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Published in Print: December 12, 2001, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Arizona Reports Scoring Errors On State Exams

Arizona 3rd, 5th, and 8th graders received incorrect scores on the math portion of the state's 2000 standardized test, state officials announced last week.

The errors came to light one month after news that one of the testing companies hired by the state—London-based NCS Pearson—also miscalculated the scores on the 2000 Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards writing test for 3rd and 5th graders.

"This is really a very damaging mistake," David Garcia, the state's associate superintendent for standards and accountability, said of the new errors. "It's damaging for the test, and damaging for the schools who use this test to determine which students need additional services."

Mr. Garcia said the blame for weak quality-control procedures that allowed the mistakes to slip by rested with both the state education department and the company. NCS will cover the cost of correcting the errors, he said.

Even before the scoring glitches, the state decided not to renew its contracts with NCS Pearson and subcontractor CTB/McGraw-Hill in Monterey, Calif. The education department hired Harcourt General Inc. to handle its tests in 2003.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

New Georgia Report Card Goes Online With More Data

For several years, Georgians could track standardized test results through various Internet-based report cards. But for the first time, they now can see individual school performance by race, English proficiency, poverty, or whether students have disabilities.

The new report card, produced by the state Office of Education Accountability, was unveiled Dec. 1. It includes scores from a number of different state assessments, as well as the Stanford Achievement Test- 9th Edition, and the SAT college-entrance exam

Established as part of Democratic Gov. Roy E. Barnes' education accountability initiative, the accountability office sets cutoff scores on state tests.

It will later determine which schools are rewarded for meeting or exceeding expectations, and which could close if they don't improve. The rewards and penalties phase of the accountability system will begin in 2004. Read about Georgia's new report card.

—Linda Jacobson

Illinois Construction Fund Shrinks; Crisis Looms

A state-financed program to build and maintain K-12 schools in Illinois will soon be out of money unless the legislature fixes it.

The Illinois First School Construction Program, which has awarded more than $2 billion for local school construction projects since it began four years ago, has only $70 million left to spend over the next year and a half.

Some 185 districts are eligible to receive as much as $900 million for school construction, however, said Lee Milner, a spokesman for the Illinois state board of education.

A lack of state construction funding will likely prompt school districts either to cut their existing projects or raise taxes, said Walter Warfield, the executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators. Spokesmen for the state school board and Republican Gov. George H. Ryan said there will be no action on the crisis until legislators return next month.

—Mark Stricherz

Hawaii Spec. Ed. System Avoids Federal Takeover

There will be no federal takeover of Hawaii's special education system, a federal judge has ruled.

The Nov. 30 decision by U.S. District Judge David Ezra in Honolulu noted that the statewide school system had made considerable progress toward complying with a 1994 consent decree on improving student mental-health and special education services.

But a report released last week by a joint state House-Senate committee investigating management of the consent decree by the state's education and health departments charged the agencies with waste, apparent conflicts of interest, and use of unclear criteria for compliance.

The committee recommended that the state attorney general consider criminal charges, and it said that it wants to continue its investigation next year.

"The decree has been a double-edged sword," the committee's report says. "Despite good intentions and improved services to some children with mental disabilities, the decree has also unleashed a Pandora's box of unintended consequences."

Interim state schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto has until Dec. 18 to respond formally to the report. Education department spokesman Greg Knudsen said he believes that some of the concerns raised in the report have already been addressed, such as poor oversight of the consent decree by the state school board.

—Linda Jacobson

Vol. 21, Issue 15, Page 22

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