News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
California Urged to Improve Qualifications of Teachers
Getting better-qualified teachers into California's classrooms will require improved teacher education, higher salaries for public school teachers and administrators, and elimination of emergency permits over the next five years, a state panel argues in a report issued last week.
The Professional Development Task Force, convened by state schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin, concluded that many students will not be able to measure up to new academic standards if the state doesn't focus more on the quality of the teaching corps.
"The shortage of trained teachers in this state is nothing less than a crisis," Ms. Eastin said in a statement. "We should take bold steps to increase the number of fully qualified educators."
According to the report, titled "Learning ... Teaching ... Leading ...," some 15 percent of the state's teachers did not have the required credential for teaching during the last school year.
The panel also recommended better professional-development opportunities for teachers and stepped-up recruitment efforts.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Vt. Selects New Schools Chief
Raymond J. McNulty will become the next commissioner of education in Vermont, the state board of education announced this month.
Mr. McNulty is the superintendent of the 3,200-student Windham Southeast Supervisory Union in Brattleboro, Vt. He has also worked as a teacher and principal in several Vermont districts throughout his 30-year career in education.
David Larsen, the chairman of the Vermont state school board, said the board chose Mr. McNulty from three finalists because they believed he had the right combination of a collaborative management style, proven leadership skills, and an awareness of and appreciation for Vermont's approach to public education.
Mr. McNulty will begin the job in December, working alongside the current commissioner, David S. Wolk. Mr. Wolk, who has served in the job since February 2000, announced last summer that he was stepping down to become the president of Castleton State College in Rutland, Vt.
—Joetta L. Sack
ETS Gets Calif. Test Contract
California last week awarded the Educational Testing Service a $50 million contract to run the state's new high school exit exams.
The Princeton, N.J.-based nonprofit test-maker, best known for running the SAT and the Advanced Placement exams, will operate every aspect of the math and English tests that California students will be required to pass before earning a high school diploma.
The testing service's new for-profit subsidiary, K-12 Works, will write the tests and will subcontract their administration to NCS Pearson, a U.S. division of the London publishing company Pearson PLC. The ETS will score the tests and report the results.
The California contract is the first major award to the ETS since it formed K-12 Works in an attempt to expand its reach to elementary and secondary education.
—David J. Hoff
Mass. Charter Oversight Faulted
Massachusetts' auditor last week released a report calling for better oversight of charter schools by the state department of education.
State Auditor Joseph DeNucci found that the department has no assurance that all charter schools are being operated cost-effectively or that the charters' educational goals are being met.
The report says the department should improve its monitoring of charter schools during the application process, when evaluating the effectiveness of charter schools, and in its control over management companies that operate charter schools.
Stronger oversight is particularly needed because the legislature has authorized 120 charter schools in Massachusetts, says the audit, which was released on Oct. 22. Forty-two charter schools were operating in the state as of June.
Among other findings, the 84-page report says that because of inadequate controls over management companies that operate charter schools, some companies received excessive profits. More than 24 percent of one charter schools' funding, for example, went to the school's management company instead of program expenses.
State Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll noted that the report covers a five-year period ending in January 2000, and he said that many of the recommendations had already been implemented.
N.J. Gets Pre-K Review Deadline
The New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered the state to effectively increase its role in making preschool available to all 3- and 4-year-olds in the poorest districts.
The order, handed down last week, sets a strict timetable for state education officials to review and approve the district preschool programs that the court ordered in 1998 to help disadvantaged children. The object is to get the programs going by the coming school year.
Local officials have complained that the department of education often stalled on their preschool proposals, and an earlier court decision found that the agency had failed to complete its review of some of those programs in a timely fashion during the 2000-01 school year. Last week, a department spokesman said many of the delays stemmed from districts' failure to submit complete information.
Currently, only about half the children eligible for the public preschool are enrolled in such programs, though the original target date for universal availability was the 1999-2000 school year.
The order is the latest in a series of rulings stemming from the Abbott v. Burke school finance case. In 1990, the state supreme court ruled that the state's method of doling out school aid was unconstitutional. The court has repeatedly ordered the state to raise per-pupil spending and to set up new programs in the 30, mostly urban districts in the case.
Vol. 21, Issue 9, Page 20