News in Brief: A National Roundup

May 22, 2002 6 min read
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N.Y.C. to Add 3 Schools With Entrance Exams

New York City will open three new specialized public high schools for top students in the fall, the first expansion in more than three decades of the city’s competitive-admission school program. The schools will be a cooperative venture with the City University of New York and will be housed on three of the university’s campuses, officials said.

The new schools will employ an “early college” approach, in which students take a high school curriculum for three years and college courses during the fourth year, allowing them to enter college as sophomores, district spokeswoman Catie Marshall said.

“This is a continuation of New York City’s tradition of innovation,” Ms. Marshall said. “The specialized high school program began a long time ago, and clearly there was a need to expand it.”

The High School of American Studies will be housed at CUNY’s Lehman College in the Bronx; Queens High School for the Sciences will be at York College in Queens, and the High School for Math, Engineering, and Science will be at City College in Manhattan.

Each school will enroll 125 9th graders and expand yearly until all four high school grades are represented. Students who took the admission test this year but were not admitted to the city’s three existing specialized high schools may use the scores to apply to the new schools, Ms. Marshall said.

—Catherine Gewertz

Cafeteria Worker Charged With Locking Boy in Freezer

A cafeteria worker at Spring Elementary School in Toledo, Ohio, who is accused of locking a 5th grade boy in a school’s walk-in freezer pleaded not guilty earlier this month.

Vanessa Rodgers, 31, was released on her own recognizance. The misdemeanor charge of endangering children carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The warrant for Ms. Rodgers’ arrest was based on testimony from adult witnesses at the 720-student school, according to Brian Rose, a Toledo police detective.

Ms. Rodgers, who could not be reached for comment, and another cafeteria worker who was not charged were both suspended without pay. Frankie Coley, 11, said the two had locked him in the walk-in freezer for up to 15 minutes on May 1 because they thought he was throwing food in the cafeteria. The boy said that another student let him out of the freezer.

—Michelle Galley

United Nations’ Special Session Produces Plan for Children

After tense negotiations at the United Nations’ three-day Special Session on Children, the United States has signed on to a plan aimed at improving the well-being of the world’s children over the next decade.

The outcome document, “A World Fit for Children,” was adopted unanimously by the U.N. General Assembly on the final day of the session, May 10.(“Education Issues on U.N.'s Agenda for Session on Children,” May 15, 2002.)

The plan sets goals for children, including reducing by 50 percent the number of primary school-age children who do not attend school, expanding and improving early-childhood education and care, and giving girls equal access to education.

The Bush administration had objected to earlier wording on reproductive-health services in the document because of concerns that such services would include abortion. Another stumbling block for the United States had been references to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty that the United States has not ratified.

— Linda Jacobson

Judge Bars Iowa School’s Choir From Singing Hymn at Graduation

An Iowa high school choir was told by a court it could not sing “The Lord’s Prayer” during graduation ceremonies last weekend.

A federal judge ruled on May 9 that the Woodbine district’s graduation tradition of including the singing of the Christian hymn violated the First Amendment. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Wolle wrote that the U.S. Constitution “prohibits state-compelled religious conformance.”

Judge Wolle issued a temporary injunction in April that prohibited the Woodbine Community High School choir from rehearsing the hymn in preparation for the May 19 graduation ceremony.

The 530-student district in western Iowa was sued April 1 by the parents of sophomores Donovan and Ruby Skarin. The twin students are choir members and objected to singing the “The Lord’s Prayer” in rehearsal and at graduation. The Iowa Civil Liberties Union backed the suit.

Woodbine Superintendent Terry Hazard said the school board would not appeal the ruling and will abide by the judge’s decision.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Parents Sue Over Quota At Georgia Charter School

The Mitchell County, Ga., school district’s decision to set a racial quota as part of the admissions policy for its only charter school is the target of a lawsuit filed by four parents and a grandparent.

School board members in the 2,800-student district passed a resolution that limits enrollment at the Baconton Community Charter School to 240 students—35 of whom must be members of racial minorities. And even if 35 minority students do not apply, the policy limits the number of white students to 205.

But the parents argue that such a requirement is against the state’s charter school law, and that the law requires charter schools to admit students through a lottery if there are more applicants than the school can accommodate.

School officials could not be reached for comment. A hearing on the matter was set for this week in Mitchell County Superior Court.

—Linda Jacobson

L.A. Police Department to Shrink School Drug-Prevention Program

The Los Angeles Police Department will shrink its school drug-abuse- prevention program this year under a new plan to assign more officers to combat gang- and drug-related crime.

The city police commission had considered scrapping the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program altogether, but decided earlier this month to retain 44 positions. Those officers, who work in schools to teach children about the dangers of drug use, will focus on Los Angeles’ middle schools. Elementary and high school programs will be cut, said Lt. Lee R. Allen, the officer in charge of DARE, a nationally used program.

The LAPD is struggling with a departmentwide shortage of 1,100 officers. The DARE program, created in 1983, had 119 budgeted positions, but has been operating with 70 officers in recent years, Mr. Allen said.

—Darcia Harris Bowman


Florence G. Roswell, a longtime reading researcher who worked for more than five decades to improve the diagnosis and treatment of students with reading disabilities, died May 4. She was 97.

Ms. Roswell, a former professor and the director of the reading clinic at City College of New York, continued to work throughout the 1990s, when there was renewed interest in some of her earlier diagnostic work.

The New York City native worked with Jeanne S. Chall, another prominent reading researcher and writer, to develop tests that gauge students’ spelling; word recognition and comprehension; and oral and silent reading skills. They are still widely used.

Ms. Roswell bucked the conventional wisdom of the 1940s and 1950s that considered children’s reading difficulties to be rooted in emotional problems that could not necessarily be addressed by their teachers. Instead, she argued, teachers need to address each child’s individual difficulties. Helping students improve their reading skills, she said, would raise their self-esteem and improve their emotional state.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2002 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup

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