National News Roundup

January 29, 1992 6 min read
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Attempts To Censor Materials In School Libraries Occurred In More Than one-third Of School Libraries Nationwide Over A Four-year Period And succeeded In More Than One Quarter Of Those Cases, A National Survey concludes.

Published in the January issue of the American Library Association’s Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, the study was conducted by Dianne McAfee, a University of Wisconsin professor of library and information sciences. The study was based on a series of questionnaires distributed to more than 6,550 school libraries nationwide.

The survey documented 739 book and magazine challenges between 1987 and 1990. Of the libraries responding, just under 36 percent reported one or more complaints about reading materials for students. Most of the complaints focused on works of fiction, while magazines drew a smaller number of objections. Among the titles most Often contested were Forever, by Judy Blume, and The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier.

Two-thirds of the challenges were initiated by parents, and nearly 20 percent came from principals and teachers.

Of the disputed materials, 52.3 percent were retained in the library, 21.6 percent were given restricted access, and 26.1 percent were removed.

The study concluded that attempts at censorship were more successful at smaller schools with fewer library employees and no policy governing the selection of materials. Libraries that had board-approved selections policies and more media specialists, and those that received the support of the school or district during challenges, were more likely to retain contested materials.

Less than one-quarter of the public gives President Bush an A or B in his efforts to be the “education President,” according to a survey conducted for the National Education Association.

About the same proportion--25 percent--gives the President marks of D or F for his education efforts. Results of the national survey were released last week at a Washington press conference to launch the Campaign for New Priorities, a broad national coalition that includes the N.E.A. as well as other unions, advocates for women and children, environmentalists, and current and former public officials.

The coalition used the survey results to illustrate public support for its effort to push for reinvestment of defense-budget money in such areas as education, health care, housing, and the environment.

The survey found that 76 percent of those polled believe the United States is on the wrong track and that 71 percent say the nation needs a President who will move it in a new direction.

Although the respondents gave the President relatively poor marks in education, they showed little agreement about how Mr. Bush could earn an A. The leading recommendations were to cut bureaucracy (23 percent), make schools safer from drugs and violence (21 percent), support higher teacher pay (15 percent), and put more computers and technology in schools (10 percent).

The United States lags behind 16 other countries in the proportion of its infants who have been immunized against childhood diseases, a report by the Children’s Defense Fund asserts.

More children could be immunized at a lower cost to government if states would purchase vaccines in bulk and distribute them to physicians free of charge, the Washington-based advocacy group concludes.

States that bulk-purchase vaccines for their physicians can pay as little as $23.58 for three commonly used vaccines, the same rate that is charged the federal government, the report says. That compares with a retail price of $44.71 for the same three vaccines paid by physicians who then seek Medicaid reimbursement from the 30 states that do not bulk-purchase vaccines, according to the report.

The National Urban League has renewed its call for a “Marshall Plan for America” that would mean an investment of at least $50 billion a year for the next decade to combat the social and economic ills that affect the nation.

In “The State of Black America 1992,” its 17th annual such report, the group issues what it calls an economic-recovery plan for the United States.

While the Urban League’s president, John E. Jacobs, acknowledged at a press conference releasing the report that the current recession is revealing “America’s dirty little secret” that most victims of poverty are white, the report focuses largely on proposed solutions to social ills that disproportionately affect black Americans.

The nearly 400-page report contains 14 papers on economics, civil rights, and education. The education paper, written by Shirley M. McBay, the president of the Quality Education for Minorities Network, calls for early intervention for African-American children and their parents to ensure their ability to learn; school restructuring; the elimination of tracking; establishment of core competencies in elementary schools; a more rigorous high school curriculum; a curriculum that “reflects, respects, and values the cultures of all children"; and incentives to attract more black teachers.

A massive lawsuit by schools against manufacturers of asbestos-containing products has been put on hold until later this year.

The case, which was scheduled to be heard by a jury next month, has been postponed until a three-member federal appeals-court panel can review charges by defense lawyers that the federal district judge in the case acted in a way that may give the appearance of bias.

The judge in question, James M. Kelly of Philadelphia, has been presiding over the class action, which involves more than 35,000 public and private schools and more than 20 former manufacturers of asbestos containing products, for eight years.

Charles Bruton, a defense lawyer, said that the judge’s decision to attend a 1990 conference on asbestos that featured 13 potential witnesses for the plaintiffs has an “appearance of impropriety.” Last year, the judge said that while the speakers would not be allowed to testify as expert witnesses, they could still present information to the jury, Mr. Bruten said.

The defense lawyer said that the appellate panel may complete its review this spring. He said that unless either side appeals the panel’s eventual ruling, the case could resume with either Judge Kelly or with a new judge later this year.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards last week awarded a $1.4-million contract to a consortium led by the Center for Educational Research and Evaluation at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to establish a group that will act as a research coordinator for assessment issues.

Researchers from Western Michigan University, Arizona State University, the Professional Examination Service, and LMP Associates will be partners in the technicalanalysis group.

Richard M. Jaeger, a professor of educational-research methodology and the director of the center at the North Carolina campus, and Lloyd Bond, also a professor of educational-research methedology at the university and a senior fellow at the center, will serve as principal investigators.

Over the two-year contract, the research group will design pilot studies and field tests of assessment components; conduct studies to address issues of reliability, validity, and fairness; and review and synthesize relevant research.

The technical-analysis group will be advised by a beard of outstanding teachers.

The N.B.P.T.S. is developing a system of voluntary teacher certification that is expected to begin during the 1993-94 school year.

A version of this article appeared in the January 29, 1992 edition of Education Week as National News Roundup


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