District Briefs

November 22, 1989 5 min read

Plagued by inadequate funding, a cumbersome organizational structure, and cursory monitoring, New York City’s remedial programs often fail to ensure that all students receive training in basic skills, a report by a civic watchdog group concludes.

Despite a $231 million budget for remediation, the report by the Educational Priorities Panel notes, many elementary students eligible for services do not receive them, particularly in mathematics.

For example, more than 40 percent of 4th graders entitled to receive math remediation do not receive services, the study found, and neither the state department of education nor the city’s board of education checks whether all students actually receive services to which they are legally entitled.

In addition, it found, schools often hire paraprofessionals to teach remedial classes, even though such instructors are less prepared academically than regular teachers and lack opportunities for class preparation. Moreover, it states, schools tend to rely on “pullout” programs, “despite the scheduling difficulties and stigma this model engenders.”

The panel recommends that the state fully fund its remedial mandate, and reconsider the rate at which it reimburses the district for remedial services.

The Detroit school board has voted to end its practice of issuing two categories of high-school diplomas--one for students who have passed the minimum number of required courses, and one for those who also pass a locally developed proficiency test.

The nation’s seventh-largest school system began issuing “endorsed” diplomas 10 years ago for those passing the proficiency test, and will eliminate the distinction by 1993 under a resolution passed last month.

The board will await recommendations from the district’s staff before deciding whether to require all students to pass a proficiency test or some other measure of their achievement as a requirement for receiving a diploma.

The Detroit public schools should consider creating magnet schoots and other means of encouraging mixing between city and suburban students, according to a new report commissioned by the Michigan Department of Education.

Because Detroit’s mostly poor and black students rarely come into contact with positive role models, concludes the report, by the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Educational Leadership, the public school system faces nearly insurmountable obstacles in educating its students.

Magnet schools located in Detroit but staffed by suburban educators would be one means of attracting white and middle-class students back into Detroit, states the report’s author, Harold Hodgkinson, a researcher who has gained national recognition for his forecasts of changes in student demographics.

Donald Bemis, Michigan’s superintendent of schools, endorsed the report’s findings, but said he would confer with suburban school officials before making his own recommendations.

A 17-year-old boy at Alfred E. Smith High School in New York City was shot to death last week, apparently accidentally, by another student who had brought a gun to school.

Police are investigating the shooting to determine whether it was an accident. They have arrested a 15-year-old boy, but because he is a minor, his name has not been released.

The boy has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and possession of a deadly weapon.

According to police, the gun went off while the boy was “handling” the weapon in a school hallway, and there was no dispute.

School officials identified the victim as Alexander Stephens. He was hit with a single bullet in the chest while standing nearby, and was pronounced dead upon arrival at Lincoln Hospital.

The Aspen, Colo., school district plans no changes in its policy on guest speakers despite a furor in recent weeks over school visits by an anti-fur group.

Officials at Aspen Elementary School say they were caught off guard by the tone of a presentation by representatives of a local animal-rights organization and an anti-fur group.

“I thought they were going to be discussing the humane treatment of animals,” said Barb Tarbet, principal of the school.

The speakers went beyond that, she said, by advocating anti-fur themes and showing a film of leg-hold traps and caged animals on a fur farm.

“It did get a little bit political, which I was not happy about,” she said. “I’m not sure it is an issue I would bring into the elementary school.”

The groups also made presentations at the district’s middle and high schools.

The school board discussed the issue, including some board members’ complaints that their children came away from the talks vowing not to eat hamburgers and other red meat. However, the board decided to leave it up to building principals to decide about visiting speakers.

In the future, Ms. Tarbet said, she would try to make sure discussions about controversial issues are balanced and appropriate for the age group of students in her school.

The University of Hartford has announced a plan to offer half-price tuition for any student from a public or private high school in the city of Hartford.

The university will cut tuition in half, to $5,496, for all high-school graduates from Hartford who meet admissions requirements.

Humphrey Tonkin, president of the private university, said in announcing the program last month that he wanted to help the city’s 25,000 schoolchildren, 92 percent of whom are members of minority groups and from low-income families.

About 1,000 seniors who attend three city high schools, a Roman Catholic high school, and a state-run vocational school will be eligible for the reduced tuition beginning next fall.

Members of the District of Columbia Board of Education have attempted to block plans by Mayor Marion Barry to visit schools to gain support for his re-election.

R. Calvin Lockridge, a board member, reportedly accused Mr. Barry of “trying to ‘out politic”’ Jesse Jackson, who has been touring the city’s schools in an effort to encourage parental involvement in education. Many observers believe Mr. Jackson will enter next fall’s mayoral race, although he has denied it.

City officials say Mr. Barry is planning a series of visits to city schools over the next several months.

Observers say board members are also concerned about the mayor’s planned visits to schools because of his alleged involvement in a drug scandal. A former city employee who was arrested on drug charges claims that Mr. Barry purchased crack cocaine from him earlier this year. The Mayor disputes the charges.

A version of this article appeared in the November 22, 1989 edition of Education Week as District Briefs