October 01, 1999 5 min read
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A longtime Alabama education tradition has died. Officials of the Alabama Education Association, the state’s National Education Association affiliate, have pulled the plug on the group’s annual conference of teachers because of poor attendance. Begun in 1856, the meeting drew about 9,000 members at its height of popularity in 1970. This summer, however, only 1,500 showed up, even with Vice President Al Gore as a headliner. “The convention is just not attracting the crowds that it did at one time,” says Paul Hubbert, the union’s executive secretary and treasurer.

Shipping Blues

A Federal Express spokesman says the company “is very sorry” that it lost standardized tests taken by two groups of students this summer and plans to make amends with cash. The Memphis, Tennessee-based shipping company lost 695 SAT tests taken by students in June at a Gardena High School testing site in Torrance, California, and 75 Advanced Placement exams taken in May by students at a Cottonwood High School site in Salt Lake City. The company is sending students $25 each, refunding their $23 registration fees, paying for a second round of tests, and mailing students free test-preparation packets.

Half-Price Sale

The federal government is selling houses at half price to inner-city teachers who agree to work near where they live. Run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the “Teacher Next Door” program offers teachers homes in HUD-designated “revitalization areas"-high-crime urban neighborhoods with many low- to moderate-income families. The previous owners of the 6,000 available houses defaulted on government-insured mortgages. Teachers who take advantage of HUD’s deal must agree to live in the house for at least three years.

Sports Talk

The Educational Testing Service and the Advertising Council have unveiled a national public-service campaign aimed at dissuading middle school kids from cheating. The three-year campaign, which will feature mostly print and broadcast ads, began in August with “The Ref in Your Head,” which uses a whistle-blowing game official to represent a student’s conscience. A caption reads: “Cheating is a personal foul.”

Penny Wise?

All 61 elementary schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish schools in Louisiana will have “timeout rooms” this year where unruly students can be sent to cool off. A 1-cent sales-tax increase approved by local voters is helping pay for building renovations and timeout monitors as well as a teacher pay raise. Teachers in the district, meanwhile, are being trained to create more nurturing, motivating classrooms.

Roving Eyes

Milwaukee is installing 50 video cameras on district school buses to deter misbehavior by both students and drivers. The $60,000 pilot program, approved by the city’s school board this summer, also calls for 150 fake cameras to be used as decoys on other buses. The cameras are part of a district-wide safety plan, says Karen Salzbrenner, a Milwaukee schools spokeswoman.

No Nikes

A new California law bans most corporate logos from new textbooks purchased for the state’s schools. Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, signed a measure in August to prohibit books from including commercial images and written references to products of fast-food restaurants, sneaker manufacturers, and other companies as a way to illustrate lessons or word problems. The law requires the state school board to reject books with corporate references unless they have a unique educational value.

Silence, Please

“A requiem may be in order.”

--From a new study published in the British journal Nature debunking the much-ballyhooed “Mozart effect.” In three separate trials, psychologists at Harvard University and Appalachian State University in North Carolina found no evidence that listening to classical music makes young children smarter.

Parents’ Rights

Two parents are suing a guidance counselor and a suburban Philadelphia district, claiming the counselor helped their 17-year-old daughter have an abortion. Howard and Marie Carter of Hatboro, Pennsylvania, claim in their suit filed in August that counselor William Hickey encouraged their daughter to have an abortion despite the family’s religious beliefs. Hickey and officials in the Hatboro-Horsham district would not discuss the suit, which also claims that the counselor secretly helped the student cash checks and travel to New Jersey for the abortion. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative group based in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

More Kids...

Enrollment in public and private schools reached a new all-time high of 53.2 million students this year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That figure should climb by another 1 million in the next decade, according to the department’s analysts, with most of the increase coming among high schoolers. The record growth--which has been fueled by immigration, higher birthrates, and expanding preschool enrollment--is most rapid in the South and West.

And Fewer Guns?

The number of students expelled for having a gun in school dropped by nearly one-third in the 1997-98 school year, according to a new federal report that is the second of its kind. Roughly 3,900 students--the majority of them high schoolers--were booted for bringing a firearm to school that year, compared to about 5,700 in 1996-97.

A Hail Mary

A federal judge has told a Houston-area district to allow a 17-year-old student to pray publicly before high school football games. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake granted a temporary injunction to allow Marian Ward to pray over the loudspeaker at a football game in Santa Fe, Texas. The young woman’s parents sued the Santa Fe district, challenging a policy that banned religious speech at school events. Judge Lake’s ruling said the policy amounted to “state-sponsored atheism.” Ward wore her band uniform and received a standing ovation from about 3,000 people at the first football game of the season last month.


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