Lunch: Under criticism and ridicule from Democratic members of Congress, the press, advocacy groups, and even stand-up comedians, the Reagan administration withdraws its proposal for changing meal patterns and reducing nutritional requirements for the school lunch program. The plan's most controversial aspect is a proposal to permit schools to count ketchup and relish as vegetables.

Exit Exams: A mere 1 percent of California's high school seniors last year were denied diplomas because they failed proficiency tests in basic skills, a failure rate much lower than expected, a survey by the state department of education finds.

Spelling bee: District officials in Jefferson County, Ala., cancel a planned spelling bee for teachers following an outcry from classroom educators who say that the contest would be demeaning and that the ability to spell correctly does not necessarily correlate with teaching ability. The words for the bee were to be taken from the list used by 8th grade competitors in the national spelling bee.

Vol. 21, Issue 5, Page 6

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