Get Rid Of The Kid
The new chairman of the Massachusetts state school board, Boston University President John Silber, says having a student representative on the panel is "as much nonsense as a pediatrician asking an infant what medicine is best.'' Silber would like to pare the board from 17 members down to nine, and he thinks a good place to start would be dumping its student member. Former Gov. Francis Sargent began the practice of naming a student to the board in 1971, making Massachusetts the first state to do so. (Three others have since followed suit.) In February, as Silber was criticizing the policy before the legislature's education committee, hundreds of students protested at the Statehouse. "You look at them,'' Silber told the panel. "Children eat all kinds of things that are directly contrary to their health. You might say to them, 'Don't you think you shouldn't eat that,' and they say, 'Yeah, but I like it.' ''
The Search Is On
Where in the world is 1st grade teacher Jan Lind-Sherman? That's what students at Martin Luther King Elementary School in Seattle are trying to figure out. Lind-Sherman, who won $8 million in the state lottery two years ago, packed her bags at the end of February and headed for Australia--the starting point for a three-month sabbatical. But before her departure, she challenged her students at King Elementary to track her down using clues she will plant along the way on the Internet's World Wide Web. Lind-Sherman's idea is a sort of real-life version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, the children's computer game and television program in which youngsters track the main character while learning about geography. Among other countries, Lind-Sherman plans to visit Britain, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Poland, Sweden, and Thailand. Students worldwide can join the hunt for the teacher at http://www.eduhelp.com on the Internet.
The Baltimore school board has approved a plan to rate teachers based on how well their students are performing. Under the system, teachers whose students do not improve on tests or other assignments in one year will be required to undergo training in the district's professional-development department. If students' scores do not climb by the third year, the teachers will be dismissed. The 110,000-student district was facing a Jan. 15 deadline set by the state legislature to toughen teacher evaluations or face the loss of up to $6 million in state aid.
The National Education Association has drawn up a list of guidelines for teachers to consider before buying or trying a commercial curriculum package. "There are a lot of people on Madison Avenue dreaming up new ways to get to students,'' says Kathleen Lyons, an NEA spokeswoman. "Our teachers need to be alerted to this, as well as parents.'' Known as the "Preserve Classroom Integrity'' pledge, the short list of guidelines urges educators to be wary of businesses that offer trips, gifts, or prizes in exchange for the promotion of commercial products in classrooms. A good commercially developed program, the NEA states, reinforces basic curricula and advances an educational goal. The bottom line, Lyons says: "Does it have real educational value, or does it promote a company or a product?'' To order a free copy of the guidelines, write to: NEA Communications, 1201 16th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036; or call (202) 822-7200.
Newark Taps Sylvan
The state-operated Newark, N.J., school district has hired Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. to teach remedial math and reading at three of its 14 high schools. The district signed a three-year, $1.25 million contract with Sylvan in January. The Columbia, Md.-based company, which owns hundreds of private remedial centers nationwide, has signed similar public school contracts with several other districts, including Baltimore, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and St. Paul, Minn. [See "Sylvan Goes Public,'' February.] The second two years of the Newark contract are contingent on the firm's producing measurable improvements in student scores on the state's High School Performance Test. State officials took control of the troubled 48,000-student district last summer.
A group of female high school athletes has filed an equity lawsuit
against their Oklahoma school district, arguing that they have been
denied equal opportunities to participate in interscholastic sports.
The girls and their parents claim the Owasso district, which is outside
of Tulsa, has given them inferior equipment, supplies, uniforms,
scheduling, travel, coaching, and publicity. They allege, for example,
that the school system has provided boys' teams with a high-quality
baseball field and a new football stadium while refusing to provide a
comparable facility for the girls' softball team, which won the state
championship last year. The girls filed the lawsuit under
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funds.
Home On The Web
The U.S. Departments of Education and Labor have created a school-to-work "home page'' on the Internet's World Wide Web. The two agencies jointly administer the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, a Clinton administration plan enacted in 1994. A news release on the Web site says its goal is to connect "state and local grantees, employers, schools, labor groups, parents, students, and the general public as they work together to develop and implement school-to-work systems across the nation.'' The display offers information on the federal grant program, meeting schedules, a list of technical-assistance providers, and information about school-to-work practices across the country. The site can be found at http://www.stw.ed.gov. on the Internet.
State Test Upheld
A federal court has upheld an Ohio law requiring private school students to pass a state-approved graduation test. The Jan. 30 ruling found that the state's compelling interest in an educated citizenry outweighed arguments by private schools that the proficiency test was too intrusive. [See "Declaration of Independence,'' January.] The Ohio Association of Independent Schools, which filed suit to block the private school requirement, plans to appeal the ruling. John Raushenbush, the group's executive director, says he has received telephone calls and unsolicited donations from all over the country supporting an appeal, which could cost as much as $60,000.
Al Wilder, a teacher in Golden, Colo., who has been disciplined and could be fired for showing an R-rated movie to his students last year, has received some support from the film's Italian director, Bernardo Bertolucci. Bertolucci sent a written statement from Rome that was read on behalf of the Columbine High School teacher at a court hearing in February. Wilder was placed on leave last March after he showed the movie 1900 to his senior English class without clearing the film with the principal. According to the teacher's lawyer, the 1977 film--which depicts sex, violence, and drug use--complemented a lesson Wilder was teaching.
Dressed To Teach?
A Colorado school district has formed a committee to look into a dress code for all of its employees, including teachers. If the code is adopted, employees of the Colorado Springs public schools would be required to wear "business attire'' to work, says Tracy Cooper, a district spokeswoman. District officials were considering a dress code for their 33,000 students, she says, when they thought, "Well, if we have one for the students, why not for the faculty?'' The committee will present its recommendation to the board on May 15.
Gift From The Gov
No one can say that former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter doesn't remember his friends. When he campaigned in 1986 for his first term as governor, McWherter aired an advertisement featuring Sylvan Park Elementary School students hugging him and climbing his 6-foot-5-inch, 275-pound frame. McWherter, who left office in 1994, has since given the Nashville school $11,000 in leftover campaign funds. A $10,000 donation five years ago helped buy equipment for a writing lab, and a $1,000 gift earlier this year will expand it. "The lab was a dream until we received the donation,'' says Carole Condiles, principal of Sylvan Park. McWherter plans to use the $1.89 million left in his campaign war chest for a college-scholarship fund. The former governor, who championed education issues during his tenure, did not attend college and had a "less than distinguished'' K-12 career, says Jim Kennedy, McWherter's former chief of staff. "More than most, he values and recognizes the need for a quality education.''