News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
N.J. Commissioner Wants to Limit Teaching
New Jersey's new commissioner of education is calling for the elimination of some state tests now required of the state's 4th, 8th, and 11th graders.
William L. Librera, appointed last month by Gov. James E. McGreevey, proposed to the state board of education Feb. 6 that students in all three grades be tested in language arts and mathematics. But tests in social studies would be dropped in all three grades, and science assessments would be dropped in 4th and 11th grades, under his plan.
The social studies test has come under fire for its length and difficulty. Nearly half the 4th graders failed it in 2000.
Mr. Librera also suggested that districts score their own 4th grade tests and use the results to gauge individual students' progress, rather than having the state grade them for use in evaluating districts' efficacy.
The commissioner told the board that New Jersey should concentrate on the Democratic governor's push for 3rd grade literacy, and on phasing in tests to comply with a new federal law that requires testing students in grades 3-8. The state board is scheduled to discuss Mr. Librera's proposal later this month.
California Adopts Curriculum on Labor Leader
The California board of education adopted a model curriculum this month for teaching about farm labor leader César E. Chávez.
A law passed in August 2000 established a state holiday commemorating Mr. Chávez' life, which spanned from 1927 to 1993. It also required the board to adopt a curriculum highlighting the history of the farm-labor movement in the United States.
The model curriculum is aligned to state standards and the curriculum framework for history/social studies for grades 4 and 11. It includes lesson plans as well as other resources, such as biographies of the Mexican-American hero, his speeches and writings, and oral histories of others involved in his advocacy efforts.
The curriculum is available on the Web at http://chavez.scientech.com.
— Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Warner Picks Two for Virginia Board
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner has replaced two members of the state's education board, including board President Kirk T. Schroder, who helped design and champion the state's much- debated Standards of Learning policies.
It's unclear, however, whether the changes signal Mr. Warner's intent to steer Virginia in a new direction, away from its current standards-based assessment and accountability system.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat elected in November, had to decide whether to reappoint or replace Mr. Schroder, a lawyer from Richmond, and Diane T. Atkinson, an educator from Ashland. Their four-year terms had expired.
On Feb. 1, he announced two replacements to the nine-member board. They are Mark E. Emblidge, a Richmond school board member, and Thomas M. Jackson, a former House of Delegates member from Carroll County.
Gov. Warner praised his new appointments as experienced in education policy at the state and local levels.
The board chose member Mark C. Christie as its new president on Feb. 5. Mr. Christie, a former adviser to Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen while he was governor, helped create Virginia's school accountability system.
Washington Anti-Bullying Bill Moves Ahead
Washington state districts would be required to adopt policies for dealing with schoolhouse bullies, if a bill passed by the state's House of Representatives is approved by the Senate.
The House side of the Democratic-controlled legislature voted 81-16 to approve the anti-bullying bill on Feb. 6. The bill is now before the Senate, which passed a similar measure in the 2001 legislative session.
House bills on school bullying have been debated in committee for the past several legislative sessions but have never before made it to a vote by the full body— in part because of debate over how such policy would apply to harassment aimed at homosexuality. ("Legislatures Take On Bullies With New Laws," May 16, 2001.)
The measure would require that the state superintendent of public instruction, in consultation with parents, school personnel, and other interested parties, create a model policy on harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevention, along with training materials for school districts. The state's 296 school districts would have to adopt or amend their policies to conform to the model by August 2003.
Vol. 21, Issue 23, Page 18