News in Brief:

October 01, 2003 6 min read
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Ed. Dept. Gives $35 Million To

Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced last week that the U.S. Department of Education would award $35 million to the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence for its continued development of a fast-track route into the profession.

The organization, established in 2001 with a $5 million grant from the Education Department, is working to devise a national, portable credential for rookie and veteran teachers.

The multiyear grant “further affirms the urgent need for alternative routes to teacher certification and the value of exploring new avenues,” said Kathleen Madigan, the president of the Washington- based organization.

Under the ABCTE system, the content knowledge and pedagogical skills of prospective educators would be measured mostly through standardized tests. Veterans would take only pencil-and-paper exams to demonstrate their knowledge of the subjects they teach.

Proponents say the new credential would make it easier for highly qualified teachers to enter classrooms during a shortage by bypassing time-consuming teacher education programs.

Critics, however, say they worry that even the best and brightest candidates would be adrift without some formal training.

—Julie Blair

Chicago Teachers to Receive Raises Under New

Following a tense start to the school year as teachers began work without a new contract, the Chicago public school system and the Chicago Teachers Union have come to a tentative agreement on a five-year pact.

Under the new agreement, which still must be ratified by union members and approved by the school board, teachers will get annual raises of 4 percent for the next five years, the largest increase for Chicago teachers in 11 years.

The 438,000-student district also will extend the school day by 20 minutes, reduce the school year by seven days, and has promised to spend $1 million to study ways to reduce class sizes.

Meanwhile, teachers in Sacramento, Calif., have ratified a two-year contract that will provide teachers with no salary increases and lengthen high school teachers’ day by 15 minutes, according to Maria Lopez, a spokeswoman for the district.

The district agreed to adopt the Sacramento City Teachers Association’s health-insurance proposal, which allows teachers to choose between two insurance plans. The school board is set to vote on the contract before the end of the month, Ms. Lopez said.

Elsewhere, teachers’ strikes in Benton, Ill., and Marysville, Wash., ended last week.

—Michelle Galley

Minneapolis Board Elevates

The Minneapolis school board last week selected David M. Jennings as the district’s superintendent, rather than conduct a national search.

Mr. Jennings, 54, has served as the chief operating officer of the 48,000-student district since 2001. He was set to become interim superintendent this week and will continue in that capacity until his contract is set.

A former executive with the Greater Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Jennings has served as the commissioner of the state department of commerce and as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives before joining the school district.

He will succeed Carol Johnson, who resigned to become superintendent of the Memphis public schools.

—Catherine A. Carroll

Detroit Officials Call Off School As Union

Detroit school administrators canceled classes in the 153,000-student district on Sept. 25 because of a rally in the state capital called by the teachers’ union, which is fighting to keep charter schools out of the city. The rally drew about 3,000 people.

But the deal opposed by the Detroit Federation of Teachers, which would have allowed up to 150 new charter schools in Michigan, collapsed despite a high-level agreement in principle last month.

The proposal agreed to by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and the leaders of the two houses of the legislature, both Republicans, would have allowed the 15 charter high schools that philanthropist Robert Thompson wants to open in Detroit. It also would have restored an elected school board to the city next year.

Gov. Granholm said the draft bill that was to have embodied the agreement instead breached faith with it.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who met with Ms. Granholm early last week, said he did not want a deal until Detroiters could speak up about it. Opponents of the 1999 state takeover of the city’s schools decried the agreement because of limits it would have placed on the board’s power.

—Bess Keller

Pa. Grants Two Districts Reprieve on

The state of Pennsylvania has granted two school districts a year’s delay in having to report to parents which schools are “persistently dangerous” under federal law.

The state department of education will still require Philadelphia, which reported 27 such schools, and Chester-Upland, which reported one, to file reports detailing how they will improve school safety, spokesman Brian M. Christopher said last week.

But the districts will not yet be obligated to offer parents the chance to transfer their children to other schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The decision came as Education Week reported that Pennsylvania had more schools identified as dangerous than the rest of the states combined. (“States Report Few Schools as Dangerous,” Sept. 24, 2003.)

Mr. Christopher said the fact that Philadelphia and Chester-Upland were the only two of Pennsylvania’s 501 districts to report any “persistently dangerous” schools sparked questions about whether districts adequately understood what types of incidents they should report.

As a result, the state will clarify what needs to be reported, and require districts to report to the state monthly instead of yearly, he said.

—Catherine Gewertz

Minnesota Student Held After Fatal School

A shooting in a Minnesota high school last week left one student dead from gunshot wounds and another hospitalized in critical condition.

Police said a student armed with a handgun opened fire just before noon on Sept. 24 at Rocori High School in the 2,600-student Rocori district in Cold Spring, 60 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.

Investigators with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said charges would likely be filed Sept. 26 against a 15-year-old freshman student.

The boy fired at two students in a basement hallway outside the boys’ locker room, then followed one of the victims up a flight of stairs and shot him again, investigators said. They credited a teacher and coach named Mark Johnson for persuading the teenager to drop the gun.

Calls to district Superintendent Scott Staska were not returned.

Police would not identify the alleged shooter. The victims, according to the Associated Press, were Aaron Rollins, a senior, who died at a local hospital after being hit in the neck by gunfire, and freshman Seth Bartell, who was reported to be in critical condition the day after the shooting, with gunshot wounds to the chest and head.

One day after the Minnesota shooting, police in Cleveland County, N.C., charged a 13-year-old male student with felony possession of a firearm on campus after he fired two shots inside a middle school. And in a Sept. 22 incident in Spokane, Wash., police shot and wounded a 16-year-old student who fired a handgun in his high school.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Death: John U. Ogbu

John U. Ogbu, the well-known anthropologist whose work highlighted reasons for the gaps in academic performance between students of different races, died of a heart attack on Aug. 20. He was 64.

Mr. Ogbu, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, stirred controversy in education circles in 1986, when he co-wrote a study concluding that African-American students in a District of Columbia high school didn’t live up to their academic potential because they feared being accused of “acting white.”

Earlier this year, he published Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement, which focused on the achievement gap in Shaker Heights, Ohio. (“Meager Effort Said to Fuel Racial Gap,” March 12, 2003.)

In that study, he concluded that black students’ own cultural attitudes hindered academic achievement, and that such outlooks were too often neglected by their parents and by educators.

Mr. Ogbu, who was born in Nigeria, was buried in that country on Sept. 20.

—Ann Bradley


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